Child Theme or Jetpack Plugin?
You’ve made the decision to customise the look & feel of your WordPress website – great first step! Now, how to equip yourself with the tools to do it?
A key step in the preparation stage, before you get started with the customisation process, is to decide whether you’re going to be making use of the WordPress Jetpack Plugin or carry out your customisation using a Child Theme.
We have our opinion – and you’ll see it at the end of this summary video:
Should I use a Child Theme or the Jetpack Plugin?
Some factors to consider:
1. Ease of Installation
The Jetpack Plugin is very simple to install – use the in-built plugin search and then click the “install” button.
Installing a Child Theme is a little more involved, you’ll need to create your Child Theme, compress it and upload it to your WordPress install as you’d run a manual install of a standard wordpress theme.
Jetpack 1 – 0 Child Theme
2. Additional Features
The Jetpack Plugin doesn’t just allow you to edit your site’s appearance using CSS – it also comes with a whole host of other features, including social sharing, shortcode embeds, contact forms, statistics and in-built subscriptions.
The Child Theme doesn’t enable any of this, and you’ll have to find other plugins to incorporate these into your site if you want to add further functionality.
Jetpack 2 – 0 Child Theme
3. Style Previews
The Jetpack Plugin comes with a “Preview Style” button that allows you to see the impact of your updatesÂ before saving changes to your stylesheet.
If you’re using a Child Theme, the only way to preview your edits before saving them is to use the “Inspect Element” functionality (or similar) of your web browser and then transfer any changes to your Child Theme when you’re happy with them.
Jetpack 3 – 0 Child Theme
4. Compatibility Issues
You’ll need to keep the Jetpack Plugin updated regularly to make sure your site uses the latestÂ release, which will include bug fixes and security patches. These are often incompatible with older versions of WordPress so you’ll also need to make sure your version of WordPress is up to date (this is usually considered best practice, regardless of plugin use!).
Aside from updating Jetpack and WordPress, you’ll also need to make sure the plugin is compatible with the versions of other plugins you’re using – so it’s important to set up a test environment locally toÂ check everything works ok without affecting your live website and to avoid disruption.
If you choose the Child Theme route, you shouldn’t face these issues as the Child Theme is independent of installed versions of wordpress and other plugins.
Jetpack 3 – 1 Child Theme
5. Site Speed
The single biggest factor to consider for wordpress users when deciding whether to use the Jetpack Plugin or a Child Theme to make CSS Edits is site speed.
The Jetpack Plugin, with all its bells and whistles, can have a significant impact on site speed of wordpress sites – dependent mainly on the theme you have installed, your hosting provider and a few other factors including caching.
It’s a well-known fact that visitors to websites get frustrated the longer it takes for content to load – which, if you’re relying on it as a window into your expertise and business, could have a clear impact on your bottom line.
A Child Theme is unlikely to have a similar impact, as it doesn’t put the same strain on servers.
For this reason, a site speed win is worth 3 points, rather than the usual 1:
Jetpack 3 – 4 Child Theme
If you’re starting out with wordpress, it may be tempting to go for the bells and whistles approach – the Jetpack Plugin is fine for simple themes and comes with sharing, statistics etc… but site speed is important if you’re serious about blogging. Especially when it comes to monetisation.
We’ll be covering some alternative ways to enable the bells and whistles in future posts but in the meantime, for step-by-step instructions on how to install your Child Theme or the Jetpack Plugin: