New “off the shelf” template for Child Contact Centres (NACCC groups)

I continue to be impressed by the Elegant Themes Divi template which has made many sites that use it a lot more interesting to use, and they all look very professional. Many commercial web development agencies are now basing sites on Divi, I am seeing it all of the time.

I am developing a new “off the shelf” package for NACCC groups that run Child Contact Centres throughout the UK.  Continue reading New “off the shelf” template for Child Contact Centres (NACCC groups)

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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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Free images for your website

I have been making small numbers of premium Adobe stock images available to my client base. That offer is still open, if you want to take a look at the library which is huge with millions of images available.

I have also come across the following list of sites which offer free images. You need to check the details of each, but of the one or two I have looked at, they do look useful.  The article that led me to this was sitting in the dashboard of my WordPress site.    Continue reading Free images for your website

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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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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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How not to take a photograph

Images on websites can carry subtle messages, and can be used to help push the key messages to viewers. I recently received some images for inclusion in a site that were taken by an enthusiastic supporter of a charity. While there were quite a few images, the ones I felt I could use were only a very small proportion.

The main reason is that a poorly formed image can actually send the wrong message to visitors on your site. Unless the image is impactful and /or appropriate, I will generally not use it.

I have listed some tips and common pitfalls where your volunteers take images for you, or you try to use them on your website.

Focus

A blurred image, particularly that part of the image that should be very sharp will not look very professional on a website. Blurred images often occur because of camera shake rather than focusing on the wrong thing. Indoor images can suffer in this way because the shutter speed is very slow (less than 1/50th of a second). You can get around this by using a flash or by using a higher ISO setting. Panasonic compact cameras offer a feature called intelligent ISO that looks after this for you. Continue reading How not to take a photograph

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New Tutorial Videos Added

I often find that I spend a lot of time going over the same things with different people. That was why I set up this website in the first place. If I get enough requests, then I can create a video. I have not added any since the site started, but I have just created some more, and bought some things up to date.

For full details go this page:  Video Tutorials (You will need your password to access it).

Of note, particularly for new clients are:

An introduction to Divi, this is the premium template I am using on new premium sites now. It is very flexible and powerful. I give an overview of a website, and show you from the inside how it is constructed. It is different from conventional editing that most of you are used to, but do take a look, it is the future! You can see it in Video Tutorial 11. Continue reading New Tutorial Videos Added

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Editing with a cache or …..

Why can I not see my edits?

On some sites I have started using a Cache plugin. A Cache in computer terms is the temporary storage of something that has been built, so that the next person that needs it can pick it up quickly, it does not need to be rebuilt.

The times we are talking about here are measured in 10’s of milliseconds, but they all count.

WordPress is a content management system. The backend is powered by a database. When you request a page, the page has to be built before it is “served” to your browser. This means it is slower than a hard coded HTML page or website, which is built and ready to go but not dynamic.

Caches also work within your browser as well to accelerate the browsing experience. If I have the stylesheet for a website already in my browser because I have visited the home page, I don’t need to download it again the next time I open a page. This saves time as well. The browser makes these decisions, it is transparent to the user.

However while using a cache accelerates the user experience it can sometimes get in the way of editing. Recently I have seen examples where I am pretty sure I have edited something but I cannot see it on the website. Through experience, I know the item has changed and can prove it by using another browser. However it is very frustrating, particularly if you are a newbie, and not that familiar with how these things work. So read on for some tips…… Continue reading Editing with a cache or …..

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