Custom Sites and Working with Outside Agencies

We recognize that some campus units prefer a completely custom look-and-feel for their website than the out-of-the-box options offered by the webdotunc platform. There are a few ways to accomplish a custom, unique look without developing a theme from scratch while still complying with University branding guidelines.

CSS Customization

Many university departments have succeeded in creating a completely custom website simply by modifying the CSS of a theme. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a style sheet language used for describing the look and formatting of a document written in a markup language.

For example, the Carolina Conversations site uses a combination of the ‘Heelium’ theme, along with modified CSS, to achieve a truly unique look-and-feel. This is accomplished only with CSS and no custom code.

Default Heelium

Heelium Theme for WordPress

Customized with CSS Heelium

Carolina Conversation's Website Customized with CSS

Other great CSS customization examples include:

Need help customizing your site?

There are, generally speaking, three ways to customize your site using CSS. First, and for many departments, CSS customizations are accomplished completely in-house by the resident developer or IT professional. They simply need to activate the Custom CSS plugin.

Second, for those units that do not have in-house resources or would simply like to utilize on-campus experts, the ITS Digital Services team is available as a no-cost resource to help design your website. Our services are funded centrally, but available on a first come, first serve basis. If you are interested in working with our team, please contact Kate Hash,, Manager, ITS Communications and Digital Services.

Finally, you may work with an outside agency to customize CSS using Heelium. This is typically much cheaper than having them design and develop a site from scratch. An example of a successful partnership with an outside agency is the Social Innovative Initiative. Please note, however, that the ITS Digital Services team does not provide development, infrastructure or software support to outside agencies. That is, once a test environment is created for the agency, we do not provide support until the site is ready to launch. If you wish to utilize an outside agency, please contact our team for a list of recommended agencies that have successfully worked in our environment for previous University customers.  Furthermore the ITS Digital Services team is not responsible for the ongoing maintenance of your customized design.  As we are continually improving the Heelium theme you may find that some of your customizations break as a result of upgrades.  Addressing and correcting those issues are not the responsibility of ITS Digital Services.  It is strongly recommended you maintain an ongoing relationship with your outside agency to address these types of issues.

Disclaimers for custom themes developed prior to Summer 2015:

  • As of Summer 2015, we no longer accept custom themes on our network. Any themes developed prior will be supported until those sites are redesigned.
  • The department is responsible for keeping the theme up to date and making sure it is compatible with any upcoming releases of WordPress.  We will notify all users before a major release.  You will need to send us any updates to your theme before we roll the update out into production.
  • If at any time your theme is found to have a security vulnerability the theme may be immediately removed and replaced with the default WordPress theme until the vulnerability can be addressed.
  • All updates will need to be submitted to the webdotunc team by emailing Please note, updates require 5 business days to execute. Include the following information:
    • .zip of all files noting which files have been updates
    • Information about what updates have been made and why