I’m a bit of a collector. Growing up I had a stamp, rock, bracelet + beanie baby collection. As a teenager my biggest collection was my kangaroo shoes — the ones with the pockets — I had 21 different pairs at my
craziest proudest moment.
So when you keep hoarding your WordPress themes like they’re gonna suddenly stop making them, I get it. I really do.
But today’s dose of tough love is that you do not need more than 3 themes installed on your site, ever. And many of us could get away with only having 2. And before you try to get extra credit by limiting your site to 1 theme, hear me out. Head to Appearance > Themes in your WordPress dashboard + let’s run through the list of 2-3 themes you’ll want on your site.
The most important theme you need installed on your WordPress site is your active theme — or the theme that you are currently using to style the front-end of your website. Whether it’s custom, a paid third party theme or a free one, all WordPress sites need at least this theme installed + set to active.
With an active theme in place, next on your priority list will be one of the most recent default WordPress themes — twenty sixteen or twenty fifteen are great options. These are free themes that are installed on WordPress sites by default, but some folks remove them while building out a site. (And yes, they are named after the year that they are released.)
You certainly don’t need a collection of them, because themes are not collectibles, but having one available for troubleshooting is a wise move.
Simply put, that means if something goes really wrong with your site, you can activate the default WordPress theme to see if the problem lies in your theme code or elsewhere.
If you’ve got a few of these “twenty ____” themes installed, remove the older ones + keep the newest one that you can tolerate the look of. (I hated twenty fourteen, so my backup theme was twenty thirteen for a little over two years.)
Is your theme admin area missing a WordPress option? Click that “Add New” button at the top right of your theme area + search for twenty ______. When you hover over the one you like, you’ll get the option to install it. But make sure you don’t click “Activate” unless you want to change what your live site looks like.
There are a lot of sites that need a third theme installed — those with child themes + those with mobile themes. Let’s start with the child theme group.
When you click on your active theme, if it says anything like “_____ is a child theme of _____” you must have that second theme installed in order for your child theme to work. The parent theme, as it’s called, has the bulk of the files needed to style your site. The child theme is a collection of only the customized theme files that alter the way the parent theme looks so that it is more custom for you. The reason many folks do this is because it allows you to customize your site without risking losing all of those customizations every time your theme has an update to run.
If you aren’t using a child theme as your active theme, you might still need a third theme IF you are using a mobile theme to make your site work well on a mobile phone or tablet. What these mobile themes do is display as the active theme when a site visitor is on a smaller device, even though the theme is listed as inactive. In an ideal world, your active theme would be responsive — meaning it responds to the size of the screen being used — but that isn’t always in the budget or timeframe, in which case these mobile themes are great options.
Is your active theme responsive + not a child theme? Then you don’t have to worry about a third theme to run updates for.
Clear out any unnecessary themes to keep your pending updates lower, your site faster + your online business more secure. The more files you have (whether they are up-to-date or not) the more at risk you are for getting hacked.
With all of that time saved running handfuls of theme updates every month, you can focus on collecting enjoyable things that are better in multiples — like shoes, office supplies + puppies.