New website for Pittenweem Properties

Pittenweem Properties: self-catering in the East Neuk of Fife
Pittenweem Properties: self-catering in the East Neuk of Fife

Over the last few months in the evenings and at weekends, I’ve been working on redesigning the Pittenweem Properties website for friends here in Anstruther. The site launched a couple of weeks ago.

Pittenweem Properties offers high-quality self-catered holiday accommodation and property management services in and around Pittenweem. They currently manage properties in Carnbee just outside Anstruther and Pittenweem. But their portfolio is growing and for good reason — the properties they own and manage are to a very high standard and in a beautiful part of Scotland: the East Neuk of Fife.

WP Booking System

The site was quite fun to build.

We used Trello for communication and project planning, WordPress (of course!) as the content management system, and the Divi theme from Elegant Themes which allowed me to very quickly design and build the site. I also changed the built-in projects custom-post-type to properties using the method I blogged about in March: changing the Divi projects custom post type to anything you want.

For the booking calendar we turned to a premium theme: WP Booking System which we found intuitive and offered most of the features we needed:

  • Multiple booking calendars.
  • Submit booking requests via form.
  • Display anywhere (on page or within widgets) using a shortcode.
  • Customisable display features, including splitable legend for check-in and check-out).

If this plugin had also allowed online payments, say via PayPal, then it would have been absolutely perfect but as it is we’ve been really happy with the functionality and usability of this plugin.

There is a free version of the plugin, but it offers only one calendar and has customisation limitations. The premium version costs only US $34 (approx. GBP £21.50).

Next…

While the site is now live there are still a few bits and pieces to do, such as keep an eye on analytics data and try to improve search engine rankings.

Websites are never really finished, are they?

It was a fun project to work on. Time to focus on optimising family finances and admin, and cracking on with writing my book.

Review of Startup Framework for WordPress

Startup Framework

I first came across Startup Framework from Designmodo a few months ago and was immediately impressed.

Startup is a collection of responsive and customisable components that can be combined to meet most needs. In the full version there are around 100 components such as:

  • headers
  • footers
  • content blocks
  • contact forms
  • portfolio grids
  • maps
  • price tables
Startup Framework is a collection of customisable components
Startup Framework is a collection of customisable components

Both the design and code are clean and simple and the results look professional, without having to put in a great deal of effort. Startup has a similar concept to Blocks which is built on the Bootstrap CSS framework.

Startup Framework for WordPress

Last month I was invited to test drive Startup Framework for WordPress which combines the pre-designed components of Startup within a drag-and-drop interface within a WordPress theme.

I’ve only just managed to find the time to take it for a spin but what I’ve seen so far I’ve liked, even if the price seems a little steep: USD $149 per year for one website (inclusive of support and updates).

Theme

Startup Framework for WordPress installs as a theme. It seems to adds one new content type (SFW Pages) and the demo doesn’t give me access to the plugins so I can’t see whether the additional functionality is offered through plugins or built-into the theme itself.

What is added, however, is a new menu item: SFW Pages. This is where the majority of pages using this theme will be created. The default Pages option is still there but pages created using this appear to be simple and entirely centre-aligned, which seems odd.

A new menu item is added to the WordPress dashboard: SFW Pages.
A new menu item is added to the WordPress dashboard: SFW Pages.

Editing a page

When editing a SFW Page you see very little until you click the “Visual editor” button.

Unless you click the Visual editor button all you see is a button saying Visual editor
Unless you click the Visual editor button this is all you see.

That opens up a new drag-and-drop, WYSIWYG interface:

Welcome to the Startup Framework demo page
Welcome to the Startup Framework demo page

Along the top is a link back to the SFW Pages screen, the name of the current page, and three buttons on the right than enable you to reorder the blocks, preview the page or save the page.

On the left is a list of components (more about those in a moment).

But the most space is given to the content of your page. Here, almost everything is customisable. When you hover over a component block a settings cog appears at the top right giving you access to edit the HTML and CSS, reset the block to default settings, or delete the block completely.

Clicking on any text drops in a text-insertion point enabling you to edit the text. Double-clicking or highlighting text reveals a context menu offering three options: bold, italic or create a link.

It is all very intuitive so far.

Components

The bread and butter of this theme, however, is the collection of pre-designed components which is available at any time from a list on the left. (While you are editing existing components this shrinks to a ‘hamburger’ icon.)

On the demo that I’ve tried these components are collected into the following categories:

  • Headers
  • Contents
  • Price Tables
  • Projects
  • Contacts
  • Crew
  • Footers
  • My Blocks

Hovering over each category reveals a number of pre-designed options for that category, for example Headers:

Hovering over Headers reveals a number of pre-designed header options
Hovering over Headers reveals a number of pre-designed header options

These can then be dragged and dropped (or clicked) to be added to your page design, and  then edited as appropriate.

Some components are more editable than others, such as background images, image fading or colour tinting, social media buttons, etc.

Reordering the blocks is a simple case of clicking the “Reorder Blocks” button, then drag and drop in the new view:

Reorder Blocks shows a zoomed-out view of the whole page.
Reorder Blocks shows a zoomed-out view of the whole page.

Conclusion

I have only a couple of criticisms about

The first is that, personally, I would like to see a few more simple header components. For some pages, you don’t need a massive image or a lot of white space at the top. But I do recognise that this is a design decision.

My second, any main concern, however is the price. At USD $149 (approx GBP £93) per year for a single site that is more than twice what I currently pay for Divi.

That said, I do recognise that a lot of work has gone into this framework and theme, and that it’s aimed primarily at business rather than for personal blogs.

Overall, I’ve been really impressed with Startup Framework for WordPress. If you need to create a beautiful, modern-looking and responsive website very quickly then you would be hard pressed to find anything to get the job quite as quickly as Startup, even if you used Divi from Elegant Themes which is my current favourite.

The sunk cost fallacy in action

Man sitting on a pound sign submerged in water, surrounded by sharks.
Source: iStock

Earlier this year I started to plan a major redesign for my website garethjmsaunders.co.uk — most of it hasn’t had a redesign since about 2003; it’s still built around a table layout!

In the process of redesigning the site I learned a really important lesson that in the long run has saved me hours and hours of development. It’s to do with the sunk cost fallacy.

A bridge too far

I’ve completed plenty of site designs in both my personal and professional lives. This was going to be no different. I did some initial research, sketched out the layout and features that I’d like and then looked around for a suitable premium WordPress theme that I could use. I settled on Bridge by Qode, which cost me US $58 (approx. GBP £35).

Bridge seemed to offer the features and flexibility that I was looking for in a theme. But once I had downloaded and installed it on a test site on my local development server I discovered just how complex it was.

At the time it offered around 10 demonstration sites to help you get to grips with all the possible permutations. It now boasts 42 ready-to-use demos.

I spent a good two to three weeks just installing demo sites and trying to reconcile what I was learning hands-on with the documentation. And at the end of that period, to be honest, I really didn’t feel that I was anywhere closer to understanding how I might use the theme. Bridge is a hugely capable theme, however, it simply offered too much for my requirements.

But I felt that I had to persevere, I had spent both time and money on it, after all. Surely it had to get easier if I installed another demo site, and read the documentation just one more time, and… presumably spent another 2–3 weeks trying to understand the minutiae of this theme.

Sunk cost fallacy

It was at that point I realised that I was falling into the ‘sunk cost fallacy’.

In economics, a sunk cost is any cost that has already been paid and cannot now be recovered. So in this example, I had already bought the Bridge theme. I had spent £35 and wouldn’t be able to get a refund.

The fallacy that I was falling into was that I was making decisions about the future of my site based on past expenses. Or as You Are Not So Smart puts it

[y]our decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it.

I felt that because I had spent money on something, even though I was finding it too complex and not entirely suitable for the purpose I’d bought it — despite all that — I still felt that I ought to persevere and try to make it fit my needs.

What a divvy!

Divi

Freed by my decision to simply let go of using Bridge for this project, I went shopping again.

When I’d been looking around for themes to start with, I had narrowed it down to two: Bridge and Divi by Elegant Themes. So I bought Divi (USD $89 per year / approx. GBP £55).

In the long run that mistake has cost me money, but the time that it has saved me is immeasurable (or rather, I haven’t actually measured it).

The theme does exactly what I need and in a fraction of the time. I find the theme’s interface really intuitive, and the restrictions it puts on me (by not trying to do everything in every possible way) challenges me to be more creative with what I’ve got. Too much choice is a bad thing, remember.

Conclusion

The sunk cost paradox is certainly something to bear in mind the next time you need to make a decision: don’t necessary let past costs (time or money) influence your decisions about the future.

Lifehack has an interesting article about how the sunk cost fallacy makes you act stupid.

Minimal theme for Sublime Text

Minimal theme, compatible with both Sublime Text 2 and 3.
Minimal theme, compatible with both Sublime Text 2 and 3.

My favourite workspace theme for Sublime Text is currently Minimal Dark. With its dark sidebar I find it significantly less distracting than the default theme.

Here’s how to get it:

  1. Use via Package Control to install Theme – Minimal.
  2. Go to Preferences > Settings – User.
  3. Add the following line to your Preferences.sublime-settings file: “theme”: “Minimal Dark.sublime-theme”,

My current colour scheme is Tomorrow Night, which is also available via Package Control.

The downside of having children

mr_tumble

When you ask people what might be the downside of having children they might say sleep depravation or a diminished social life.

But it’s not! It’s waking up in the morning with children’s TV theme tunes going around your head.

I woke up this morning with the Something Special theme tune from CBeebies in my head. I stumbled, bleary-eyed to the bathroom at 05:30 while in my head I found myself cheerily singing “Hello, hello, how are you? Hello, hello, it’s good to see you you….” Arrrrggghhhh!

They don’t tell you about that in the books.