How to change Oscar’s appearance

This is a guide for Front-End Developers (FEDs) working on Oscar projects, not on Oscar itself. It is written with Tangent’s FED team in mind but should be more generally useful for anyone trying to customise Oscar and looking for the right approach.


Oscar ships with a set of HTML templates and a collection of static files (eg images, javascript). Oscar’s default CSS is generated from LESS files.


Oscar’s default templates use the mark-up conventions from the Bootstrap project. Classes for styling should be separate from classes used for Javascript. The latter must be prefixed with js-, and using data attributes is often preferable.

Frontend vs. Dashboard

The frontend and dashboard are intentionally kept very separate. They incidentally both use Bootstrap, but may be updated individually. The frontend is based on Bootstrap’s LESS files and ties it together with Oscar-specific styling in styles.less.

On the other hand, dashboard.less just contains a few customisations that are included alongside a copy of stock Bootstrap CSS - and at the time of writing, using a different Bootstrap version.


By default, CSS files compiled from their LESS sources are used rather than the LESS ones. To use Less directly, set USE_LESS = True in your settings file. This will enable the on-the-fly pre-processor which lets you trial changes with a page reload. If you want to commit your changes, use the make css Makefile command, making sure you have the lessc binary available on your command line. A few other CSS files are used to provide styles for javascript libraries.


Oscar uses javascript for progressive enhancements. This guide used to document exact versions, but quickly became outdated. It is recommended to inspect layout.html and dashboard/layout.html for what is currently included.


Customising templates

Oscar ships with a complete set of templates (in oscar/templates). These will be available to an Oscar project but can be overridden or modified.

The templates use Bootstrap conventions for class names and mark-up.

There is a separate recipe on how to do this.

Customising statics

Oscar’s static files are stored in oscar/static. When a Django site is deployed, the collectstatic command is run which collects static files from all installed apps and puts them in a single location (called the STATIC_ROOT). It is common for a separate HTTP server (like nginx) to be used to serve these files, setting its document root to STATIC_ROOT.

For an individual project, you may want to override Oscar’s static files. The best way to do this is to have a statics folder within your project and to add it to the STATICFILES_DIRS setting. Then, any files which match the same path as files in Oscar will be served from your local statics folder instead. For instance, if you want to use a local version of oscar/css/styles.css, your could create a file:


and this would override Oscar’s equivalent file.

To make things easier, Oscar ships with a management command for creating a copy of all of its static files. This breaks the link with Oscar’s static files and means everything is within the control of the project. Run it as follows:

./ oscar_fork_statics

This is the recommended approach for non-trivial projects.

Another option is simply to ignore all of Oscar’s CSS and write your own from scratch. To do this, you simply need to adjust the layout templates to include your own CSS instead of Oscar’s. For instance, you might override base.html and replace the ‘less’ block:

# project/base.html

{% block less %}
    <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/less" href="{{ STATIC_URL }}myproject/less/styles.less" />
{% endblock %}