Handling Spreadsheets in a website

(Introducing TablePress)

I am sure most of you are familiar with tables of data in WordPress sites and how to create one and populate it. I have recently been developing a Community Transport website which is nearing completion.  I have done one before, but this was some time ago.

One of the issues with publishing timetables is that the it can be done by simply publishing an image of the timetable. In most cases a JPG or PNG would do the job. It looks ok to people visiting the site, and if we also make a PDF version available as well so someone can download and print a high resolution version, it ticks all of the boxes.  Well not quite.

A computer cannot read an image

I frequently see people placing images on websites with text in them. That is fine for humans, but let’s remember that locally the website has a search function, and of course the whole internet works on search functions as well via Google, Bing and many others. But while a human can see what is in a picture, a computer cannot. You can only rely on what is in the Alt Text field for the image as a matching search string.

An image of a timetable is the same. So how do we get around this? One of the search considerations I made when approaching this new site was the ability for the public to search for their bus stop, or village. If you can search the site for your village, this will return when buses come through provided the time table is in text form.

Workflow

This is probably outside of the remit of a website developer, but one of the things I thought about was workflow from a maintenance perspective. Websites like plants die with no love and attention. So maintenance has to be really easy.

In this case the organisation had all of their timetables in Excel. I took the master sheet and generated PDF’s of each timetable. I then created additional sheets with just the timetable values in and exported each as a CSV (comma separated value) file. This is a very basic array of data that is commonly used in porting information from one system to another. The facility is built into Excel if you wish to use it.

Next I go into the website and load a plugin called TablePress. This allows me to import the CSV file and convert it back to a table. Once this is done, I can then add the table to a page. All remarkably easy and painless to do.

So if you want to add anything that is in a Excel spreadsheet into a WordPress website, take a look at TablePress. It is one of the best implementations I have come across, and in this case it takes out a lot of manual editing.

Catering for all

My final solution (provided I am not asked to change it) was to have a downloadable PDF timetable appropriately formatted. A text version of the same table, and a google map with the routes on.

For a short time you can see the website here, it should be published shortly.

http://wingrove-staging.uk/flittabus/

 

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Using the Read More icon in the editor

This is particularly important if you are adding POSTS to your website and they are quite long. The icon highlighted in the image above is the Insert Read More tag.

You use it so that when your post is displayed on your news page, you only see the top part of it. When the “Read More tag” is detected the post stops being displayed any further and read more… appears as a link.

Clicking on the link causes the Post to open full screen in it’s entirety.

Why is that a good idea?

Continue reading Using the Read More icon in the editor

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Colour inspiration

Palettron.com website
Click on the image to visit the website

I am currently working with a group that have independently created a logo. The logo contains a set of colours that to my eye are not naturally harmonious. The relationships between some of the colours don’t work for me, the problem is I cannot say why.

I have to add here, like most people from an IT/ Engineering background, I should be the last person to question someone’s colour choice. My wife frequently comments on mine, as does my daughter. Continue reading Colour inspiration

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Divi Template Update Bug

8th Sept 2017

Important information about a bug

A new release of the Divi template occurred overnight. The chances are that sites which are based on this template will not automatically update immediately. If you have updated your site you may find that it behaves differently. The images have disappeared. This is what happened to me this morning. (8/9/17).

Divi have released some powerful animations with images, and this modification is affecting an upgraded website. The images are still in the site, but one of the settings is to make an image transparent which was not there before. So now images default to transparent. The solution is to delete your web browser cache. I am hoping that this is a problem local to me because I was on the site prior to upgrading it, and still had the site in my local cache after the upgrade. Removing the history did restore it and now it behaves normally.

If the developers had left set the new default transparency setting to visible, then this problem would not have occurred. No idea why they did it that way. I have reported it to the developers.

If you receive any reports about Divi losing images, then suspect this first, check it yourself and delete your web browser cache history. If the problem remains please get in contact with me.

I have confirmed if you see this problem, it is local to your computer, your users will not see it.

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Be seen (by Google)…

I have just finished working my way around 100+ websites and backing them all up. I also check them to make sure the infrastructure is up to day. There are a couple of interesting observations that are worth noting, particularly if you are new to editing, or struggling with updating your website, or don’t like updating it for some other reason.

All of the points raised and guidance are included in a downloadable document at the end of this article.

1). Google Searches.

Before I start checking a site I perform a google search on the entity name (not the domain name) to make sure it comes very close to the top, if not at the top of the first page on Google. I have never had any problems getting people to the top of searches without paying a penny. But there are things you need to do to stay there, and stay fresh.

Download some tips

2). A picture paints a thousand words

Well in web terms it doesn’t unfortunately. I have seen lots of examples of people placing images, such as posters on their home pages. Posters are generally a graphic stored as a PDF, JPG or PNG file. It is an image file. Humans can read and interpret images. Google and computers generally cannot.

Download some tips Continue reading Be seen (by Google)…

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How is my site doing?

On all of the sites I have published, they contain a Google Analytics token. This causes every visit to be logged by Google Analytics. I can grant access to your account on request, it contains a lot of information about how many site visits, which countries did they come from, where did people go, where did they go to next, how long were they on the site for, how did they reach the site etc etc.  There are people that specialise in accessing and manipulating Google Analytics data for a living, so there is much much more than most of us need to know.

I have recently come across a plugin called Google Analytics Dashboard for WP that can be configured to connect to my Google Analytics account and pick up the statistics for your website. Once set up, you can login to your site and see a panel on the dashboard that contains a set of configurable views.  You can see an example below from Prestwood Village Association website. There are twelve different sets of data presented and different timelines can be selected.

It is one of the most useful plugins I have come across for internal marketing analysis.

If this is something you would like to have available on your site then do the following:

Login, go to Plugins and click on Add New and search for Google Analytics Dashboard for WP. Install it and activate it. Then contact me and I will link it to your GA Account. After I have done that, it is always available everytime you login.

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Divi Layout Builder

I have talked about the Divi Template several times and I use this regularly now for my premium sites. The layout tool that is used in the Divi Template is also available as a stand alone plugin.

It is a bit more complicated to use than the standard editor, however it offers endless possibilities. Take a look at the site below (the actual site is under development so likely to change before it is public). You can temporarily see the development version here:  http://wingrove-staging.uk/hhccc/

Continue reading Divi Layout Builder

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Adding a Twitter Feed

Many of the organisations I work with manage social media marketing through Facebook and Twitter. I know from my own experience that you reach a different and frequently younger audience through Facebook and Twitter compared to relying on people visiting your website.

For my local village association we have around 900 subscribers that receive a newsletter each month, and around 350 subscribers to a Facebook group. By checking the demographics in Google Analytics we know that the majority of website visitors are aged 35+. We reach a younger audience through Facebook. The behaviours are different, the conversations are different on Facebook compared to the discussions associated with Posts.

I have recently installed two plugins that repeat the Facebook and Twitter activity on your website. They are easy to set up provided you are logged into your respective accounts. On this article I am going to refer to Twitter.

Where to put it?

Continue reading Adding a Twitter Feed

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Use Gmail through the hosting

Mail sent to fred@mycharity.com is forwarded to fred3123@gmail.com a standard gmail account

When fred sends a message from his gmail account it appears to come from fred@mycharity.com

How does this work?

Some people have a gmail account behind the email account associated with their domain. So for example fred@mycharity.com may not use the email boxes associated with the hosting. His email will be forwarded through to a gmail account say; fred3123@gmail.com

The reason for doing this may be for historical reasons, or perhaps you manage all of your folders in gmail. Or shared calendars with colleagues. There are pluses and minuses. The biggest risk with a gmail account is if you lose control of it. There is no “person” you can call to get it back.

Anyway, mail is routed to fred@mycharity.com and this is forwarded to fred3123@gmail.com. Fred manages his mail at Gmail, and when he replies to something, the message appears to come from fred@mycharity.com and not from fred3123@gmail.com. The way this is achieved is by using the SMTP server in your hosting package.

You do it by following these steps:

You will need an email account in your hosting, and a separate gmail account, and know the passwords for both. If you are setting this up for the first time, test both accounts independently. Once you have checked your email addresses and passwords do the following:

  • Login to gmail
  • Go to accounts and Import
  • Look for send mail as:
  • Click on edit info and change the entry.
  • A form will pop up. Add the alias address you wish to use, in this case fred@mycharity.com
  • The server name which you need to change to:  mail.stackmail.com*
  • The port name which you need to change to 587 and the security type to TLS
  • It will also ask you for a password. This is the password for your fred@mycharity.com address in the hosting. The same password you would use if you wished to access the mail account directly.
  • It will check the settings before allowing you to close the window.

*mail.stackmail.com is the current default SMTP server we are using.

If you are using gmail as your main email provider and using the SMTP send function via the hosting, you need to remember that if I move a website into new hosting this will break your gmail implementation until you update the settings.

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Obfuscated links – take care

One of the websites I look after was taking content provided by third parties and adding it into the website. I was working my way through some posts when I came across a strange looking link hidden under an innocent looking title.

The editor in this case had just cut and paste everything, and had not tested it. There were two cases, one went to a newsletter mailing website and then was diverted to the actual site. In this case the actual site was simply a holding page, and the fact that the link went to that site via a third party meant it was logged. Of course we do not know what else happened on the way.  The link text contained Yurts for Life, but the link was actually going to here:

http://manorfarm.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click=eea270f45b87b007e97fa644b&id=ebeb93cbe5&e=c391a34f71  

Which is not going to Yurts for Life. The behaviour of the link when clicked went somewhere, then to somewhere else.

The link was provided in good faith, however if nobody checks these things it can be simply passed down the chain. In this case it is probably completely innocent, however what if it wasn’t?  Would you know; the fact you have put this on your site, exposes it to all of your visitors.

Test it when you publish it

Continue reading Obfuscated links – take care

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