Author: Kelly Cosgrove

Homepage Customization in Sherman or Hale 2015

The homepages of Sherman, Hale 2015 and Prudence 2018 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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


Here you can add padding around the widget.


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.


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.

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
  • 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.

This is the pre-compiled Bootstrap scss in the global directory, and it has hundreds of variables.
Cornerstone registers a large number of new variables, mostly pertaining to navigation and widgets.
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


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.


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:

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:


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 than Hale. The 'bar' option is not present, and tabs in Hale 2015 use dropdowns for deeper linking.



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.


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.


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.



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

Themes and Plugins


UConn currently has four central themes as well as a number of custom themes and child themes created for specific UConn sites.


To ensure the security and stability of Aurora, plugins are limited to set number determined by the Aurora Governance Committee. Plugins do get added regularly, but must be thoroughly tested and reviewed for compatibility with existing plugins.

Custom Themes and Plugins

Custom development is allowed for the Aurora WordPress server, but each plugin and theme, as well as any update, will have to go through Code Audit before being allowed in the system. Contact if you're interested in starting a custom project to get a development environment, and to be added to the developer contact lists. You may also want to look at our Live Sites with Custom/Child Themes.

Additional Links

Redirect a Page

Follow these instructions to redirect one of your pages to either another page within your site or an external URL.

  1. In the menu on the left side of your dashboard, go to Tools > Safe Redirect Manager
  2. On the Safe Redirect Manager, click ‘Create Redirect Rule
    Create Redirect Rule

  3. Under Redirect From, type the path to the page you’re redirecting from (the part of the page’s url after
  4. Under Redirect To, type either the path to the page you’re redirecting to (if it is another page within your site) or the full url (if it is an external link)
  5. On the right side of the page, click ‘Publish‘.

Colorful Sidebar Menus

If you add a sidebar with a menu widget, you may notice that the menu is displayed in a very simple manner. Below is code that you can add to your custom CSS to add some style to your sidebar menu. This code will work with websites using the Hale 2015 and Sherman themes.


#page-sidebar .widget.widget_nav_menu {

#page-sidebar .widget ul {

#page-sidebar .widget ul li {

#page-sidebar .widget ul li.current-menu-item,#page-sidebar .widget ul li.current-menu-item:hover,#page-sidebar .widget ul li.current-menu-item:active {

#page-sidebar .widget ul li:hover,#page-sidebar .widget ul li:active {

#page-sidebar .widget ul li.current-menu-item a,#page-sidebar .widget ul li.current-menu-item:hover a,#page-sidebar .widget ul li.current-menu-item:active a {
Note: The colors are marked in red — feel free to change them to whatever HEX codes you want!


To see how this CSS code looks on an actual sidebar menu, visit the Development page.