Wordpress, Divi, & Child Themes
It doesn’t take long in a conversation to realize that people don’t know a ton about WordPress or theme-based web design. The average person gets a particular look in their eyes when you start using words like “CMS,” “web-builder,” or “child-themes.” We get it, not everyone is a web developer. So through working with a variety of clients who vary in “tech-fluency,” we have found ways of explaining important terms that might be foreign or misunderstood.
There are 3 buzzwords that we are going to walk through in this article. We will move from broadest to most specific in order to explain their relationship. The comparison that we use most often is building a house, so hopefully, this analogy will help your understanding.
To start us off, WordPress. It makes up over 30% of all the internet according to a technology survey by W3Techs in 2018 (a 5% increase since the end of 2015). It is the most used CMS (content management system) globally. We at GruffyGoat only use WordPress. We do this for many reasons, such as reliability, familiarity, sustainability, and functionality. The other options are custom coding, Squarespace, Weebly, Shopify, Drupal, etc. WordPress is like a plot of land when building a house. You can find a plot of land that has certain amenities and features that aren’t found anywhere else, but ultimately you want to build a house on that land. WordPress has familiar amenities like an easy media library, a native blog, an ecosystem of free plugins that allow for very complex functions. There is a lot to love about the overall structure of WordPress, but it’s just the lot where you build your house.
To build your house you need a contractor and an architect. Someone to show you what your structural options are and how things could look and work in your new house. Websites are no different. Enter themes. Themes are just ways to build your house. Some themes are very open to customization and can do pretty much anything you want, but have higher price tags (very similar to actual contractors and architects ????). Themes that are less expensive usually have less design and functionality options. At GruffyGoat we use a theme called Divi. This is an Elegant Themes builder (S/O to Elegant Themes…send the check!) that allows for fully custom design. There is very little that Divi cannot accomplish. Divi is to web development, what Joanna Gaines is to a house. We love Divi because of the custom design abilities, the easy-to-use visual builder, and the functionality/versatility of the modules.
Here is where some confusion can come in with the analogy and the breakdown of our terms. Remember, a theme is a builder. The construction or development of the site happens with the theme you choose. Some themes, however, don’t have our final vocabulary word (child-themes). When building with these themes, you are given minimal options for customization so your final site looks exactly like the other sites built with that theme. Similar to how some contractors build houses in massive subdivisions. The contractor has one blueprint and his job is to build that exact house over and over again with little variation other than siding and door color. This results in a nice new affordable home that is aesthetically identical to all of its neighbors.
Finally, this is where the child-theme steps in. A child-theme, sometimes called a template, is where the builder of your house lets you choose the floorplan, pick paint swatches, customize your cabinets and countertops, and choose your light fixtures. This will separate your house from all the others on your street built with the same contractor. Child-themes only come with certain themes, as mentioned above. Templates are pre-built sites that have set typography, layouts, and smaller functional parts (i.e. contact forms, email opt-ins, menus, etc.) which are stylized together. They allow you to pick which sections you like from a builder and use them to form a completely designed website. The typical child-theme comes with premade layouts that can work for multiple types of content and pages. They also come with individual sections, like header, contact form, testimonials, etc. that are styled and easy to insert anywhere.
The benefit of using a child-theme is simple. The child-theme site is already styled cohesively with all the functional pieces completely developed, so building the site will be faster and more efficient.
We have friends that specialize in making child-themes for Divi. If you are still a little confused about the differences between themes and child-themes, you should check out BeSuperfly.com. They use Divi Theme builder, but the final products are all so different. There is a ton of variety in Divi which allows for a multitude of unique Divi child-themes.