Twenty Sixteen child theme with enhanced customizer options

I started with Twenty Sixteen and embarked on my latest child theme project. Along the way discovered a lot of great things that can be done with a child theme given a bit of research and some creative effort.

When it came time to refresh the look my website this year I looked into a number of themes, both free and commercial, and while I liked elements of many of the ones that I looked at, none really offered the full package of what I want. Most of the ones I previewed looked great but offered limited customization options, and were so convoluted at the core as to make further customizations via a child theme impractical. So I once again went back to the idea of making my own child theme from one of the other WordPress default themes.

Twenty Sixteen is the latest in the list of annual default themes offered by WordPress. Twenty Sixteen goes back to what I like about the older WordPress default themes. It is a simple, minimalist design that’s not overly blog-focused. Out of the box the default look doesn’t suit my tastes, but the basic design itself looks like a good starting point for a child theme I could tailor to my needs and design aesthetic.

This newer theme implements improvements to the core that have been introduced since my older default theme was first released over three years ago, including accessibility improvements and optimized JavaScript handling. WordPress 4.5 added support for custom logos in the theme customizer, an option that’s now available with Twenty Sixteen, but not Twenty Twelve (on which my most of my previous child theme was based). Perhaps most importantly – with more and more people using mobile devices to view websites – Twenty Sixteen was designed with a “mobile first approach”, and therefore works well on any device. As a parent theme, it looks like a good place to start.

Image of the Twenty Sixteen theme
Twenty Sixteen, out of the box. What’s up with the black border?

I started with Twenty Sixteen and embarked on my latest child theme project. Along the way discovered a lot of great things that can be done with a child theme given a bit of online research and some creative effort. The more I discovered, the more I found myself adding features to my child theme while constantly trying to remind myself not to add features simply for the sake of novelty. I’ve tried to think of my child theme from a user standpoint: If someone else is using this, will they be able to figure out what to do with minimal effort? Will it serve their needs in a simple manner? Will they be able to make their own changes to the theme without having to know a whole lot about coding? With these questions a my guide, I think I accomplished what I set out to do.


Here are some of the features of this Twenty Sixteen child theme:

  • Choice of header styles – default or centered site title and menus
  • Typography options in the theme customizer using Google Fonts
  • RGBA (opacity) color choices in the theme customizer
  • Color choices for most of the individual page elements
  • Option to hide or change the black border
  • Sticky footer for pages with minimal content
  • Full page (no sidebar) template available
  • Left or right sidebar option in the theme customizer
  • Social sharing buttons on posts
  • Contact form re-direction when using the Jetpack contact form
  • Responsive design that looks great on mobile devices

The following pages will give a closer look at some of these features and the changes I made to my child theme files – for those who want to dive into making changes to their own child theme(s).

Author: Galen

Combining a lifelong passion for photography with an ever growing fascination with the properties of light, Galen specializes in portrait, fashion, and fine art photography with the goal of producing dynamic, quality images through focused effort and attention to detail.

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