Eleonora of Tusla needed a service directory site redeveloped. The project gave me the opportunity to learn about WP Cron and the Advanced Custom Fields plugin. The resulting site is fully indexed by Google (unlike the old site) and easy for the organisations to maintain.
Eleonora of Tusla, the Child and Family agency, contacted me to redevelop the 16+ Task Force web site. The site is a ‘Service Directory’, listing agencies providing supports and contacts for young people in the Finglas/Cabra area. They were unable to edit site.
I met with Eleonora and two colleagues to discuss the functionality of the new web site and the transfer of content, including dropping some of the unused fields.
I used WooThemes Canvas as the base theme and created a staging site on my web site. The new site has minimal styling as I am not a designer and the priority was on the functionality of the service directory.
Initially I installed the Types plugin. When I encountered an error (a url was not being saved) the support people were very helpful. It was eventually diagnosed as an outdated pcre library on my web site. Unfortunately my web hosting company was unable to update it. I had to abandon the Types plugin and installed the more popular Advanced Custom Fields plugin. It is very easy to work with and I quickly created the form to add and edit organisations for the service directory. While most of the fields use text boxes, I used drop down lists where the answers are limited e.g. Yes/No or Yes/None. Organisations can mark their location on an interactive map.
The next challenge was to get the database from the 16+ Task Force site. It was hosted by a friend of someone that had worked on the site. Eventually I got the raw file – a Microsoft SQL backup. I don’t have Microsoft SQL Server, but a boards.ie user, stephenmu, did and exported the data. I used perl to convert multiple tables (spread across multiple files) to a XML file that I could import directly into WordPress. I fixed up some small issues e.g. missing fields, and the content was complete.
On the new web site the Advanced Custom Fields plugin stores the organisation information in ‘post meta’ fields. Coding is required to display them, with the plugin providing an API to access the data. The information is displayed in 2 columns, with a map on the right side. The more ‘technical’ information is hidden in collapsible sections below the important information. The 16+ Task Force displayed the information in a format that was more useful to people working in other organisations rather than the users of their services. The new site presents the listings in a user focussed manner.
The listings can be searched. As the information is in ‘post meta’ the regular WordPress search feature does not work. I installed the powerful Relevanssi search plugin. It searches ‘post meta’ data. It creates an index to speed up searches.
Eleonora went through the listings and made some updates before making the site live. She emailed each organisation about the new site and provided them with login details. I wrote a web app to assist her – it generated the email text and she simply had to copy and paste them. This was requested over automating the task.
I wrote code to generate a daily email report listing the organisations modified the previous day. The email contains links to view and to edit the organisation details, to easily check the changes and fix any mistakes. Site administrators can view a page that lists the daily changes over the previous week.
As many of the maintainers of the organisation information are not very comfortable with computers, I made a screencast to demonstrate editing organisation details. Also, users are redirected to a help page on login. This page was created using the WP Help plugin. The help page can be expanded as necessary.
Now all 188 posts and pages have been indexed by Google.