A members only office/team resource WordPress website Part 1

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I was thinking of an office resource area that people could go to find information. In a large office there would be an intranet setup that would control that process. I was thinking of something a little more Ad-hoc. A site to easily find information.

It might be a resource that you wanted to share with a different team, not necessarily in an office environment, rather peers that work on the same types of projects. For example, other freelancers that you share resources with.

Things like Office Health & Safety policies, any other office policies that need to be referenced.  New people to the office information and Training material for things like Cad , BIM etc.Also office templates for Word/Excel etc.

Its one of those things that takes a bit of thought to set up, but once done can be a really handy tool. A sort of a ” Handy place to look”. A web site of web-site links and links to files and folders.

WordPress is easy to setup and using pages with pull-down menu’s would be a handy way to go. I did a bit of a test on a couple of the examples below ( Building Code & Standards) and it was pretty easy to set up.

Then the issue came about site security. You actually do not want your site to be open to all, rather, you want only selected people to have access to the site. So each person has their own login. Within the site you can give them different roles with different levels of access, depending on their capacity to edit and manage alterations to the site.

The content of the site is important. It needs to be reasonably static. You do not want to spend a long time administering the site to keep it up to date, rather, once it is built you would only do weekly or monthly updates, depending on what you are using it for. It could have a few bells and whistles such as a Calendar of upcoming events that are relevant to the office, or notices. There are quite a few WordPress plugins for these types of things.

Process

1.Free Domain & mock Content

Setting up a pilot test site is not hard. I have had a couple of attempts over 2 days. One, setting up a WordPress site using a Freenom domain on my  Contabo server, and another on my AwardSpace with one for their free domains (eg http://abcdefg.dx.am). I have other posts that discuss the process:

How to Setup a Totally Free Self Hosted WordPress Web Site

How to WordPress Fundamentals for website

There’s a plug-in for that! Free plugins to enhance your WordPress websites

Browsable Revit Sheets on Web Page with PDF Sheet Downloads

2. Security

NOTE: I do not see this as a highly secure site, rather, a reference place for information. So possibly Project data should not be linked to the site.

With the above proviso , you need to ask what the implications are if some external person got access to the site.

I had tried, on other websites, using wordPress plug-ins to do this exercise. I used the Ultimate Member – User Profile & Membership Plugin  and found it created a lot of extra pages for all sorts of things, without explaining what it was doing, and I did not find it easy to use. Cleaning it out of the site was a pain too.

A lot of the plug-ins have notions of giving access to some areas of the site, but not other areas. I really just envisaged a login page for everyone. You then create logins for all the people who will be using the site. You would not be getting people to register, you’d just get them to email the administrator requesting access. If it was appropriate then the manager could create a user login for that person.

So I looked at an alternative and came across this post Require Login for WordPress Pages which seemed to meet my need. I added the code as it suggests in the article  and then fired up the site:

This is on my AwardSpace Web Host (where you can get free website & domain), and initially I had it running.

The initial WordPress site has a number of default widgets on the sidebar & the default for the page body is that it displays the latest posts.

When you typed in the URL it took you to the Home page ( mainly blank at this point) but as soon as you clicked on the menu to go to another page it requested that you log-in to the site. That was exactly what I wanted.

When you clicked on Login in the pop-up box this took you to the standard WordPress login. I made a couple of other users so that I could test logging in and out, the other users had different roles, I made them editors (not administrators).

One issue I had was when I logged in under one of these users I was taken to the dashboard, not the Home page. This is not where I want people to go, so I found this plug-in on the web:

peters-login-redirect plug-in

Peter’s Login Redirect

This plugin redirects you to a defined URL for different users on login.

A couple of notes with this plug-in. 1/ You have to unzip it to your plug-in directory:

wp-content/plugins/peters-login-redirect

So you have to create the directory : /peters-login-redirect   and then put all the unzipped files within it.

Then when you go to your site’s Dashboard you need to go to the plug-in page and activate the plugin. After that it works great. You can re-direct users to the home page on login.

Access issues to the site

When I looked around the main page I saw that you could access other parts of the site with the widgets so I removed all of these.

I then converted the home page to be a static page and this suddenly locked me out. I could not even reach the first page. This was because I set the PAGE TEMPLATE to require a login.

I found this post A Detailed Guide To A Custom WordPress Page Templates and created a new page-6.php without the Require login extra info I put in the page.php. Because of the hierarchy of how the templates are found, if the page has a number we can use that. I did not want to use the page name /title just in case I changed that later, so the Page number can be found if you go to where all the pages are displayed in rows and hover over the title, in the bottom right of the screen it shows you the page number.

Accessing the site for editing issues on the AwardSpace site & text editing issues

I had a few issues. I couldn’t log into any of my WordPress sites on my AwardSpace Hosting site via the normal process from my web browser (even after clearing Cookies & Cache from my Firefox browser). I also cannot access them from Chrome or Edge browsers  either. I also cannot access the login from my phone. I could access it from a Web Proxy within my browser!!

My contabo sites work, so it is not a cookie/cache issue on my browser.

“We suspect that a server on your ISP’s infrastructure had outdated cache and that was causing the issue”.This was the suggestion from the AwardSpace Support team, although I had access to my Contabo VPS WordPress sites. That’s a new one for me. I could get through via other IP addresses but not my home internet. Another complication to be aware of.

Another challenge I faced was testing “Gutenburg” out on a couple of the sites earlier in the day. I am used to the Classic WordPress editing programme and the new “Gutenburg” editing tool (that will come out with WordPress 5 which is to appear shortly) is around blocks, so each paragraph can be a different block, titles- different blocks, images -different blocks. This is a way of having more control over your web page format but its not conducive to just writing and then editing later. I will need to get my head around it at some point but for now I’ll stick with the Classic editor.

End Comments

I did not achieve as much as I wanted to, so I will do another post as I try and look at other issues like content and how to manage posts on the site.

I knew I was going to have issues with the logging in process so I had raw sites to play with. So that if I broke them I could just re-install WordPress (which I did about 3 times, deleting the files and the Databases).

I am happy withe the direction I have taken on securing the site. I prefer this method to the plug-in approach I’d taken before.

The peters-login-redirect plug-in is really good. In fact I’m thinking of re-directing people to a different start page. For 2 reasons. The public front page could just give some general text about the site for public information , but when you get redirected to another page 1/ You can be more specific about relevant information for the team that can access the site, and 2/ When you log-in and get taken to the same page where you had no access initially you may assume that nothing has happened and you arn’t logged in at all, so going to another page indicates that the log-in has worked.

I quite like how this is site is shaping up. I can see how I can develop it to being a good resource.

The other use for something like this is for a lot of tutorials and resources that you want to share, but in a controlled manner.

Another thought is to have a site for a project team, so that information can be shared. A dumbed down version of Aconex or a Trello type tool.

In the AwardSpace hosting ($1.99 US for a year for 5 sites) you get  unlimited emails ( I have one set up as max@ekar.dx.am- not pretty but it works (also great for sites that want business emails and wont accept hotmail or gmail addresses (eg IBM watson and other such sites)), so can have a specific team email related to the project.

So for projects that finish in less than a year this is an ideal tool. You just need to get the team up and running with basic website management. Not that hard as even I can do it and there are a lot of training videos out there.

Appendix-Thoughts on uses for an architectural team

I am forever going back and checking parts of Building Code (this is in NZ). It has lots of areas, and depending on where you are in your project, you need to reference a particular section of it. They also update them over time, so its handy to have a URL link to the latest version of the Building Code. They are accessible for free, so downloading the latest and keeping it handy is not an issue.

There are also other external documents Like BRANZ information posts and BIM handbook. Having handy links to those is useful. You dont end up doing lots of searches to drill down, you just go to a link and start from there, this can speed up your search.

Another area for reference is Building Details. There are office details, such as the BRANZ weather-tight CAD details. Having a handy link to those is useful. Also things like the Specification Template, different conditions of contract, NZIA conditions of service and Standards that the office has purchased and that need to be in a convenient place for access.

A lot of offices have a file structure that has separate folders for all of these items and they are easy to find, some people have items in obscure folders that they use frequently and spend time hunting to find them.

Also a project directory where you can quickly find links to specific aspects of the project. I know one company I worked for had obscure coding for projects and you were forever looking for the Folder with the data in, as it wasn’t named you had to put a link to the directories you were using in your Explorer quick access side bar. Fine on your computer but if you went to someone else in the office and asked them to find the directory it would take some time.

 

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