When, why, and how do I use child themes with Divi?

Child themes are a hot topic in the WordPress community. Everyone says you should use them, from experienced developers to WordPress’ documentation itself. Sadly, a lot of people just regurgitate this advice to others. Nobody who hasn’t used a child theme actually knows what they do!

Here’s the truth: not everybody needs a child theme.

Why do people use child themes?

If you have a WordPress site, you’re already using a parent theme. For instance, a parent theme would be Divi, Twenty Sixteen, Genesis, or the themes you buy on Themeforest.

But let’s say you want to make changes to the code on your website. You could use a child theme to make sure that your custom code doesn’t get overwritten when, say, Divi 1.0 updates to Divi 1.1. Here’s a quick demonstration:

When should I use a child theme?

Let’s look at a few scenarios:

  • Olenna is an 80 year old grandmother who uses Divi/WordPress to blog about her rose garden. As such, she doesn’t plan to make changes to the code on her site. Olenna does not need a child theme.
  • Brandon loves to build things. He’s constantly tinkering around with PHP, HTML, and CSS, and he needs to edit some of the core features in Divi for his next site. Brandon should use a child theme.
  • Tommen runs his own design practice. He builds websites for a lot of clients, but he never needs to edit any of their HTML, CSS, or PHP – he just uses the Divi Builder for everything. Tommen doesn’t need to use a child theme.
  • After a recent dry spell in her career, Melissandre wants to get better at making WordPress themes from scratch. She can optionally use a child theme on her next project. If she does, she’ll learn the in’s and out’s of WordPress theme development.
Should you use a child theme? If you don't plan to make changes to the code, no.

An extremely simple representation of the child theme decision process.

How do I make a child theme with Divi?

  1. Use the child theme generator on this helpful website.
  2. Upload the generated child theme into Appearance > Themes.
  3. Make sure Divi is also uploaded to your site.
  4. Activate the child theme that you uploaded in Step 2.
  5. In the future, when you need to edit code, edit the child theme instead of Divi.

The child theme is pulling all of Divi’s features, but now you have a safe space to write code that won’t get overwritten during an update.

On the other hand, if you don’t use Divi, follow the WordPress Codex (isn’t codex a cool word?) to create your child theme. (Seriously, codex is one of my favorite words. Oh, hey, it’s the end of the article! Bye!)

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