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Theme Tip: Using custom template bits

We frequently encourage people to use custom CSS files when designing their themes. The reason for this is simple: it makes upgrading your site much easier because IPS4 can apply any changes to its own CSS files, and will leave your custom CSS files untouched. If instead you made edits to IPS4's CSS directly, it wouldn't be able to upgrade them automatically, which means more work for you, and a potentially broken UI on each upgrade.

Something that's not quite as common, but that we still strongly suggest, is using custom template bits as much as possible. The most common template you'd edit is globalTemplate, perhaps to include some extra resources in the <head>, a custom header, and maybe some footer pieces. The usual approach would be to simply add all of that custom HTML directly into globalTemplate, but my recommendation is that you instead create each piece as a custom template bit, and then include it.

With templates, it's not quite as much of a clear-cut benefit as with CSS; you'll still need to modify the original template in order to include your custom pieces of course. But there's still good reasons for doing so; it keeps your template as clean as possible, meaning if in a later upgrade you have to revert it to get the latest changes, reapplying your custom pieces is easy - you just add the template includes back in.

We've been taking this approach with all custom themes we've created since IPS4's release (dozens by my last count). We try and keep the naming convention consistent too. All custom templates are named _customABC.phtml and exist in the /front/global/ group in the core application. This puts them in an easy-to-find location, and because of the underscore prefix, they're shown at the top of the directory.


Example custom template bits in a custom theme

Using them is simple:

{template="_customHeader" group="global" app="core"}


I hope this approach helps you keep your templates clean and more manageable! If you have any tips for working with your templates, please share them in the comments!

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