Guides-Sites-and-Themes

Homepage Customization in Sherman or Hale 2015

The homepages of Sherman and Hale 2015 are configured primarily in the Page Builder. On the homepage, click ‘Edit Page’. If you see the ‘Visual’, ‘Text’, and ‘Page Builder’ tabs on the top right of your page editing area, click ‘Page Builder’.  If you only see ‘Switch to Editor’ this means you’re already in Page Builder mode.

Page Builder View
View of editing screen in Page Builder mode – click to enlarge

Templates

There are a few different template options to choose from for the homepage that cooperate with Page Builder. Users can select Blank, Page Builder, or Page Builder – Cards. Each of these give the homepage a slightly different look, so it is best to try them all out and see which one fits best.

Note: Home and Default Template do NOT work with the Page Builder layout. They were used for the old style homepages that were customized under Appearance > Widgets.

Layouts

The page builder allows users to add different widgets in different areas of the page. To begin, click ‘Add Row’ at the top of the page editing area. Users can add as many rows as they would like. Before the row is added, the user can choose how many columns will be in that row and what percentage of the row each column will take up. There are many pre-made column ratios to choose from as well. Once the columns are set up, click ‘insert’ to officially insert the row into your homepage.

Home Page Builder Add New Row
Page Builder Add New Row screen – click to enlarge

If you roll your mouse over the wrench button above the top right corner of the row, you will see options to edit, duplicate, or delete it. You can move a row up or down by clicking and dragging the arrow button next to the wrench button.

Row Options

If you click to edit a row, you will see a screen similar to when you first added the row. However, in addition to editing the column number/sizes, you may also edit some row styles found on the right side of the screen.

Attributes

This section allows you to add a Row ID to your row or Row/Cell classes. In addition, you can add your own custom CSS to be applied to that specific row.

Layout

Here you can choose whether you want your row to have a bottom margin or padding. You can also choose a ‘gutter’ amount, which is the space between each column in the row. You can decide how much you want to stretch the row under ‘Row Layout’ and in which order you want each column to collapse for smaller screens under ‘Collapse Order’.

Design

Design allows you to choose a background color/image and a border color for your row.

Widgets

Each column on the Page Builder layout can hold 0, 1, or multiple widgets. To insert a widget, simply click ‘Add Widget’ and choose the widget you would like to add. Once a widget has been added, you can drag and drop it to the column you wish to place it in. If you roll your mouse over a widget you will see options to edit, duplicate, or delete it.

Widget Options

If you click to edit a widget, you will get a screen split into two sections. On the left side, you can edit the content of your widget. On the right side, you can edit the styles of your widget.

Attributes

This section allows you to add widget classes and custom css.

Layout

Here you can add padding around the widget.

Design

Design allows you to colors for different aspects of your widget including background, border, font, and links. In addition, you may also choose to add a background image to the widget here.

Migrating From Other WordPress Servers

For those of you that have been using WordPress elsewhere, there are a few key distinctions you need know about the Aurora server.

Multisite

Aurora is a multisite installation of WordPress, modeled after WordPress.com. Each site has it's own tables, but they are in one database, and share the same library of plugins and themes.

Plugins

Plugins are controlled at the Network level in Aurora. The addition of any new plugins to the network is decided on by the Aurora Governance Committee, and spelled out in the Wishlist.

Themes

Similar to plugins, Themes are also controlled at the network level. Custom themes are permitted, but must pass a Code Audit process before being allowed on production.

Migrating From Dreamweaver

There is no automated method of converting existing content from Dreamweaver template based sites into Aurora. Our research with tools and with writing our own scripts showed that so much work was needed to clean up the content manually that there was no point to trying automated solutions. Our recommendation, and the method we used as well, is to manually copy and paste the content into new pages.

Migrating HTML Files Onto Aurora

To migrate your HTML files onto Aurora, see the guide on manually migrating websites.

Aurora vs. Dreamweaver

From 2002 – 2013, UConn relied heavily on the use of Dreamweaver templates to manage website content. For those of you accustomed to working with Dreamweaver templates, there are some changes you should be aware of.

  • Automatic Backups – Each and every time you hit Publish or Update, Aurora will save a new copy of the page or post you're working on. You can revert to older copies yourself. This means if you accidentally erase a page, you can always go back to a previous version.
  • Drag & Drop Navigation – In Dreamweaver, adding, removing, or renaming navigation items was technically challenging and time consuming. Now, you can rearrange your navigation in a simple interface.
  • No Setup – With Aurora you don't have to configure software with server addresses, port numbers, or other various settings. All you need is a web browser and an internet connection.
  • Multiple Webmasters – Aurora has a lot of features to support multiple people working on the same site, even at the same time. It will warn you if you try to edit a page someone else is working on. You can create users that can only edit certain pages, or whose work always has to be reviewed before being published.
  • File and Image Uploading – In the past, this used to require a lot of moving files around into specific folders to get them to appear in Dreamweaver, or setting up a WebDAV client. In Aurora, you simply click 'Add Media' when working on a page, and you can select any file on your computer to upload to the site.
  • Scheduled Updates – If you need a site change to happen at a specific date and time, you can now just set a timer. The new page, or changes to a current page, won't appear until the appointed hour.
  • Online Drafts – If you're working on a new page, and want some feedback before it appears publicly, save it as a draft. Send the preview link to colleagues without the worry of it appearing on the main site yet.
  • Dynamic Homepages – Add news posts, an events calendar, and a photo slideshow, and control them all yourself.
  • Limited Coding Ability – In Dreamweaver, you had direct access to all code of the page. In Aurora, that access is limited. There is still a Text/HTML view for those that want to write some code by hand, but for those who want truly custom layouts and displays, please read more about Themes and Plugins.
  • Limited Layout & Color Choices – Aurora is limited to the looks and layouts available under the "Themes" menu item. UITS will be adding more options to this main theme over time, and those interested may want to look into custom themes under Themes and Plugins.

Changing Themes

On WordPress, it’s easy to change themes for a website. Simply go to Appearance > Themes, and you can preview how your site might look in another theme.

Before you decide to switch to a different theme, there are some things you should keep in mind.

The Good News

Switching themes does not destroy any pages or content that you’ve created for your site. Moreover, switching themes is reversible; if you change it and don’t like it, you can switch back.

The Tricky Parts

Top Navigation

When you switch themes, it’s possible for your top navigation menu to break. This can be fixed by going to Appearance > Menus, finding your Top Nav menu, and checking the ‘Primary Menu‘ checkbox.

Homepage

Many themes have a custom homepage page template that may not exist in a new theme. For example, switching from Hale to Sherman may wipe out the homepage. However, the widgets that created those homepages aren’t gone. If you go to Appearance > Widgets and scroll down, you’ll see them in an area for ‘unassigned widgets‘. Drag them back up to the correct sidebars and your homepage will reform itself.

In the newer themes (Hale 2015 and Sherman), you can use Page Builder to build the homepage and sub pages.  See Homepage Customization tools.

Sidebars

Some themes have sidebars that are specific to them and changing themes will move any widgets within those sidebars to the ‘unassigned widgets‘ section in Appearance > Widgets. You may need to find a new place to keep that content.

Bootstrap Layouts & Special Elements

The older Hale and Prudence themes were built on the Bootstrap 2 framework. The newer Sherman and Hale 2015 themes are built with the Bootstrap 3 framework. If your site makes use of Bootstrap columns, buttons, or accordion menus, they may not work if you switch from a Bootstrap 2 theme to a Bootstrap 3 theme.  They will fall back to being simple single column layouts, links, or text sections until you change the code to comply with the version of Bootstrap that your new theme uses.

Cornerstone

Cornerstone is not a theme that is generally available to Aurora users. Rather, it was designed to be a starting point or a parent theme for all future themes produced by the UITS Web Development Lab. It is also made available to registered Aurora developers. This page is meant to help those developers in using Cornerstone for their own projects.
cornerstone

Built for Developers

Cornerstone was designed from the ground up to be developer-focused. It’s based on the the WordPress _s (‘underscores’) theme mixed with Bootstrap 3. The design philosophy is to enable and turn on every feature we can think of in Cornerstone, and then child themes will need to unregister the features they don’t support. For example, Cornerstone can support header images, background images, and background colors. However, we may not want those features turned on when the site is being administered by someone less familiar with University Brand standards or web accessibility policies regarding color and contrast.

Themes Using Cornerstone

The following is a list a child themes that already use Cornerstone. These themes were developed at the Web Development Lab and best show how versatile Cornerstone is.

Creating Your Own Theme

Cornerstone is a bare-bones theme created to be developed upon. It is possible to create your own theme built upon cornerstones structure. We welcome you to play with the sources files.

Cornerstone Child Theme Starter Kit

The Cornerstone Child Theme Starter Kit is available to help developers get a new project running quickly. You can access it on GitHub.

customize screen
Cornerstone basic mode on customization screen.
basic screen
Cornerstone basic mode screenshot

Child Theming with SASS

Cornerstone is built with SASS, and if you build your child theme with SASS, you’ll be shocked at how fast you can make a ton of changes. Though you are able to use CSS, Cornerstone was optimized for SASS.

Initial Child Theme Setup

To begin you must create the basic file structure like any other WordPress child theme. Below is an example. UITS has already compiled a starter kit for you in your sandbox.

Your Cornerstone Starter kit should consist of:

  • javascripts
    • min
      • starterkit.min.js
    • starterkit.js
  • sass
    • variables.scss (SASS variables are located here)
  • css
    • variables.css
  • screenshot.jpg
  • functions.php
  • README.md
  • style.css
  • style.scss (This is the ideal place to do style changes)

Understanding SASS

The SASS variables available to you come from three possible documents. Cornerstone registers a large number of new variables mostly pertaining to navigation and widgets.

cs-sass-bootstrap
This is the pre-compiled Bootstrap scss in the global directory, and it has hundreds of variables.
cs-sass-cs
Cornerstone registers a large number of new variables, mostly pertaining to navigation and widgets.
cs-sass-sherman
Sherman, a child theme built with SASS, can redefine any of the variable in Bootstrap or Cornerstone before they are compiled. Rather than wrestling with a dizzying number of selectors and tracking down every single place a single color or font may be referenced, you can edit a few variables and be 80% complete with your redesign. It’s fantastic!

Using a Compiler

In order to make changes, you will have to edit style.scss using the SASS variables. You will also need a SASS compiler. A common one is PREPROS.

prepros scrrenshot
Using Prepros

Editing variables.scss

Once you have a general understanding of the variables and the file structure you can start editing variables.scss. This file contains listed default variables from both Bootstrap and Cornerstone. A change is simple: search for your target tag and change the attribute to whatever you would like it to be.

Overview of the variables.scss file
Overview of the variables.scss file

Example

To change the default link color for the navigation bar you would have to scroll down to the “$navbar” variables and make the changes you would like.

Variables we will be changing. The hex codes would be located here.
Variables we will be changing. The hex codes would be located here.
Look before any changes have been made to variables.
Look before any changes have been made to variables.
change variable
Look after changes have been made. Now, the navigation bar links are light blue!

Editing style.scss

In order to edit the style of your theme you will need to edit it using SASS in style.scss. Variables do not go in style.scss.

Example

Below is an example of how you can change the style of your theme’s master header.

Header before a style change.
Header before a style change.
Changes to styles.scss files.
Changes to styles.scss files.
Theme after style.scss change has been applied.
Theme after style.scss change has been applied.

Child Theming with CSS

Cornerstone was built with SASS, but you can still develop with normal CSS.

Don’t use @import in your CSS file, or your site will break in IE8.

Instead, add this to your functions.php file:

<?php
function link_parent_theme_style() {
wp_enqueue_style( 'parent-style', get_template_directory_uri() . '/style.css' );
wp_enqueue_style( 'child-style', get_stylesheet_uri() );
}
add_action('wp_enqueue_scripts', 'link_parent_theme_style');
?>

Typically, a child theme will @import the css of the parent theme. Bootstrap 3, the framework which Cornerstone is based on, offers very limited support for Internet Explorer 8. By default, a Bootstrap 3 site in IE8 will render the mobile view. One column of content, and the collapse mobile navigation.

Being that IE8 accounts for a sizable (~7%) of traffic on Aurora, Cornerstone makes use of respond.js, which uses javascript to mimic media queries for IE8. However, respond.js will not work on anything loaded via @import. So this alternate method is required.

Hale 2015

hale 2015Hale 2015 was a theme released in August 2015 as a part of Aurora Update 9. The bold blue Sherman theme was released in the summer of 2014, and its advanced features and customization options proved very popular. However, a number of customers requested a theme with all the functionality of Sherman but with the softer tones of the original Hale theme that was released in 2013. Hale 2015 addresses this issue, adapting the popular Hale design and keeping the powerful features of Sherman. A child of the Cornerstone theme, Hale 2015 will continue to benefit from all new features added to Aurora for years to come.

Moving from Hale to Hale 2015

If your site currently uses the Hale theme, and you would like to switch to Hale 2015, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, review the guide to Changing Themes. In addition, note the following changes:

Homepage

The homepage options have changed dramatically. You should now build the homepage (and any other page) using Page Builder. See Homepage Customization tools.

Navigation Options

Hale 2015 has different navigation options that Hale. The 'bar' option is not present, and tabs in Hale 2015 use dropdowns for deeper linking.

Sherman

sherman

Sherman became the new default theme for all Aurora sites upon its release in August 2014. It features a number of enhancements over Hale, the previous default theme, including:

  • Page Builder for the homepage
  • Improved Typography and Design with more white space.
  • Improved features for accessibility. Specifically, removes styles from elements within tables, and scans pages for missing alt tags on images.

Sherman is a child theme of Cornerstone, and utilizes SASS to be as lightweight as possible. Its design is bold, yet clearly a product of the university. It is named after Roger Sherman, Connecticut’s representative to the Continental Congress, and one of the Founding Fathers.

Features

Link Flags

All links to external sites are marked with an icon.
All links to downloadable files like PDFs or DOCs are marked with an icon.

Accessibility Enhancements

Scans images for missing Alt tags, and adds an error message if one it missing.
Strips styles out of tables to discourage the use of tables for presentation layouts.

Accessibility

With Sherman, we’ve tried to improve our web accessibility with these features:

Skip Links

Visible only to screen readers, these links allow users to skip to the navigation or content.

Table Formatting

To discourage the practice of using html tables to layout pages, new styles have been put in place to remove all styles from any element in a table cell. Headings, paragraphs, bullet lists, and more all become plain black text.

Alt Tag Checker

Each image on a page is scanned, and if it’s missing an Alt tag, you’ll see the image grayed out, set to 50% opacity, and an error message will appear asking you to please add an Alt tag.

Resources

Examples

Find examples of sites using the Sherman theme at the top of the Live Sites with Default Template page.