A child theme is essentially a theme you install to WordPress but doesn’t have any template files or CSS by default. Instead it pulls all the code and data from it’s “parent” theme (Total). If you want to add custom CSS or make alterations to the Total theme you could manually edit the theme, but if you ever want or need to update the theme then you will lose all your hard work because when you update a theme it replaces all the theme files. However, if you are using a child theme when you update the parent theme (Total) all your custom code will remain in the child theme and you won’t lose any of your edits – yay!
A full guide to child theme’s is available here for further reading.
When do I NOT need a child theme?
If you are only planning on making small CSS edits to the theme then you can add them at Theme Panel > Custom CSS and you don’t have to install a child theme for that and there is actually no reason to do so.
When do I need a child theme?
If you plan on making advanced modifications such as altering theme hooks or filters, making use of any of the available snippets or altering any partial template files then you will want to install and use a child theme.
Sample Total Child Theme (download)
If you are going to be making advanced edits to this theme, the best way is via a child theme. Luckily I’ve already created a nice sample child theme for you that even includes some example functions commented out in the functions.php file if you want to make use of one or more of them.
Making Template Edits
When making edits to template files in the Total theme it’s important to first ask yourself…do I have to edit this file? Total includes a lot of built-in filters and action hooks so you can make a lot of edits via the child theme functions.php file. By using filters and hooks you won’t have to worry about keeping track of modifications to the template files in the parent theme when the parent theme is updated. Have a look at the available snippets for the theme. And if you aren’t sure the best way to edit something please leave a comment on ThemeForest and we can provide you with feedback or even make a custom snippet for you.
Partial Template Files
If you do prefer to alter template files rather then using hooks/filters as mentioned in the paragraph above that is ok. All the core output for the Total theme is located at Total/partials/ so you will want to create a blank partials folder in your child theme and then copy the file you want to edit inside that folder keeping the same structure. For example if you want to edit the header aside content this file is located in the parent theme at Total/header/header-aside.php so you will need to create a partials folder in your child theme, then inside of that folder create a header folder then inside that copy and paste the header-aside.php file from the parent theme. When you use the same structure as the parent theme WordPress will find that file and use it instead of the file in the parent theme.