Branding the Library Website: Making a Flexible WordPress Theme

In moving our website to WordPress, I wanted to create a theme that could be used by our staff when working on online projects which would sit outside our main website, but in which we would host. Obviously they have the option of using other themes, but then someone (likely from our team) would have to make sure it meets accessibility guidelines, and as there are very few of those, I thought it best to just make our theme flexible.


This is just a disclaimer that the main reason we could even do this is because we do not have a Common Look & Feel policy from the university administration, which most universities do. On the flip side, that’s one reason I wanted to do it. I would like that the library “products” are recognized as such. Doing it through a theme would also provide a more consistent user experience across the sites that use the library’s theme.

The Header

Our existing site already used a consistent header. However, it also includes the “Ask Us” logo, which would take you to the “Ask Us” page with all the myriad ways to contact the library for help. For other sites, it’s more likely that they will want to list specific contact instead, so I added an option to remove it.

new site header
New Header with Custom Menu and Google Search Bar

In addition, of course, for any sites using the theme, they will want the name of their site in the header, so I added a text box input for that in the options page and used font-face to pick a different font to make it stand out a little more.

The Menu

The navigation was built into the original theme so that you can either use a custom menu or it will fallback to using pages. However, the way our sites are made, some of the subpages menus would have been so long as to go past the end of the page, so I added the option to take out submenus.

new header with subsite title
Header with Subsite Title, Fallback Menu, and WordPress Search

Finally, the original website search bar redirects the user to the university’s Google search of the library’s directory, so I made the option to change it to the standard WordPress search bar to search within the current site.

The Footer

Since each site may have different links in the footer, I also made an option to include custom links in the footer, such that the ‘Home’ link is the only hard-coded link (which is always the link of the home page of the site you’re on).

new full footer
Full Site Footer with Custom Links and Social Media Icons

While it’s possible to make the social media buttons customizable, until there is a demand or need, I decided to simply put in the option to take them all out.

new basic footer
Hardcoded Part of Footer

The rest of the footer (copyright) is always there. Again, unless there is a demand or need, I didn’t make the copyright holder changeable.


As many sections of our website (e.g. catalogue/OPAC, Research Guides) are not part of the CMS, I am currently working on taking the WordPress template (minus the options) and creating a plain HTML and then a ColdFusion template to use in those sections.

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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