Category Archives: Projects

Hello WordCamp Orange County 2015!!

I’m so excited to be here with you all today to talk about Automated Testing 101. This presentation is, despite the 101 title, geared towards people who are slightly more than beginner, up to intermediate developers and testers for WordPress, and also for the client/stakeholder/business owner who is in charge of seeing your website to fruition.

For ease, my slides are below or you can download here:

Feel free to post a comment here if you have questions and we can start a dialogue and work on your questions together.

See you soon!

Tabby

Integrating Your API with My WordPress: Tools & Words of Wisdom

API’s are cool. They allow you to interface with other people’s data and use it with your own site. This enables you to provide a much deeper/richer experience for your customer base than if your site content was solely reliant upon your manual input of all content.

Some examples of APIs that are regularly used in the WordPress industry are payment gateways such as PayPal and Stripe and article feeds such as Reuters. The primary gist of these types of services are that you provide the service with some parameters and it returns a set of data in a pre-defined format. You then read in the format and parse the data to be used in your own way.

Each service offered by various companies will have their own way of defining the data and their own way of delivering the data and it will be up to you, as a developer, to be able to read in that information returned and make sense of it in a useable format. Some various types of ways to receive data from an API is usually RESTful or SOAP based services. RESTful services include XML and JSON and have no set standards. A SOAP based service is a protocol with standards using XML for communication over HTTP. These are subtle and important differences when integrating an API into your WordPress site.

According to Google Trends information, Soap is on a steady decline or even leveled off very low in terms of usages, while REST has increased exponentially.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 5.31.41 PM

 

The reason I bring this up is because sometimes you don’t always have to invent the wheel when it comes to importing content from an API, especially if it is a RESTful XML file that can take a URL to return information. WordPress developers have worked hard to create a series of tools that will enable you to make magic on your website, even as a developer.

Here are a list of tools that would get basic APIs up and running on your site with a little careful planning and a few clicks and keyboard strokes.

  • WPAllImport
    This tool imports any XML or CSV file into your WordPress site. It is a premium plugin with an annual fee, but if your site depends heavily on external data being imported into it, the fee should be worth it.
  • Custom Post Type UI
    CPT UI allows you to create an unlimited amount of custom post types and custom taxonomies. This is especially useful if you are not doing ‘post’ or ‘page’ based work and need much fine control over the type of content that you are entering. For instance, if your website is a catalog of cars built in the 1900’s, you might want to import the data as ‘autos’ instead of ‘posts’ or ‘pages’. This gives you that granular access to be able to fully define your content pieces. This plugin is completely free and also completely worth it.
  • Advanced Custom Fields
    ACF is another premium plugin that is completely worth the price tag. This allows you to have even more granular control over the admin interface and ‘post meta’ of your site for each post. There are even add-ons that you can purchase that will give you special access to the WP Options table via the WP Admin. It has personally saved me hours and hours of coding up meta boxes.

With these three tools, you should be equipped to import and control the most basic API in XML format out there. Of course, if the APIs are more than a simple XML call, you will probably not be able to use WPAllImport and will need to develop a custom solution. An example of a series of more complex APIs are those that require you to call a list of ALL of one type of thing and, based on the specific ID of one of the items in that list, make a second call to retrieve the API for the specific data in that list. An example of this would be getting all automobile makers in one call-back and having to send a second request to get all autos of a specific maker with a specific ID. Those can be a sinking rabbit hole and unless your name is Alice, I don’t recommend you follow.

And of course if you need help with that custom solution, send an email, I’ll be happy to see if I can recommend a solution for the API you want to integrate.

So to sum it all up: integrating a third-party API can be very easy to do if the API is in XML and is a simple URL call. It can get a little more crazy if there are multiple calls to multiple parts of an API that is XML based.

Of course there is a third type of API more like the Facebook API which requires the installation of libraries. That’s a different topic for a more advanced entry.

What are some of the tools you use to import information from APIs into your website? What do you think of the tools listed above? Do you have a strong preference for a different tool that accomplishes the same things? I want to hear!

several computers on a desk

So, you wanna start a website?

several computers on a deskAlright, so you’ve been hearing about this thing called the “Internet” now for like, 10 years and you’ve even ventured onto Facebook, and although you still don’t quite get it, you have finally come to terms with the fact that… YOU NEED A WEBSITE. Now the question is, “What the heck? How do I do this?”

Perhaps you invest in a mac because you’re told you can do it yourself with their tool called iWeb. Or you’ve gone out and purchased Dreamweaver, because someone said that’s what you use. Okay, now what? You could sludge through tons and tons of online tutorials on how to use these tools, but most people who do eventually come to terms with the fact that… they need help.

So, where do you start?

Well, first of all, you probably know someone or know someone who knows someone who can do a website for a reasonable price. So, start trying to get into contact with whoever that person is. But when you finally DO have your meeting with that person, come prepared!

This post will give you a few questions and info to gather for your new website venture and your first meeting with your web person. I’ll be posting a series of blogs that will help you with the entire process over the next few weeks but for today we’ll just deal with the first meeting.

  1. What kind of business do you have? This is important because there are a set of specific pages that most web designers know should exist depending on what your website is trying to sell. For instance, if your business is a storefront where you sell designer boots, then your designer will need to know that you’ll need a shopping cart and all of the bells and whistles that go with this. If your business is selling your voice-over skills to the local studios, your designer will need to ensure that you have a voice-over portfolio page and possibly some special access to possible recruiters or employers. If you’re a novelist, there will need to be pages about your works and publications. I think you get the drift.
  2. Given no budget, what would you want your website to do in 10 years? No, I know that there probably IS a budget, but giving your web designer an overall perspective on what you’re eventually going to do with the website is helpful in planning. Now, you may not know and that’s okay. But do try to take at least 10 minutes to sit down and jot some ideas on what it COULD do. 🙂 Trust me, you’ll really probably like the process.
  3. What do you expect this website to do for you? Make sure your developer/designer knows what you are expecting from the website. “I want 100,00 hits in two months” is an example of that. This helps the designer/developer know what they can provide for you on a more reality-based set of circumstances. For instance, if you are Julia Roberts, that may work. But if you are not someone of great fame already, the designer/developer can help you redirect goals to a more reasonable level and give you a good process in order to eventually get to that final goal.
  4. Why should anyone care? And of course, I mean this in the nicest way possible. Really, why are you unique. Why should anyone give a damn about your website? If you want to create just some store out on the internet, fine… a designer/developer would probably gladly except your money in exchange for another store out there. But its ALWAYS good to be UNIQUE in what you are bringing and to be clear about that uniqueness.
  5. What is your budget? Come on, now, this is a serious question. I’ve experienced a lot of people who like to keep that question vague to see what they can get out of me and its just a bit annoying. 🙂 State the budget. Trust me, your developer can give you an accurate quote based on that. If you asked for a 10 page site and then you say your budget is 300.00, then your designer/developer can at least adjust and give you one kick-ass home page.
  6. When do you want this completed? DON’T leave this open-ended. Give a deadline. Give a deadline for the proposal and don’t be afraid to set reasonable consequences.
  7. What do you like on other websites and what do you hate? Give examples. VERY HELPFUL!
  8. How much time and resources will you want to commit to this new venture after its done? Your team will want to know this in order to quote out the possibility of an admin-able website to enable you to change your own content, or they may not if you don’t intend on spending your time doing this. In my experience, paying more money upfront to get the admin-able stuff is always the best bet because otherwise you’ll be paying here and there for things that eventually add up.
  9. Who is your target market? Type (Businesses or consumers?), ages, gender, etc. If you’re a website for elderly people, for instance, you will want to make sure your site accomodates larger texts. If you’re a website for teen girls, you’ll probably be looking for a more vibrant and hip look and feel to it.

This just about covers the info you should bring on your first meeting. Next, we’ll go over more specifics about budgeting and maintenance.

Magento Geek Post!

So, I am a sucker for Magento Commerce software. In the past it has been a real bitch to install though, and has eaten up plenty of my time. I’m also one of the dorks who get yelled at a lot because…. wellllll… I LIKE dreamhost! I think, so far, it has worked well with my needs. I’ve been a customer with them for several years, and have no complaints yet really.

Anyway, In the past, it’s been hour after hour of trying to get Magento to install on dreamhost for my own nefarious reasons. There was tears, there were swear words, there were furious posts on magento message boards and pleas to Dreamhost support. There was always success in the end, but at my expense… let me tell you!

Well! Cry no longer, my friends! I read the coolest tutorial and used the coolest instructions and was able to get my mom’s new online store to install within MINUTES. That’s ALMOST as fast as it takes to install wordpress.

Impressed!

Here’s the toot:
http://www.gimmesoda.com/installing-magento-commerce-on-dreamhost/

Learning ASP

I’ve been quiet for the last few weeks, haven’t I? I mean, I know I don’t post here very often, but I’ve been exceptionally quiet… even my twitter isn’t a-twittering

It’s because I’ve joined the work-force. Yes, indeed. It’s a tough world out there!  We do what we need to do to survive. You know, I recently watched the movie, “Book of Eli,” and decided that I did NOT want to have to resort to eating… well… not chicken… in order to live. So, I went forth and begged… and found a job.

It wasn’t that hard, actually. I knew someone who knew someone… went and asked if they were looking to hire, and indeed they were. So I found myself suddenly in the midst of *achoo* a Windows developing environment, learning ASP and VB. It’s pretty dang cool. The most challenging aspect of it isn’t learning the new language… it’s re-learning windows. I have been a mac-user for so long now that even the silliest things in windows I’ve completely forgotten. So I feel like a bit of an idiot when it comes to IIS and registering DLLs and components and regedit… etc. But hey, it’s fun! And challenging! And Challenging is something I have been looking for!

What does this mean about Essence Interactive? Not much. See, if you haven’t noticed, I like to think that I can do it all. And usually I can! The most I can say is that there is now a queue of clients. If you want your site done by Essence Interactive, Inc, you will have to wait up to two weeks before it can begin, so please plan accordingly.

Essence interactive, Inc’s website is still in design phase. We’re trying to find that perfect “in yo’ face!” image that isn’t so much in yo’ face but is “AHA THIS IS THE BEST COMPANY FOR ME.”

I mean really, I’m only taking the full time job to support my habits over at essenceexpressions.com and comingoutsupport.com and also be able to continue servicing my lovely lovely clients the lovely lovely way I have been.

Two sites will get done by next weekend or else I will leave the industry forever… dorisegan.com and thefeijoosisters.com. These two had to take a pause in rendering due to my fulltime job schedule but i think I’ve got things to a regular schedule and will get them done this weekend! For Feijoosisters it’s almost all content that I’m waiting to do… so its just waiting on the data and it can be released. It’ll be the most beautiful dancer’s site ever! Doris Egan’s site is more tiny tweaks she wants and I shall give her!

Also in the queue is more work on issimo-usa.com, revolution mobility, kristin kreuk’s site will be getting an improvement, allison mack’s site will be pulling the wardrobe change trick as well. On top of that we’re doing some awesome additions to distinctivefabric.com making it easier for the clients to save their data and improving some functionality to the checkout procedures.

So, not much going on… just that. 😉 Oh and also, personally my partner and I are moving to Albany (from Clifton Park) to be closer to the new job. Plus, we’re going to be working on a family soon and we’re gonna need more space! Helena and I decided to blog our adventures regarding the family, because there’s oh-so-much to share!

A’ight. My schedule for the new job is 7:00am to 3:30pm soooooo it’s about bedtime folks. Enjoy your week and I’ll check in with you all next week with the fresh launch of two sites!

PS It’s possible I’m singing on Valentines Day… not sure yet….

Next on the chopping block…

I have to sites coming up on the chopping block very soon and I’m really excited about them! My team is working diligently to bring us the fifth revision of AllisonMack.com with cool new features AND the FIRST OFFICIAL website for the lovely Kristin Kreuk! Kristin’s site should be out first and then we’ll release Allison’s new version in the next month or so (her site’s so big we gotta make sure that its all converted!)

Anyway, just thought I’d drop a teaser!

Cory is designing Kristin’s site and Chad will be programming it while I designed v5 of Allison’s site (and yup, Chad is coding it).

Can’t wait to show you all!

Great Graphic Design Search Begins

Graphic Web Designer QuestionsOne of my least favorite parts, so far, about running my own company is the part where I look to hire new people. Posting on craigslist is the best way to go, in my opinion. In fact, that’s how I found all of the jobs that I’ve ever worked for, so I swear by it.

Posting on craigslist, however, has its ups and downs. Firstly, it’s where the serious programmers/designers go to look for work. We tend to want to stay underground and organic; Craigslist provides both of these luxuries. However, craigslist has become a breeding ground for the outsourcing companies in India or the Phillipines as well and you get a lot of generic copy/paste submissions any time you post an ad.

So, I’ve discovered a way to combat that that seems to work for the most part. I ask the applicant to answer unique questions. Most of the time the questions server two purposes, aside from being able to tell if the applicant is a outsourcing company or a legitimate local applicant. The first purpose is usually to draw the “personality” out in the person and help them feel less unsure of themselves as they submit the application. This is projective, I know, but any time I have ever submitted an application there was always that seed of doubt. So its to get them thinking about fun things. The second nature of the questions is to gain a bit of insight towards the general attitude about the person. Those questions are usually when I ask questions about other people. “Who is your hero and why,” is always a great question for that purpose because of the power of projection. The answer to that question always tells me what the person’s values are to them and what they would uphold no matter what.

Not only has this questioning process helped me narrow down my applicants to look at (which is a great thing), it has also helped for me to look forward to reading each person’s submission as well. It sets me up to look at their portfolios in a more humanitarian based way, and thus, more objectively. I think about the person themselves as I look at their samples.

If anyone else wants to give it a shot to post questions, please do post here and let me know what your experience of doing it was and how it effected you and the way you read the cover letter, portfolio submissions, etc.

For the mobile-equipment friendly folks…

Mobisist -Home - Home Page (20090813)One of my oldest post-graduation friends contacted me a few months ago asking how much flattering it would take for me to do a website for the new company she was working for as the PR person (I know, I don’t use them there fancy terms). The company? Major’s Mobisist. This project was interesting because it is one of the rare projects that I split the responsibility up on rather than being the machomama and coding it myself. I had the designer do the design and give me html/images already cut up. Ideally, this is supposed to cut down the programmer time. I’ve still got a long way to go in terms of managing that properly but the end result is not too bad.

Our next round of v2 changes will promise a much better and precise code-set and I’m looking forward to working with the person I’ve brought on board of my team to ensure the absolute best quality job to Mobisist’s finetastic PR gal. *hats off to Angela.*

Working at Bitscribe

Bitscribe (20090226)http---bitscribe.net-To this day I still consider working at Bitscribe to be the greatest honor. I interviewed with them and then got an email stating that I was under experienced. Several months later, I got an email asking for me to come back in for a second interview and I ended up getting the job. It was the most amazing experience as the people who worked there were very serious about creating a perfect teaching environment for the talented yet green employees. AKA.. me!

The most amazing experience I had there was the process of measuring my work and always knowing where I stand in the company in terms of performance. They had built an amazing measurement tool that I am inspired by on a regular basis.

Orion, Adam, and James were so devoted to their craft that they seemed joyful to be able to work with others. A truly beautiful example of humanity!

While I was working for Bitscribe, I worked with a number of different sites ranging from refactoring the  backend of a major window manufacturer to OOPhp5 to a fabric company using procedural php4 to a publishing company using Ruby on Rails. The majority of my work there was utilizing PHP5 but we were just moving towards RoR when I got the laid off notice. Tough times happens when a company looses a client I suppose.

Adam, James, and Orion are busy on many other projects now including herokugarden.com, an amazing RoR online interface/server/everything!

Clearview Windows and Doors (20090226)http---www.clearview.biz- DistinctiveFabric.com - Distinctive Fabric Superstore | Internet Fabric Store Offers Free Fabric Samples, Fabric by the Yard, Fabric by the Bolt, Unique Fabrics, Wholesale Fabric Discounts, Fast Shipping & More (20090226)http---distinctivefabric.com- quetico 2 (20090226)http---www.queticollc.com-