When working on a WordPress project, I have always done a one off theme for all of my clients. I either create the graphical layout, or it is sent to me and I do the slicing and begin coding from scratch. In a recent cooperative project where the client was the lead and also a developer, he wanted to go with a parent theme and just create a child them.
Even though it wasn’t new to me, it was. Stay with me for a moment… I have worked with child themes previously, but I have never created one. It wasn’t difficult, however, with this one, it took a little more effort than normal. With child themes, I believe, most developers just toss in their own custom CSS to change the layout, colors, etc and call it a day. It wasn’t that easy with this one due to some custom post types needing to be displayed, which calls for custom templates.
It was definitely a learning experience, and I see the added value of having a parent/child theme development process. Parent themes allow for upgrading of the parent theme (bug fixes, new tech, etc) without losing the customization of the child theme. A parent theme also gives you a foundation to start with, your own personal framework.
With all of that being said, I believe I am going to develop my own personal parent theme to use with projects. This will allow me to bring in things I find myself repeating over and over again, and will also speed up the development process. It’s a win win.