Theme family trees and the future of WordPress

Parent and child themes aren’t anything new, but a changing WordPress led us to look at them in a new light. We were looking to create a new design system and site architecture that simultaneously: furthered the reach and standard usage of our visual branding, expedited creating new sites with customization abilities and allowed for updates to our diaspora of sites from a central source of truth.

While we were doing this, Gutenberg was moving into core and full site editing was on the horizon. We were challenged with building a system that was forward-looking to future WordPress developments, ready to be deployed in the present and able to support and maintain sites from the past. Our solution wound up being a combination of Gutenberg blocks, parent and child theme relationships, continuous integration and development (CI/CD) and some features from full site editing (no, not those features).

But where does everything go?

We’ll show the plans for our architecture and organization as we discuss the fundamentals of what parent and child themes are. We’ll also give our answer to the inevitable question: what about grandchild themes?

This presentation will provide valuable insights and techniques to enhance your workflow and make your website standardization and customization process more efficient. Attendees will leave with a better understanding of how to use parent and child themes, and maybe even answer the question: is full site editing for me?


  • Chris Amelung — Washington University in St. Louis
  • Bryan Reckamp — Washington University in St Louis

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