Cyprus Site Overhaul

Cyprus Site Overhaul

Spent part of the weekend transferring someone’s web sites from a ‘wizard’ created PHP page, that dynamically pulled the content for different pages from the backend, to a WordPress installation with functionality to support the site purpose – publicising the availability of a holiday apartment.

I find it hard to explain to people sometimes that something that sounds relatively simples just isn’t. Yes, I estimated this at 5 – 6 hours work – but, surely WordPress has a wizard as well, so you can have it up and running in minutes and then copy/paste the content to have the whole thing sorted within an hour or less.

That would be fine if you didn’t really mind what the site looked like at the end of the process. If generic works for you, go for it. Also, you can freely carry on hot linking other people’s images until they realise you’re stealing their bandwidth. When they cotton on, you can perhaps look forward to having a site that suddenly has the same pictures adorned with abusive watermarks citing your activity as a bandwidth thief.

So… first thing I did was ‘suck’ a version of the original web site off the web with a piece of software. A quick Google search will find you stuff that works on both Windows and Mac, and I didn’t need a lot of bells n’ whistles, just something that could deliver a relatively intact copy for me to refer back to. Having done that, I then when through the copy of the site and found the addresses of all the hot linked images, then saved local copies. In this instance I could get away with using these because they belonged to the site developer – who will benefit from having people renting out the apartments. If the hotlinked images had been intellectual content without obvious right or benefit in sharing, I’d have gone off to find some comparable images without any copyright implications.

I then spent a while finding a theme to use for the site, scouring the WordPress site and the web for something with the ideal format. In the perfect world, I’d build my own theme – but, when you quote 5 – 6 hours work, you don’t really have the time for too much blank slate creativity. Better to take something ready made and customise to your requirements.

I set up all the basic settings at this point, working through each option under Settings until I’d completed everything that could be completed. I find if you get too far ahead of yourself the fun stuff, you come back later to find you missed something ultra-obvious, like sticking in the right email address or deactivating comments (a must in my case, as I didn’t actually want visitors to be adding their own thoughts – or spam – to my site pages).

With theme in hand and settings sorted, I took the plunge and created the site with the WordPress wizard, then installed the selected theme. I rapidly followed the installation of the theme with plugins – Bad Behavior (to combat spambots), Clean-Contact (for a basic contact form), Google XML Sitemaps (for search engine visibility), Keyword Statistics (to enhance SEO), tags4page (to allow tags on pages, funniy enough, because I intended to create static Pages instead of a blog format), Lightbox (to handle image presentation from the on page thumbnails), WordPress Database Backup (for automated backup) and Booking Calendar (to provide a simple way for people to request time in the apartment).

I activated the plugins one at a time, to make sure nothing crashed and burned, and once complete I tried using some of the basic functionality – especially the booking form. I found when you completed a booking request, a message appeared – and then faded away – to thank you. However, the message – situated in the sidebar – was simply too wide and had a green border that didn’t suit the theme. I ended up trawling through the code of the plugin and the three stylesheets in the plugin folder looking for the offending box. In the end, using a colour sampler to get a hex for the green of the box speeded up a Find operation, but only slightly, as the fade functionality of the box meant I never got the actual colour sampled exactly. I found it eventually and made the change, narrowing the box, increasing it’s height, makign the font smaller and changing the colour of the border to blue.

Most of the functionality intact, I then set about doing a copy/paste from the version of the site I sucked off the web and pasted into the Visual WYSIWYG Editor. After creating the basic version of the page this way, I then tweaked the CSS and code to create a common look n’ feel. Text in place, I used the Media Gallery to upload images and then insert them as thumbnails – a time consuming task as the site included a Gallery with twenty images. Mid-way through the process of updating the content, the client contacted me to ask what was going on – and how could he make changes to the site? I intend, in future, to make ‘downtime’ a part of the process and documentation an immediate priority – so that the client know what’s going on, that they may not have access for a few hours, that visitors will find a half-complete site, and that the way to do stuff will change, but written explanations will follow.

In the end, I think the whole process took a little longer than I expected, but not by much. Downloading and uploading images for thumbnail slowed things down, as did the hunt for that bothersome message box. When the client contacted me he also asked for a weather widget, and that too took additional time to track down the ideal one – to fit the available space and fit the general theme of the site.

The final result – at cyprus-fivestarspa.com – doesn’t look too shabby in my opinion and possesses all the features the client requested – basically booking calendar, improved theme and a weather widget. I intend to enhance the search engine optimization of the site, but given I’ve worked the hours quoted I’ll likely do this as an aside while creating the help documents. On a page to take a Grab, tweak it while I’m there. I found the experience quite engaging and like the principle of concentrating solely on a one-shot site creation – one day, one site, done and dusted.

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