Written: October 7, 2016

Oregon Visual Arts Ecology Project

I got a phone call from Mike Matthews, owner of Measured Marketing Solutions awhile back and he wanted a better way to enter over 1,000 art portfolios into a web site for the Oregon Visual Arts Ecology Project. My first action was to browse the web site and see what it looked like:

Oregon Visual Arts

It was a WordPress site and they were using a popular commercial Theme called Avada that supported the concept of a Portfolio. Oddly enough there was no way to bulk import a list of Portfolios, so Mike wanted to know if it were possible to use an Excel spreadsheet to define all of the Portfolios, then import them somehow into WordPress. My reply, “Yes, of course that can be coded.”

On the Home page there are several Featured Portfolios on display, so when you click the thumbnail then you get linked to a detailed page like this one:

Oregon Visual Arts - detailed portfolio page

Notice that on the right-hand side there are clickable links for:

All of this visual, text and link information had to be imported from an Excel file into WordPress and then create a new Portfolio for each line of the spreadsheet. I coded a custom Plugin just for this one task, tested it out, and saved Mike much time from having to manually create over 1,000 portfolios.

Summary

WordPress is a very powerful and extendable Content Management System (CMS) that allows organizations to show the world what they are all about using an intuitive visual medium. WordPress may be customized to do something special with off-the-shelf Themes, saving you valuable time and manual typing effort.

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Rayborn’s Plumbing

This local plumbing company Rayborn’s Plumbing has been in business since 1977 and they wanted to update the look and content of their web site to something that was more modern looking, and that was easy enough to update their own content using just a web browser. We used WordPress as the Content Management System.
It was important to have testimonials from actual customers help tell the story of both residential and commercial projects. The Home page features a slide show of example commercial projects from the Portland, Oregon metro region.

Ruth Hardie

I first met Ruth Hardie at a networking event with the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce, and then learned that she was an artist creating watercolor prints. A few months after our introduction she contacted me about creating a brand new web site to showcase her art work. Some of the things that I learned about how she wanted to be portrayed on the web were:

We used WordPress as the Content Management System so that Ruth can update the site herself by using any web browser and logging in. Here’s the Home page layout with a slideshow:

Ruth Hardie, Home page

 

The Gallery page shows seven watercolor prints of dogs, where you click the thumbnail to see the full size image:

Ruth gallery

 

Clicking on the Black Lab thumbnail shows me the large version, and I can browse forward and backward through the entire gallery:

Ruth - gallery image

 

Art Prints is a page with links to Fine Art America, which has the e-commerce for visitors to shop and purchase prints.

Ruthie - art prints

 

The Merchandise page is similar to Art Prints, however the links are different:

Ruth - merchandise

 

For visitors to contact Ruthie, we are not showing her personal email address because that would invite spammers to flood her inbox with unwanted email. Instead, we use a contact form:

Ruth - contact form

 

Another useful feature is a Newsletter Signup and Social Media in the left sidebar of each page, inviting visitors to keep updated on the latest artwork from Ruthie.

Ruth - newsletter

 

When a person subscribes to the newsletter form, they receive an email with a confirmation link, this is called a double opt-in to verify that person’s identity:

Ruth - confirm email

 

Ruth can now send out newsletters to all of the names by logging into WordPress, instead of having a totally separate newsletter system with another username and password, this just makes business easier to run with fewer accounts to remember.

Finally, we knew that smart phones are commonly being used to browse web pages, so we made her site mobile-ready by choosing a responsive theme:

Ruth - mobile

 

Notice how on a mobile device the menu is activated by clicking the icon with three horizontal lines.

Ruth - mobile menu

Enjoy viewing Ruthie’s artwork on her new web site at www.ruthhardie.com

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Using Google Forms and WordPress

The Tualatin Chamber of Commerce has an annual event called Celebrate Tualatin where there are awards given to members within multiple categories. There are two ways to nominate a person:

For the online form task we decided to use Google Forms, because of how easy it is to visually create a Form and it collects all of the responses made by people nominating. Here’s what the finished form looks like:

Google Form

To create the form you login to Google Docs and add a new Form, then start to fill in the details:

Initial Google Form

 

I gave our form a Title, and the first question was a Multiple Choice with six options, and it’s a required question:

Form title

 

All of the remaining questions were Text fields, and there are many other choices for the type of field that you can have:

Field types

 

It’s easy to rearrange questions by just moving your cursor over the question, then dragging and dropping to a new location:

Question hover

 

We wanted to be notified by email whenever a new nomination was made with this form, so we installed an Add-on called “Form Notifications”:

Form notifications

 

When a form is filled out, then our recipients get an email notification and a Google spreadsheet is updated with the new info:

Google response spreadsheet

 

To get this form into a WordPress page or post, while in Google Docs we choose: File> Embed

Google file embed

I just Copy this HTML code, then in WordPress I edit my Post, view in Text mode, then Paste:

Paste Google form into WordPress

 

There you have it, how to make a Google Form and embed it inside of your WordPress page or post. Enjoy building your forms and analyzing the results in Google Docs.

 

 

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Why I Will Never Use WebLink Ever Again

I’ve been helping the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce for several years now with their membership site, and they need to have web features like:

The Chamber selected WebLink International as a system to handle these features, while the actual web site was built with WordPress. We integrated WordPress with WebLink International two years ago, and let the contract with WebLink expire on Mach 1st, 2015. Why will I never use WebLink International again?

WebLink

  1. Their backend software runs only a PC, not a Mac, and it is not web-based.
  2. Their user interface looks like something designed for programmers working on mainframe computers in the 1960s.
  3. I reported over two dozens bugs with their software, and the vast majority were never fixed at all, or even acknowledged as bugs worthy of fixing.
  4. They allow you integrate with WordPress through an arcane template system, however every time that you update a WordPress menu you have to re-generated an HTML template for use with WebLink.
  5. Simple event operations like repeating events are not supported.
  6. Integration with WordPress is do it yourself, make sure that you use RSS feeds to place WebLink content exactly where you want it to go.
  7. Migration of membership data is expensive, typically $1,000.00 or more. Importing members is purposely limited, so you have to pay them to do it.
  8. Your data lives on their server, not your web server.
  9. You have to setup a new subdomain to use their system, so ask for a web expert to help with this step.
  10. Learning their system will take office users about 30-50 hours, which is a lot of time and don’t expect to get a return on that investment.
  11. It’s a pre-built system, so you cannot put anything, anywhere, which severely limits your presentation.
  12. There’s no global search, instead there are separate searches for: Members, Events, Deals, Jobs, etc.
  13. Their pricing is expensive.
  14. Customer support is hostile. Rule #1, that’s not a bug, you don’t know how to use our system. Why would anyone want to do that anyway?
  15. They really don’t want you to integrate with Quicken, instead they want you to use their system for accounting instead.
  16. Their product is so lacking that they have to assign a program manager to your chamber, and that person’s job is to lower your expectations and deliver the bad news on why the bugs are not fixed, and the integration with WordPress doesn’t really exist.

That’s about enough for me right now, but you do get the general picture of why I will never use WebLink again, and why you should really dissuade anyone else from ever signing up with this outfit. Our users in the office had such an adverse experience with WebLink that the nickname became WebStink, now that description is appropriate.

I can say one thing that WebLink excels at, and that is they know how to sell their product and promote their product. You have been warned.

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3 responses to “Why I Will Never Use WebLink Ever Again”

  1. Brad T says:

    If you don’t mind me asking, and feel free to contact me directly, what membership system did you wind up using for this Chamber instead of Weblink?

  2. Daniel Payne says:

    Brad, after the contract expired with WebLink, then the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce opted to sign a contract with ChamberMaster, also a closed, proprietary system that really doesn’t integrate well with WordPress. I should put together my own Chamber management system tuned for WordPress instead of integrating with these closed systems.

    • Brad T says:

      Thanks for the quick reply. if you ever do create one that integrates with WP, let me know!

      Have a great evening and thanks for the info.

      Bradley

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Learning about e-commerce

Most businesses have decided to offer online customer shopping of their products and services, something that we call e-commerce. Today there are literally dozens of ways to get your online shopping up and running. With WordPress having some 70,000,000 users it has become the number one Content Management System (CMS) in the world, so that has attracted top-notch e-commerce vendors to offer many choices for WordPress web sites. I’ve invited a speaker on this topic to present at the November 24th meeting of the Portland WordPress Meetup group.

Portland WordPress Meetup

 

MeetUp

In this WordPress MeetUp we will explore developing an e-commerce website using the popular and free Woo Commerce plugin. Shipping options, bulk discount and the various Woo Commerce Product settings will be covered along with incorporating the Shopping Cart pages into your website.

Meetup

As with her previous popular presentation, “Safeguarding Your WordPress Clients,” Mary Ann will make time for questions at each step in the process and include opportunities for group discussion. After the presentation, slides will be available on a link to Prezi, but you will gain much more by attending in person.

Speaker Bio 
Mary Ann Aschenbrenner is the President of Waterlink Web LLC, a Portland-based website design and development company focused on the needs of small and medium sized businesses. In addition to building successful websites, she tends honeybees, volunteers in her community and is always engaged keeping up to date in this every evolving field.

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Tolovana Inn

Tolovana Inn is located at Cannon Beach and they wanted a remodeled look to their web site that would browse well on desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Another important point was updating their own web site with a Content Management System (CMS).
We choose WordPress as the CMS and added a responsive theme. Copy-writing was done by Monica Cory of Cory Company.

Four WordPress Events in the next two weeks

I discovered the Portland WordPress Meetup group a few years ago after filling out a free profile at www.meetup.com. The genius behind Meetup is that it helps connect your personal or business interests with other, like-minded people. Our Portland WordPress Meetup started out with just one meeting per month, and the audience was a wide range of people from first-time bloggers, to start-up business owners, to geeky developers.

Meetup

Now our group has gotten into a monthly series of User and Developer meetings, so that attendees can fit into the group that fits their skills and interests. This October we’re having a record four meetings instead of the usual two, because another neat feature of Meetup is that any member can suggest adding a new meeting, assuming that they have a topic, speaker and location. So here’s what’s in store in the next two weeks:

 

Portland WordPress Meetup

Online our Meetup group now has some 1,313 members, although at a physical meeting you can expect up to 50 people attending. The meetings are free, except for your time, so why not learn something new about creating or updating your own blog or web site and attend one of our informative Meetups. There is always time for you to raise questions and get answers, on the spot without using Google.

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Wanting to Learn WordPress?

With some 70,000,000 users world-wide, it is safe to say that WordPress is very popular as both a CMS and blogging platform. Here in Portland, Oregon we have a very active Meetup group that hosts two meetings per month, so for August you can learn more about WordPress at:

Note that the first Meetup is for developers (aka programmers), people that actually code with PHP, Javascript, jQuery, CSS, HTML or MySQL.

The second  Meetup is for users of WordPress, not developers.

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A New Parts Catalog Web Site

Trever Dougan and his partner are starting up a brand-new parts catalog company called ICDT and asked me to help them get it up and running this month. For the Content Management System I selected WordPress, because it is the #1 CMS now with some 70,000,000 users. Trever wanted his clients to see all of the electronic parts he offers, but not actually order them, instead they can request a quote. I choose a catalog plugin and then added the quoting feature. Here’s a photo gallery to give an idea of how a prospective buyer can find their part and request a quote:

After a training session Trever is able to add new parts to the catalog, upload photos, add PDF specifications, along with updating any page or writing news articles. The theme for this website is responsive, so it works and looks good on the desktop, tablet and mobile devices.

I wish the team at ICDT all the best in their startup company.

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3 responses to “A New Parts Catalog Web Site”

  1. Nice article! Day by day I am personally learning a little more about NodeJS. It is definately the only real language to educate yourself on long term. I have finished the BackSpace.Academy Amazon web services (aws) Certified Developers path. They have opened a different Realm of apps for myself. Now I need to find the time for getting coding!

  2. Mike Dowden says:

    what catalog plugin did you use?

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