Finding the right child theme for your site, whether you’re a new blogger or have been around for awhile, is not an easy task. With so many themes out there the possibilities are endless! But don’t worry, we’re going to show you How to Choose a WordPress Child Theme that’s perfect for you and your website!
Choosing a Child Theme
Let’s start with the basics. What the heck is a child theme and why do I need one?
A child theme gives your WordPress/Genesis site its detailed functionality and appearance. This of it this way, your site is a house. WordPress is the foundation, Genesis is the wood frame and drywall, and your child theme is the outer appearance, carpet color, tile, etc. Your child theme gives your site more personality. It’s a great tool for anyone who doesn’t learn to code a website from scratch or pay $2000+ dollars on a custom built, from the ground up, website.
There are a lot of options out there, from free WordPress child themes to free and paid Genesis based child themes. As with most things in life, you’ll get what you pay for. Most of the free themes I’ve dealt with have very limited customization options on the back end, and this leaves the sites running the free theme looking very similar. I like being a big, beautiful butterfly and therefore use Genesis child themes.
Here are some sites we recommend for purchasing the Genesis framework and/or a child theme.
StudioPress – Genesis and child themes. All themes come with a 30-day guarantee. So if you’re not in love, trade it out. Once you purchase a Genesis/child theme pack from StudioPress, you’ll only ever pay for the child theme (going forward) and you will receive a returning customer discount. You’ll also have access to install and setup walkthrough instructions for your child theme. There are a lot of different theme options and formats, including a few from third party vendors like the ones below.
Restored316 – Child themes only. There are quite a few different formats and child themes available. One of the best things about (most) of these themes is that the category indexes are already set to have a “gallery” look. All the more recent themes I’ve seen from this team also have a sections sidebar making it easy to install side-by-side skyscraper (160×600) ads, or whatever else you’d like to put there. Many of the themes are eCommerce friendly. (You can sell things on your site and have your own store.) You have access to detailed install and setup walkthroughs, including some videos of potential variations to the demo. The incredibly popular Tasteful theme is from this design team, and I’ve always had a great experience with their customer service team.
Pretty Darn Cute Designs – Child themes only. There are a few child themes available here including the ever popular Modern Blogger Pro. Some themes are eCommerce compatible. All themes come with a detailed install and set up walkthrough.
How to decide which theme is right for you
Finding great places to look for a theme is just the beginning. Next, you have to make some serious decisions about how you want your site to look, and it can be a lot to take in when you’re new to WordPress or blogging. I’m going to show you some examples of themes from the sites listed above, and try to help you understand what you really have to work with and what you should/could be looking for.
I do recommend pulling up the demos for each of these themes so you can move through them freely. Mobile-friendly themes are also a must as Google gives sites with mobile-friendly themes a higher search result ranking. All the child theme sites listed above give you a mobile demo preview too. In this post, I am focusing on the homepage area options, but the theme demo will show you what the category pages will look like (gallery format or blog feed format), a blog feed (instead of a custom homepage), and some out-of-the-box color options.
The black blocks you see in each image are to get us past the pretty pictures (because they’re really enticing!) and look at the bones of each theme. Child theme demos almost always shows all of the available functions of the theme on the demo blog homepage. You absolutely DO NOT have to use all the spaces you see or even in the ways you see on the demo. We want to make these themes fit you, not the other way around.
Modern Blogger Pro
Modern Blogger Pro is pretty simple as far as homepage layout options go. There is a place for your site header, and an area to the right of the header where you can put an email sign up form, social media buttons, or whatever you like. There is one navigation bar, below the header. Then there are two main home areas, a top and a bottom. The top will hold a slider that will rotate in pictures of your current posts, and/or a featured or most recent post with a large image. The bottom will hold a thread of recent posts (or posts from your desired category) and divide the images and excerpts into half the width of the home area. You also get one sidebar (maybe two, you can’t tell from the demo). You can put whatever you’d like in your sidebar. Then there are 3 footer areas you can fill with whatever you like as well.
Sites using Modern Blogger Pro:
Pretty Chic has a little more home page space to work with. You header area is small, but it helps keeps things simple. You can have a navigation section at the top with your header, and that whole area is “sticky” so your site logo and navigation bar stay at the top of your screen. There is a built in space for a 728×90 ad space under the header. There is a second navigation bar before your homepage content starts and side bar, and a third navigation bar (not pictured) at the very bottom of your site. This is GREAT for placing administrative links, like work with me, media kit, contact, press, etc. There is a home top area where you can place a slider and your featured/most recent post with large image and excerpt. Below that there is a home middle area that shows two posts per row side-by-side. There is a home bottom area (not pictured) that will show you posts is a “blog thread” format – which is a list, with an image, of your latest posts or posts from a chosen category. Then there is a footer area that gives you 4 spaces. From the demo, I can’t tell if it’s one footer space that splits your images into 1/4 width or if it is 4 individual footer areas, but you can get four spots out of it.
Sites using Pretty Chic:
Tasteful has a whole bunch of home page options. There are a lot of different ways to mix and match things, but we’re going to look at the demo so you can visualize. My two favorite things about the Tasteful theme are the gallery category look and the sectioned sidebar areas. The sidebar format makes installing ads and other features REALLY easy. You have a full sidebar width section at the top and bottom of the sidebar, and in the middle of the sidebar is the option to have two half width areas. These are great of side-by-side skyscraper ads or showing off content images. Tasteful also comes with the option to set ONE category index page. This can be your recipe index, project page, or full site index, depending on how you want to use it. There three navigation bar placement options (the two picture and one under the header that’s not shown on the demo), four home page areas to work with and three footer areas. This theme gives you a lot of freedom to show off your content.
Sites using Tasteful:
I like to think of Divine as the big sister of Tasteful. While the homepage format is a bit different. There are still tons of options you can mix and match! This theme comes with the ONE category index page option and a gallery category index view (in chronological order). There is a built-in area to place an ad above the header. Your header logo can be smaller with a nav bar to the right (as shown) or move the nav bar under the header and make your logo centered and bigger. You have the option to showcase three posts directly under the header (vertical or square images), and then you have your email sign up form right there too. At this point, your sidebar will start. This is the same sidebar you see on your posts and pages. The three featured images and email sign up form will not show on posts and pages. As you move down the homepage there is a place to put a slider and/or a large featured post image with an excerpt. Next is the Triple section = each row shows 3 posts and you can choose to show them as vertical or square images. Moving down is the Double section = each row shows 2 posts. You can choose square or vertical images here, but the vertical ones look HUGE! I recommend square here. At the bottom of the site is another email sign up form, your most recent or featured posts, and another ad spot. This bottom area will show at the end of every post and page, it’s your footer.
Sites using Divine:
I love Fun. This theme is one where you’ll definitely need the theme set-up walkthrough provided by the designer, but it’s super easy to follow. Promise. This theme uses a plug-in to let you chop your homepage areas into cool little sections to show off your content. It’s also Woo eCommerce friendly if you’re selling stuff. Okay, so the homepage walk through…at the top is an email subscription box! Below you’ll find your header centered with social media buttons and a search bar on either side. Next, you can have a slider or large featured post with either ads, a bio, or popular posts next to the large image. (You can really put whatever you like in here.) Below the Home Top is where the theme shows current products available in your shop. If you’re not selling anything, this area works great for showing your latest posts instead. In the Home Bottom, You can show more recent blog posts, maybe from a different category, popular posts, or seasonal posts. You’re the boss! The three footer areas will show on all your posts and pages. It’s a great place to showcase your most popular post, other topics you talk about (like your most recent roundup or a rotating seasonal area), and your bio. At the bottom of the page is your second navigation bar. It’s perfect for admin links.
Sites using Fun:
So Fresh & So Chic (this site looks amazing!!)
Now that you’ve seen the themes stripped down, are you getting ideas for your site? Do you want something simple and straight forward or a more dynamic/not your typical blog look? It’s okay to compare themes and take some real time to decide. While the obvious choices like homepage layout are right there, front and center in the demos, don’t forget to look at a sample blog post, blog feed, and category pages. If the theme you’re interested in has color options, look at them all (if the color listed isn’t your norm) just to see how the colors change your perception of the theme. I love sketching out the general homepage layout on a piece of paper and slotting my blog topics into each section to help me visualize how the demo can work for me.
While these themes are just a small sampling of what’s out there, we hope you’re seeing the possibilities…not just pretty pictures. It’s also worth noting that you have to set up all the widgets and plugins in the way the theme designer did to make your site look like the demo. Awesome takes effort. The default out-of-the-box look is a blog feed on the homepage. Our favorite child theme developers (on the sidebar) all offer a walk-through to make your site look like the demo with your purchase. It may feel a little overwhelming, but baby steps are the name of the game. If you’re worried about doing this yourself or get stuck, we offer a child theme installation service that’ll have you up and running the same day as service (based on available installation dates).
I’m always here if you have questions, or want to run an idea by someone. I also offer blog consultations and would love to help you visualize your site, find the right theme for you, and if you have no time to DIY your site I can even design and customize your theme for you!