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.
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.