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I apologize if this is a very basic question, but I am very new to working with Wordpress.

I'm looking into using Wordpress as a CMS for a new site I'm building but I'm not sure I understand some of the best practices for themes. I've heard that a good approach is to use pre-existing themes and modify them to your own purposes using a child theme.

Is this the direction in which I should look? Is there another approach that I should look in to?

Thanks for your help!

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you don't want to develop/maintain your own Theme, then yes: choose an existing Theme, and make modifications to it via Child Theme.

If, on the other hand, you are comfortable with developing/maintaining your own Theme, then either create a new Theme, or make a derivative of an existing Theme.

Since, as you state, you are very new to WordPress, I would highly recommend using the Child-Theme approach.

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Thank you! I'll give child themes a shot. –  Vecta Apr 13 '11 at 15:44

When theme is updated via native WP mechanisms it is completely overwritten. Child theme separates your modifications so they are not affected by that.

So there are several basic cases:

  1. Themes that are never getting updated. It doesn't matter if you use child theme if you don't have to deal with updates. But in such case you will need to maintain that theme as well as your own modifications.

  2. Themes that are updated and hosted in official repository. It is best to use child theme for such.

  3. Themes that are updated but are not hosted in official repository. This is case by case. Some themes are supposed to be updated manually and will benefit from child theme. Some have their own mechanisms for modifications that are not affected by update and essentially replace child theme.

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Sometimes I don't understand the point of using child-themes. Like if my child theme has templates that over-ride most of the templates in the parent theme. At that point, why would I care so much about updates to the parent theme when my child theme's templates continue to take precedence? Theoretically, I'd never benefit from any updates to the parent. –  Sparky Dec 20 '13 at 16:00

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