Scheduling Appointments and Booking Reservations with a Plugin

Schedulicity and Bookfresh are enticing appointment management applications, but ongoing monthly fees are annoying and they can get expensive.

DesignWise Web design and marketing solutions

When a client asked me to research a way for her to schedule phone consultations online via her Website, I started looking at alternatives to subscribing month-to-month for an online appointment booking service. Being a WordPress advocate, I knew there must be a ton of plugins that would do the job for free or for a flat fee, one-time purchase.  DWBooster’s Appointment Booking Calendar merits my final stamp of approval as a great alternative, providing a free version and a Pro upgrade priced at $49.95.

Appointment Booking Calendar from DWBoosterAppointment Booking Calendar is a WordPress plugin that will permit you to accept payment and book online reservations for available time-slots in your appointment calendar. The booking form is easily linked to your PayPal payment account. You can use it to accept bookings for salons, phone consultations, classroom events, transportation or any other type of activity where a specific and limited time segment must be selected. It also allows you to define the maximum number of bookings that can be accepted for each time-slot. Click for a complete list of features and a comparison of the free vs the Pro versions.

If you are seeking to book daily reservations in a hospitality lodging environment, their Booking Calendar Contact Form plugin enables you to create a classic contact form or a booking form with a reservation calendar, optionally connected to a PayPal payment button. The reservation calendar lets the guest select their check-in and checkout dates.  There are two types of bookings available in the calendar configuration: full-day bookings or partial-day bookings. With full-day bookings the whole day is blocked as reserved, while in partial-day bookings, the start and end dates are partially blocked as needed for example in room or hotel bookings.

If you need help installing and configuring these plugins, we are just a phone call 920.256.9449 or an email away.

The Favicon Plugin: How, What and Why?

Wikipedia defines the favicon as:

/ˈfævɪkɒn/ (short for Favorite icon), also known as a shortcut iconWeb site iconURL icon, or bookmark icon, is a file containing one or more (animated gif) small, most commonly 16×16 pixels, associated with a particular Web site or Web page.

Various Web browsers provide different types of favicon support, but typically they display a page’s favicon in the browser’s address bar and next to the page’s name within the bookmarks. 

Browsers that support tabs, typically show a page’s favicon next to the page’s title on the tab, and site-specific browsers also use the favicon as a desktop icon.

If you are using WordPress CMS software, Arne Franken‘s version 4.0 of All In One Favicon plugin supports a wide range of favicon formats (including the PNG icon for Apple Touch) and provides for the selection of specific locations within the Website where different favicons may be displayed.

You can create static or animated favicons in several different formats to install into your Website or you can search and select from numerous online archives of free, shared favicons.  One of the best resources for both, is located at www.Favicon.cc.

Favicon generator
Favicon generator

Favicon.ico not a recognized format in Photoshop? Here’s a free plugin to fix that.

Feed Me! Why Really Simple Syndication (RSS) must be at the Core of any Current Website Design

“A feed is a function of special software that allows feedreaders to access a site, automatically looking for new content and then posting the information about new content and updates to another site.” – The WordPress Codex

“The Web has moved from viewing to doing.” – Google

The DesignWise marketing theory has been in synch with this observation for more than a few years. My own role has shifted from being a design “guru” to being a collaborative coach, seeking to empower and release the creativity at rest in each of my clients. Content is still king…  Websites gain tremendously from generating fresh content. But now, all of our latest designs are about delivering the tools that enable our clients to create their own content, building a broad social footprint.

“Smart” design is no longer about erecting information silos that people must come to visit. Now, it’s vital to get your content out over the wall so it can spread virally and be seen, “liked” and shared in other social places: ported over to your Facebook Business Page, sent to LinkedIn, fed to widgets, automatically pulled into other Web pages or embedded into an infinite number of personally customized newsreaders. But, none of this is possible without a content management system (CMS) that generates a Really Simple Syndication feed, aka RSS. If a Website fails to generate an RSS feed, it’s like a radio station without a broadcast antenna. You might as well be talking to the Great Wall… instead of tossing a note to someone on the other side.

In the early days of XML, you could manually generate and upload an RSS feed each time you updated a Website with new pages of content. It would take 10-15 minutes every time, but why spend that time when it can be done automatically by applying the right tools? WordPress, Joomla and other CMS tools update and broadcast their RSS feeds automatically. This is just one of the many reasons I have been using WordPress as a development platform, linking the RSS site feed to Facebook pages, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Here’s a comparison example of a site I originally built for Door County’s Parkside Inn using standard HTML and a bit of Flash animation. In 2011 we redesigned all of it creating a new 2.0 version of Parkside Inn built using WordPress software as the CMS.

Search engines respond better to the new tags, and story content and they now get “pinged” whenever there is new content. This is because the new version generates multiple RSS feeds. The feed is also connected to the Parkside Inn’s  Facebook Fan Page. The new site includes WordPress plugins for social sharing, spam filtering and another which automatically re-formats the entire Website in a mobile-friendly format when called up by any handheld device. The WordPress CMS also encourages site visitor engagement with built-in comment and response capability. And… the client can login anytime with a username and password to add and update the Website content at will.

Comparing Websites is a good way to learn about Website quality analysis – which is the final arbiter.”

‘Magic Members’ Plugin Turns WordPress into a Membership Site

If people are willing to pay for single articles, buy a recurring subscription or become a member with or without restricting access to your content, you need a little magic to manage payment and renewals.

Magic Members WordPress Membership Plugin With a WordPress CMS-driven Website it is only a matter of finding the right plugin – and there are a lot to choose from – to start up a paid content or membership site. I started searching and came across a great post by Kevin Eklund. He revues more than a dozen of the best premium or free WordPress membership plugins available and includes them in a sort-by-features table that makes it really easy to narrow down the field by selected criteria.

After a good deal of study and evaluation, I am now bench-testing what I feel to be the best one, Magic Members Plugin at a client site under development. The plugin developer’s Website has a great collection of instructional videos. The company also offers another plugin that will manage an affiliate sales campaign, one that provides a key missing-ingredient in the WP E-commerce Shopping cart.

I will continue to expand this post as I gain more hands-on experience, but I think this is a feature-rich application, backed by an impressive array of support resources.

Print Friendly & PDF Button, a WP Plugin and Browser Tool

Here’s a cool Print Friendly & PDF button that saves paper and ink when printing or creating a PDF.

It’s fast, easy, and looks great when printed. Add the button now – your users and the green Earth will benefit.

Click the button to automatically create printer friendly and PDF versions of your pages without the hassle of CSS or Print.CSS. No coding, hacking or programming required. Simply install the plugin, activate, and choose settings for full customization.

Cool Features Include:

  • Get a Printer Friendly and PDF button for your users.
  • Fully Customizable! Choose your favorite print and PDF button, use a text link, or use your own graphic.
  • Get precision placement with easy to change margins, alignment, and pages for your Print and PDF button.
  • On-Page-Lightbox. Have you noticed that most printer friendly buttons open new windows, or tabs? Not with Print Friendly & PDF button. It opens in a Lightbox so you your users stay on the page, and your wp website.
  • Professional looking print and PDF buttons and user experience.
  • More repeats and new users. Your brand/URL are printed on the page or saved in the PDF so users remember your site, or new users can find you.

Cool Print Features for Users:

  • Optimizes pages for printing and PDF so you save money and the environment.
  • You can Print or get a PDF
  • Edit the page before printing or getting a PDF

There is also a browser version… thanks to the folks at www.PrintFriendly.com for creating these green tech tool!

My other favorite (free) printing app is from GreenPrint World, a free version of GreenPrint software for home users. It incorporates an easy to use PDF writer that provides an alternative to printing. After you download and install the application it creates a new, green printer that you can select whenever you want to save a document as a pdf.