FAQ content

Look & Feel: Prepare for and implement customizations to your LibGuides site (templates, homepages, etc.)

In this article

With the ability to customize almost every aspect of LibGuides' appearance also comes the need to plan, design, and implement those customizations in a manner that is least disruptive to your patrons and the members of your staff that are responsible for maintaining your site. Regardless of how much you want to customize the look and layout of your site, having a plan in place for how and when to apply your customization goes a long way toward ensuring that things can proceed without any major issues. 

This FAQ will offer suggestions for how to apply customizations to your active LibGuides site and change over to new templates with minimal disruption.


What can be customized in LibGuides?

The appearance of your LibGuides public pages can be customized in a variety of ways—through the use of a banner image, setting up a custom HTML header & footer, and custom JavaScript & CSS code. Additionally, you can further alter the look and layout of your public pages through custom templates for your guides—choosing between tabbed and side navigation layouts, homepageA-Z database listsubject pages, profile pages, and search results. These customizations can be as simple or sophisticated as you'd like.

For specifics on what can be customized, and where those customizations are managed, see the "Learn more" list below. And for suggestions on how to plan, test, and apply these customizations continue reading on.

Learn more

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Our consulting team offers a plethora of packages and is happy to create a custom package that fits your needs. For more information, contact us at sales@springshare.com.


Plan and test customizations in a sandbox

While small tweaks to any of these customizations can be applied to your live LibGuides site without any concerns of disrupting your patrons and staff, larger changes (deploying a new homepage template, overhauling the custom CSS, rolling out an institution-aligned header and footer, etc.) should be tested, tweaked, and fine-tuned in a sandbox prior to rolling them out.

If you have LibGuides CMS, then you have the ability to set up your own sandbox directly in your system using the ability to create groups. Each group has its own homepage, guides, and look & feel, allowing you to test out customizations without affecting your live site.

You can also adjust the group's type to Internal so that only logged-in staff members with access to the group can see and assist with the customizations being tested in the group. And because groups exist in your own system, you can take as much time as you need to work on your customizations.


Header/footer HTML and banner changes

Use your sandbox group's Group Header and Group Footer settings to work on new HTML code (or a new banner image) for your LibGuides site. The group-level header and footer options both include options to exclude the system-level code—allowing you to see how your new code will display on the public pages of your group without any overlap or interference from your system-level code.

setting up group-level header code
Use the options to exclude system-level code and to preview the group homepage to see how your header and footer code will display on your group's public pages.

Custom JS/CSS code

Use the Group JS/CSS Code panel to experiment with any custom code you want to add to your LibGuides site. You can, and should, exclude your system-level JS/CSS code so that you can view the guides and public pages within the group with only the custom code you have added to the group. Some things to consider when working on new custom code in your sandbox group:

  • Add some example guides—consider copying guides that your patrons use heavily—into your sandbox group so that you can preview your custom code changes on the same guides your patrons use.
    • Treat the group's homepage as a version of your system-level homepage so that you can, again, view your changes on facsimiles of your site's public pages.
  • If you want to experiment with uploading customization files—for style sheets, JavaScript files, font files, etc.—you can upload them to your system's Upload Customization Files panel and then copy the files' include code into your sandbox group's custom code panel.
  • Because there is no group-level A-Z Database list page, you should consider requesting a sandbox site to ensure that your new CSS does not impact your live A-Z Database page.
group css code to customize your sandbox
Set up your sandbox group to exclude any system-level JS/CSS code to ensure that your new code is applied without any conflicts from your site's existing code.

Homepage template changes and custom homepages

The homepage of your sandbox group is essentially a duplicate of the system-level homepage (it only lacks the By Group list) that can be used to craft an entirely new homepage. Group homepages also support the use of a custom template, which will allow you to modify the layout of your homepage and the content that appears on it. And if you plan on using a custom homepage, you can set that guide as the group's homepage so that you can see how the custom homepage will be presented to your patrons along with how they may move from the homepage to the other public pages in your revised system.

group homepage settings
Use the group's Homepage Layout options to customize the boxes/content that will be shown on your new homepage, and configure a new template for the homepage.

Guide template tweaks

Similar to, and in concert with, using the sandbox to work on new custom CSS code for your public pages, you can use your group to make changes to the guide template(s) that you want to use for your guides. The creation and application of a new template to a guide in a group is the same as it is for guides that are not in a group. That means that you can work on new guide templates with guides in your sandbox group—consider copying existing, in-use guides into the group—without disrupting the look and layout of the guides your patrons are using on a daily basis. 


Tab and box options

One smaller way to customize the appearance of your guides is by adjusting the styles and colors of your navigation tabs/menu and content boxes. There are group-level Tab & Box Options that you can use to quickly style the look of your guides without wading into any custom CSS changes of any kind.

group-level tab and box options
Use the sandbox group's Tab & Box Options to quickly customize the look of your redesigned guides.

Springy Tip: Take a screenshot of the values you have set for these options. When you're ready to apply your sandbox's tab and box changes, you'll need to manually update the system-level versions of the options and a screenshot can be a handy point of reference for making those changes.


Request a sandbox site for A-Z Database (and other) template and base LibGuides changes

If you're looking to make changes to the template used for your A-Z Database list and/or the templates for the search, profile, and subject pages; or you don't currently subscribe to LibGuides CMS, then requesting a sandbox site would be needed for you to test out and design the look and feel of the public side of your site without having any impact on your production site.


Apply your sandbox's customizations to your LibGuides site

Whether you've configured your new customizations in a sandbox group within your site or if you made them in a separate sandbox site, the process for implementing your changes on your live site is roughly the same. The following steps are a recommendation for how you may want to plan and enact your changeover—though you may choose to do some of the steps in a different order and some may not apply at all to the customizations you've made.

  1. Discuss and schedule a time for enacting your new changes with your colleagues—choosing a time that will be least disruptive to your patrons and staff that use your LibGuides site.
    • Copying, pasting, and updating the various customizations for your LibGuides site may take more than a few minutes, so it might be good to plan to make the changes at a time of day and day of the week when you see the least amount of traffic on your public pages.
  2. Save backup copies of all of your existing system-level customizations.
    • If you are making changes to the HTML of your header, footer, and/or custom JS/CSS code, copy the existing code, paste it into a simple text editor, and save a .txt version of the code for safekeeping.
  3. Take screenshots of the current settings for your system-level Tab & Box Options and Homepage Layout customizations (boxes, featured profiles, etc.) so that you have a record of what was set previously for each. And take screenshots of the same settings in your sandbox group so that you have them as a reference when revising the options at the system-level.
  4. If you used a sandbox site for your new customizations, save backup copies of any templates you've created (and plan to use in your own site) and/or custom header, footer, and custom JS/CSS code you added to the site.
    • Copy the existing code, paste it into a simple text, and save separate .txt files for each customization you made.
    • You can copy and paste this code into your live LibGuides site, but having backups in hand ensures that you don't lose the new changes you've created when the sandbox site is wiped.
  5. Make your changes! 
    • If you're making changes to multiple elements of your LibGuides site, it can be useful to apply them in stages.
    • Consider copying in your new custom JS/CSS code first along with any changes to the HTML of your header and footer code. Check that your changes to these elements look good on your public pages and then move on to the other elements that you've changed.
    • Make the changes to settings for your homepage's boxes, tab and box options, search result customizations, etc. using the screenshots that were saved previously. 
    • If you've changed the layout of the guide template being used by your guides (switching between tabbed and side-navigation), be sure to schedule additional time to review the layout of your guides to ensure that your content boxes are appearing in the correct columns.
  6. Roll back your changes and tweak them further, if needed.
    • In the event that one, or more, of your customizations doesn't look quite right when applied, don't hesitate to roll back your changes using the backup .txt files. 
  7. Enjoy your newly customized site!