Templates and Prefab Installs

So to break the ice here, and one thing I’m very interested in myself and how we can support schools in this endeavor, it the idea of onboarding installations with content. That approach ranges from a few plugins and themes available in a new install of WordPress or even an entire template made available as a one-click installation. I know @acroom has been experimenting with this and wrote a bit about it here: http://notes.adamcroom.com/2016/creating-template-installs-in-installatron

When I was at UMW we took a similar approach, we had two templates in use, an Art Portfolio that contained a bunch of image-focused themes and gallery plugins, and a Professional Porfolio that included some default pages and categories to make a good Resume/About Me professional site. I also see the new Site Publisher tool as something that could be leveraged here and played around with building templates for it https://blog.timowens.io/site-publisher-for-cpanel/

Curious to hear what others might be thinking in that space. What templates make the most sense for your community? Are there default themes, plugins, or content that all installs should receive?

We have created a few templates for faculty to use, but the process is far from straight forward. Michael McGarry created the following video (Wordpress Import - Course Redesign with Technology ePortfolio - YouTube) to help a through the process. It would be great to have an easier way to do this.

Definitely have a peak at the guide @acroom wrote up on how Installatron can help with this http://notes.adamcroom.com/2016/creating-template-installs-in-installatron. For common templates like the one Michelle built in that video it would shave probably 3/4 or more of that heavy lifting off as the theme, plugins, content, and settings all get provisioned to a new install automatically when the template is chosen as part of the install process.

One thing we did notice at UMW was that the base install that was used for a template needed to remain online indefinitely for new installs to use it. I don’t know if that has changed or not, but how we handled that was just setting up a subdomain templates.umwdomains.com as its own cPanel account and all templates we built were housed there.


Wonderful. We will try this out. Thanks for sharing. Happy to have this community for sharing ideas.

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Such a good idea. Thanks @timmyboy!

Alright. New question based on Adam’s article. The idea seems perfect, but, I don’t see the star on any installs that I have done. I’ve switched to the admin account as well and still didn’t see it on any of the Installatron sites within that account. Is there a setting that needs to be enabled within Installatron or anything that needs to be done in order to get that option to appear?

The star only appears in the Installatron Administrative interface that lists all installs on the server, which is accessible through WHM (it’s in the plugins area of WHM). Essentially because you wouldn’t want a standard using pushing out templates to everyone on the server you have to go one level up to the server admin. If you don’t have the login for that DM me here and I can send it your way!

Ah, thanks! It worked perfectly! Such a good solution. Thanks to you and a huge thanks to Adam!


I was going to ask you by email about this Tim, so nice to see that it’s being discussed here-- and that it is as simple as setting up an instance to copy.

I’m looking to do something like this for a DML workshop in October with Justin Reich, and we were wanting to make a starter site with a FeedWordpress syndication set up, maybe others with the DS106 Assignment Bank, a few SPLOTs, some of the whacky stuff Tom Woodward does.

How might this work for individuals, who are under their own WHM? Might we make a collection of these Reclaim could offer? I’m not sure about cluttering the primary Wordpress install with options, could you make a second WP installer with a collection set up as prefab options?

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That’s a really interesting idea! I’ve definitely thought about the SPLOT stuff and other things as their own installers but given they’re all WordPress-based this templating idea might make as much sense (or a hybrid of a single new installer with these template options inside it). A few hurdles I see potentially:

  • Pushing out new installers is pretty easy on our end, but adding templates would require a base template to live on every server which is non-trivial (though not impossible if we think through logistics)
  • What would maintenance look like for new versions

Only reason my mind goes to logistics is due to our growth. We have 8 shared hosting servers (probably 10 or 11 by year’s end) and at least 40 institutional ones. Requires me to immediately think of the best way I can automate processes when we implement anything new which can be a challenge. Individual institutions doing their own thing don’t have as much of a concern with this as they have their own single server (or in the rare case like OU they have 3 servers so I suppose some of this is relevant for them too).

Let me think it through a bit but I’m glad we’re talking about it because the stuff you and Tom have been creating is awesome and I’d love to make it dead simple for folks to fire up an install with some of it pre-configured (especially the FWP template idea! Can you imagine how much time that saves someone?)

Thanks. There might be other ways to go about it, some way to do cloning of
master sites across cpanels? Or setting up some WP service site with one of
the cloning plugins.

The easier way for our workshop would be setting up subdomain accounts in
one install, and cloning for individuals, but then they cant really take it
with them easily.

I’ve had some thoughts of trying to package all the stuff I do for a FWP
site as a plugin too, the special short codes, etc, including a sign up
form to register a blog that did not need gravity forms.

If you’ve never played with it before, my spidey sense is that for workshops http://stateu.org might be a good place to run this. It’s essentially a trial account in a DoOO environment. People get a subdomain of their own with a full cPanel account (we do remove some stuff like email but the main things like Installatron are there). It would also be a great place to experiment with offering templates like this as we figure out how to replicate it to all servers. I also think finding the best way of sharing the templates would be good so that all of the schools aren’t reinventing the wheel. Would be great to have an easy way for CSUCI, OU, etc to share the templates they build with the larger community (assuming that’s cool with them).

That was actually on my list if ideas to use stateu.org- so we might be
able to try some of these in that area?

Absolutely, that space is intended for people who don’t have a Reclaim account and are curious what running one is like to get a free one for 30 days and we occasionally get a request to migrate from there. We use it often if we’re running a workshop or showing a group DoOO and it’s great for that.

This might not actually be true anymore (though frustratingly Installatron doesn’t give any clear documentation on the template feature). I did a test on stateu.org today of setting up Tom’s Blackout Poetry as a template within a cPanel account, then I deleted the base install and I was still able to install it in another account so perhaps they’ve removed the dependency that the install live on forever (although it’s probably not a bad practice to have a cPanel account dedicated to building templates). Still looking into where these live on the server and how/if they might be easily shared.

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I’m a little late to this party but I’ve been galavanting around the mtns. Sorry (I have to say that - they’re Canadian mtns). Anyway, there was some very interesting stuff at WPCampus.org about this kind of starter package approach for WP - it was largely NYU folks that were showing it.

Neel Shah (@neelshah91) has created/is creating a plugin to help do this. Slides and vid of the preso at: https://2016.wpcampus.org/schedule/lightning-talks/extending-wp-signup-page-form-higher-ed-use-case/

Note: what the NYU folk are calling a WP “template” is in my mind more of a “starter pack”: It consists of some plugins & themes pre-packaged to accelerate the site’s creation and lower the learning curve for newby’s to WP.

For more on the use case they’re using it for at NYU, see the preso by Erica Reifer and Malik Singleton. (@MalikfromLA and @rehso) at https://2016.wpcampus.org/schedule/wp-portfolios/

I do like the idea of providing some sort of guided progression that suggests a few things and then installs what’s needed. If I recall correctly . . . something like the UMW’s digital roadmap (I think anyway . . . all their stuff is coming up “under construction” for me.).

It’s be fun to do something that mixes some common approaches to this stuff (tool, discipline, concept) and then aligns some examples with the tools. I’ve been meaning to do this for some time - adding installs to the process would be slick.

I like the idea too. I’m finding faculty and students (not many of them yet) getting a kind of “writer’s block” when they face the initial standard WP install with it’s one page and one post, neither of which suggests the possibilities. So I’m thinking of a starter packages/templates for some common use cases such as:

  • a faculty or course blog
  • faculty teaching portfolio & about pages & CV
  • course references & links
  • a pressbooks textbook,
  • SPLOT-style assignment for a class
  • OER bank of links & materials
  • etc.


I’ve heard Brian Lamb speak exactly to this issue quite eloquently this past Spring, and I think managing and cloning splot-like tools would be a brilliant approach. In fact, I know Alan and Brian have a few they have already worked on and may be willing to share. This is something that Reclaim would love to help broker.