Theming an instance

If you’re building an adaptation of eRegulations (such as for a specific agency), you’ll probably want to customize that instance to fit the agency’s needs. Here’s how to customize the templates, styles, and supporting content.

Table of contents


The regulations-site repository contains a base theme that provides a relatively neutral-looking default eRegulations user interface. This is implemented by a set of Django templates styled using the Sass stylesheet language.

All of this is designed so that you can build “overriding” files in an agency-specific wrapper repository, instead of directly modifying the base files in regulations-site.

For the big picture, see this explanation of customizing ATF eRegulations.

How to customize the frontend in general

For context on how regulations-site works, check out that readme. Then here’s how to start customizing it.

System-wide styles

The compile_frontend command (i.e. python compile_frontend) uses a variant of Django’s collectstatic to combine static assets between the base application (regulations-site) and any custom Django application you develop. It is designed as a simple file override scheme — create an identically named file in your static/regulations/ directory and it will replace the file in the base application. In this way, you can modify stylesheets, images, etc. when building the frontend.

The compile_frontend command generates output indicating which files are being overridden.

Individual paragraphs

The templates used to generate paragraphs can be replaced selectively, a useful technique if you want to emphasize a particular paragraph or add links to external sources that don’t exist in the regulation proper. Note that this mechanism is intended for one-offs; consider the method of modifying the data structures instead if you find yourself using it often.

To use this override mechanism, create a templates/regulations/custom_nodes directory in your Django application if it doesn’t already exist. Inside that folder, create files corresponding to node labels, e.g. 478-103-b.html. These templates will be used in place of the tree-with-wrapper.html template, so be sure to provide the functionality already present there. Should you need to use this functionality only on specific versions, your template can make use of the version context variable.

Django templates tip

You might find django-overextends helpful; see this usage in ATF eRegulations for an example.

How to customize the Sass stylesheets

This section explains eRegulations theming from the Sass/CSS perspective.

The base theme is heavily parameterized to allow for customization. It’s designed to be customized through the use of sass variables (_variables.scss) and mixins (_custom.scss), particularly font mixins.

This is designed so that you can build “overriding” files in an agency-specific wrapper repository, instead of directly modifying the base files in regulations-site. For an example (but using Less), see these .less files in atf-eregs.

Font mixins

You can do most font theming by including the basic font mixins to create specific formatting rules for different types of content. Here’s an example that declares a basic font and then creates a variation with a particular size and line height to use for a specific type of content within the theme:

@mixin sans-font-regular {
  font-family: "Source Sans Pro", Arial, sans-serif;
  font-weight: 400;
  font-style: normal;

@mixin regulation-nav-item-font {
  @include sans-font-regular;
  font-size: 1em;
  line-height: 20px;

This approach allows for a lot of variation in typography without needing to create a lot of customization variables (i.e. $regulation_nav_item_font_size, etc) for one-off styling choices.

Agency specific stylesheets

Overriding base files in regulations-site is very simple. In the agency-specific repo, list overriding custom stylesheets in (/css/scss/module/_custom.scss):

// custom imports
@import '../comment-custom';
@import '../layout-custom';

// Custom Modules
@import 'header-custom';
@import 'note-custom';

Additional variables will similarly reside in (/css/scss/_variables.scss)