Development Guidelines

We strongly encourage the USD community to utilize the USD-branded themes that are available via the USD Sites service.

In the event that you would like to hire an external designer or developer to create a theme for you, the following is the process that any consultant can follow to create a new website.


There is a USD Sites development server. You will need to the following accounts:

  • A full USDOne account (not a VPN-only account), contact the ITS Help Desk to begin
  • USD VPN account, complete the linked file and submit
    • The Requestor field is the Name and USD email address (as established in the step above) for your contractor.
    • The Supervisor information is for your contact information
  • USD Sites account, complete the ‘Register’ form on the USD Sites home page


A GITHUB repository will be provisioned for the developer to use that will be tied to our development server. When the developer makes a commit to the repository it will automatically place the files on to the server in the appropriate theme. The developer will not have direct access to the server, but will work through our GITHUB installation combined with our Continuous Integration server.

Because our wordpress installation is a WordPress Multisite (MU) installation, you need to develop your new site directly on our server. It is not possible to import a site or parts of a site if development has occurred elsewhere. USD Web Services will not assume responsibility for the import process.


If you have a “seed” theme that you would like to use, we will install that on the server, assign that to your site, and preload that theme in the repository you will work with. Otherwise we will select a basic theme and use that as the seed for the site.


We support the following network-activated plugins (i.e. these plugins are available to everyone). Please be aware that both WordPress and the following plugins are updated on a regular basis. If there is a problem with your theme after an upgrade, you will need to work with your outside contractor to resolve any issues that arise from these upgrades.  

  1. akismet
  2. buddypress
  3. contact form 7
  4. disqus comment system
  5. facebook like box
  6. feedburner form
  7. get latest tweets
  8. google analyticator
  9. mailpoet newsletters
  10. responsive slider
  11. simple responsive slider
  12. text hover
  13. events calendar
  14. use google libraries
  15. yoast SEO
  16. We have a number of other plugins that are not network activated but are available for your use that are already installed.  Please visit the plugins area to see what these are.

If you are going to use plugins other than the ones that are standard for our installation/already installed, please use these guidelines:

  • The plugin must be actively supported.
  • The plugin must have had work within the last year, and we would prefer within the last 3 to 6 months.
  • The plugin cannot make or require modifications to the wordpress core.

Launch and Post-Launch

We provide the development server so that your outside developer may develop a theme. We understand that in order to fully appreciate a site design and theme that some content needs to be loaded.

Once your new site theme is completed, contact a USD Sites Administrator and we will migrate the following from the development server to the production server:

  • text-based content
  • your completed site theme

Please note that any images loaded in the content on the development server will need to be re-uploaded in your new WordPress-based website on USD Sites and will need to be re-linked in the content.

Any future website edits, upgrades, and any other changes are solely the responsibility of the site owner or maintainer.

For Current Development

For developers currently developing on the development server, please note:

  • is only accessible while on the USD VPN. If you do not have a VPN account, please have your in-house supervisor request one using the appropriate link above.
  • In order to load your changes to, you will need to commit your changes to the develop branch of the repository housing your theme. Once you push these changes to, your commits will automatically be processed by our CI server and loaded to in the appropriate location.
  • The VPN software only provides the secure tunnel from you computer into our internal network. Any functions you need after that will be handled directly by the programs installed on your computer such as browser, FTP client, etc.
  • Your theme and updates will only be visible on sitesdev until we receive approval to launch from your in-house supervisor. Once that occurs, we will take a copy of the theme you have made, install it on the production server, and export your site data and import it to the production server.
  • Load as few images as possible in the content created until the site is moved to the production server, as there is a WordPress core problem with exporting and importing images and their various image sizes that WordPress *should* automatically build.  The export / import process does not copy over or create the necessary resized images.  We will notify you when this process is complete so that you can complete building the website, or cleaning up the content.