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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More on Fast Secure Contact Form

Many of the newer sites use Fast Secure Contact form. This plugin was withdrawn last weekend following the discovery that someone who had acquired it had attempted to manipulate it to show adverts for payday loans and other things. In this case it never got to the stage where it showed adverts, and everyone that has come back to me has confirmed their site has been upgraded to remove the advertising (or spamvertising as it seems to be called) code.

This is a great shame because the original plugin by Mike Challis worked really well and had a few side benefits from the earlier form manager I used about 6 years ago.

Continue reading More on Fast Secure Contact Form

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MailPoet 3

I flagged up that MailPoet 2 was being superseded by MailPoet 3 and it was a complete rewrite. There seems to be something going on with MailPoet 2 that is causing problems on some sites generating lots of requests to a housekeeping function called CRON which is a background process running on the server. I have looked at several sites and they were all the same. Mailpoet creates too many requests for attention, which causes the server to no longer respond to requests.

It appears that some time during one of the later releases of MailPoet 2 this problem has been created, perhaps it is something to do with advising people version 3 is available.  The symptoms are that some housekeeping functions will fail to run, notably the backup, but there are no doubt other things as well.

Am I affected?

Continue reading MailPoet 3

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Fast Secure Contact Form

Some of the websites I have built use a plugin called Fast Secure Contact Form. It was a very popular form handler highly regarded by users written by Mike Challis.  The plugin was sold to a third party in June of this year and the new owner attempted to manipulate the code in the plugin to set up adverts.

Please check ASAP whether the version that is currently in use on your website is version 4.0.56. You can do that by logging in, and going to the Plugins page and look down the list. You will see an entry similar to the one below which includes the version number.

If you have version 4.0.56 you are OK! Don’t panic. 

If your site is at an earlier version contact me immediately and I will sort out updating it. 

(update: 6:00am 27/9/17 Nobody has reported a problem so far, all sites have upgraded automatically. That was to be expected. If you cannot find Fast Secure Contact form another method is used for forms on your website. Probably Form Manager. You are not affected by this notice.)

Why is this important?

Continue reading Fast Secure Contact Form

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Facebook Feed

I have recently been around all of the websites and backed up everything locally on my systems. I do this generally every three months and also check the site infrastructure to make sure everything is up to date.

I can see some people prefer to use Facebook for news rather than the news page on the website. This is understandable for two reasons. Your audience if it is under 35yrs is more likely to be active in Social Media than the group that is above 35yrs. In practice it is a good idea to add news to the site and to add entries to your facebook group page linking them back to the website by copying the link to the news item on your site to Facebook.  Here you fix two problems. One is the duplication of news, you don’t want to write everything twice. The other is catering for two audiences.

Continue reading Facebook Feed

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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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Introducing Forums

In July I built a site where one of the requirements was to include a forum. I have not done this before, but I  have come across them and use them on a regular basis.

I have just added the functionality to this website. If you are one of my clients you can join this area, it is managed through a registration form. I receive the form and review it. If I recognise you as one of my clients I grant you access to the system.

There are three forums set up. One is a general forum, the other two are specific to satellite website owners from Home-Start and the NACCC’s Child Contact Centres. I have built a lot of websites for these two groups, and it seems to be a good idea to offer the opportunity for an online community to share ideas and have a place to test concepts. Being specific to a group is useful, because everyone in that group will have the same clients, the same services, and the same problems to deal with.

Do you need a forum?

Continue reading Introducing Forums

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New site uses a graphical layout tool

I thought this might be worth flagging up to everyone. I am in the final stages of developing this website for a local Community Centre.  http://risboroughcc.co.uk

The site uses a free template called Spacious which is freely available. I have used this in other recent cases because it is a header with an optional sidebar and a footer. The content area can be full screen leaving you with a largely open white space.

As I have mentioned before practically all new designs tend to favour mobile oriented websites because there are more people accessing websites from mobile devices. This is also upheld when I look at the stats on most sites (these tell you how many mobile vs fixed users visit a site), it is typically around 55% mobile and 45% fixed, but it varies site to site.  Continue reading New site uses a graphical layout tool

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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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