WFS StoreFinder Plugin

WFS StoreFinder Plugin
WFS StoreFinder Plugin

You may not realise it, but Winking Frog Studios do more than just web design and development for businesses throughout Moray. In fact following my (later than most) acceptance of WordPress as a workable product a couple of years ago there has been a greater focus on development for this massively popular web publishing platform. With the development of a brand new Premium WordPress Theme & Plugin marketplace already well underway, I still find time and enjoyment in building some of my own products that will one day appear inside it. WFS StoreFinder is one such plugin, although it will likely be released well before UUP Market goes live!

WFS WordPress Plugins

Over the last couple of years I have worked on a number of WordPress Plugins, most of which have been specifically for use within our client’s web design projects. I have also started work on a number of plugins that have either been put on the shelf for a while, or that I have decided to submit to the Official WordPress Plugin Repo. WFS Let It Snow is one such plugin, recently updated for the 2015 festive season, I’m pleased to say that it has (at the time of writing this post) over 8100 downloads to date and is actively installed on 1000+ websites! While one of the best things about plugins in the repo is that they are totally free, I find it valuable and really important to continue to develop and support our plugins in to the future. The time and resources that this task requires means that I can only distribute the less complex ones in the repo. In my mind that’s where premium plugins come in, for the more complex plugins that will require an increased level of ongoing support and further development.

Introducing WFS StoreFinder

Following work on a recent client’s website who have a large number of meeting locations spread across a number of countries, more than 70 inside the UK alone, we agreed that some kind of store finder functionality would be a great way to assist people in finding their closest location. The concept of this kind of finder functionality is far from new, and there are a selection of plugins (both free and premium) already out there. This means it should have been a straight forward addition to their WordPress website, but as with most things in Web Design this turned out to be a little untrue.

Not believing in re-inventing the wheel unless it is totally necessary, or possible to make a better wheel that other people would like to make use of, I set about finding and purchasing what I saw as the best fit for mine and my clients needs. Having made my selection and having purchased a licence for my choice I started integrating it into the site, finding out very quickly that it wasn’t going to sit well and that the styling was very restrictive as far as blending it in to the design of the client’s website was concerned. So off I popped back to my favourite plugin marketplace and identified a alternative plugin that looked like it would offer more of what I needed. Bingo, it was easier to fit in to the site – great! Unfortunately it’s use of the Google Maps API was very basic and it ended up not providing as accurate results as my client and I desired, with little to no options to limit or control the regionalisation.

I fought with this second plugin for far more hours than I should have. I ended up breaking all the rules by making changes to the plugin files directly as it was the only way to try and rectify things for the site I was working on, but with the end result that all future updates to the plugin are more than painful!

And so the development of one of the shiny new wheels I mentioned above began!

Having sat down and worked through the features that I (and no doubt many other Web Designers!) would find useful in such a plugin, I decided that it would be best to create a new product from scratch rather than extending an existing one. I spent hours going through the Google Maps JavaScript API documentation, discovering a huge number of features along the way that could be put to great use, yet weren’t all present in any one single plugin that I could find. The next step was to brush up on my JavaScript development skills, which was not only great fun but will no doubt come in extremely useful given the direction WordPress itself is heading in, and finally WFS StoreFinder officially entered the development process.

What to expect from WFS StoreFinder

Development of the plugin is not that far off complete, at least for it’s initial release anyway. There are also a number additional features that I have planned for later versions or possibly as add-ons to the plugin itself. I thought it would be helpful to share with you my expectations for the initial release features, and just as importantly field you for anything that you yourself would look for in a Store Finder plugin.

WFS StoreFinder does not use any custom database tables or anything out of the ordinary in order to store it’s information – no pun intended! I have built the whole thing on Custom Post Types so that it easily sits inside any WordPress website. Not only has every effort been made to ensure the plugin been coded with WordPress standards in mind, but I have also created an admin interface that doesn’t rely on anything other than standard layouts and styles. I think it is important that the admin remains consistant throughout without different post types having different styling from the rest of the interface.

WFS StoreFinder Admin Interface

The store admin screens have been kept straight forward and simple.

Let’s breakdown the basics for the launch version split into WordPress/Plugin features, and Google Maps API feature usage.

WordPress/Plugin Features

  • Easy to install and use
  • Built on Custom Post Types, no additional database bloat!
    (Allowing for custom taxonomies in this or possibly the next version)
  • Unlimited number of stores
  • Simple, easy to understand settings page
  • Drag-and-drop marker placement on the store admin pages
  • Only loads the Google Maps API where it is needed – not on all the admin pages! (this was super important to me!)
  • Store title, desciption, address, map and external link as a minimum will be included for launch
  • Minimal styling option, giving web designers more control
  • Responsive Archive and Single templates included
  • Extensive selection of Shortcodes and Widgets included as standard
  • Various options for display, including All Stores, Location Specific (radius) and visitor Geolocation

Google Maps API v3 Usage

  • Google Maps API Key support
  • Regionlisation options, to help provide more specific, accurate results
  • Easy selection of map types and controls
  • Full screen Street View option
  • Geolocation for nearest store identification
  • Full support for custom markers
  • Autocomplete for Addresses and Search
  • Get directions to your selected store

And this is just where we are at just now!

So when is it going to be available?

I am still working on a number of the shortcodes, and finalising which ones will definatley be available in the first release version. Once this has been tied down and the more testing has been carried out at my end we will be in a position to look at launching it. Given that this is going to be a Premium WordPress plugin it has also yet to be decided as to the best way to distribute it. Ultimately it will most likely appear on for sale as a product on UUP Market when the service launches later this year, however until then we will either develop a mini-site to sell and support it, or submit it for sale on CodeCanyon. Look out for updates here in the blog, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

You can help!

There are three things you can do to help me make WFS StoreFinder a useful and friendly plugin!

First, I will be looking for a small number of beta testers prior to launch. Ideally these will be web designers or developers that are experienced in integrating plugins into their client’s WordPress websites. This will likely yeald us the most useful feedback as we aim for a stable public launch. If you would be interested in taking part in the beta process then get in touch.

Second, make some suggestions! Maybe you have been in a similar position to me in the past, where all the plugins that you find have at least one thing missing. Whilst I am more than aware that you can never keep all of the people happy all of the time, I am always open to suggestions of features or functionality that would make WFS Store Finder your ‘go to’ plugin when looking for a Store Finder. Use the comments below or drop me an email with your ideas and suggestions.

Lastly, help me spread the word. This will be the first Premium Plugin from Winking Frog Studios to be officially released, and I have had a lot of fun and a good few challeneges along the way. In addition to getting UUP Market launched this year I also plan to work on a few more plugins that I hope to get out in the wild, so the more people that know about them the better! Give us a follow on Twitter, or like our Facebook page, and if your feeling a little more generous boost us with a share or a mention!

Look out for an official launch announcement in the near future!

Until then, happy WordPressing 🙂

Gordon Naldrett
Gordon is a web developer based in Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland. The frontman of Winking Frog Studios he has been working with all things web design since the mid 1990's so has followed the internet's development from it's very early days. Experienced with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP and multiple publishing platforms he now works almost exclusively with WordPress.
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