Preview before the next release

Hello

It’s been a month since I last posted an update. Unfortunately, I wasn’t baking on the beach as I had ton of stuff to manage at work… and some stuff to take care of in the real life 🙂

Anyway, I wanted to share with you a live demo of how the plugin behaves now. It’s not ready for an official release but it should come in the near future. No I won’t / can’t commit on a date.

[booking_pluginbox id=”309″]

 

While it works, some of the code isn’t as good as it should be and I really want to clear that out before the next release.

In parallel, I’m also adding:

  1. a bug fix for older versions of PHP preventing some “fatal exception”
  2. a user-level security, so only site admins can play along with the settings. (not this time)

That’s about it for now, not much more to add compared to the last post, except this time you can play with the output.

Let me know what you think
Greg

Feature for the next release : code emancipation !

Yes, that’s the word : emancipation !

As a (humble) plugin developer and based on some of the work I’ve done to help friends get started in the affiliation business, I’ve got to say, the default affiliate searchbox is outdated in many aspects.

The code

Once you’ve looked at it, I think one of the worst part is the code. Not that it is poorly coded, but it is simply poorly documented and beyond everything else, it has not been updated in 5+ years. The result ? When you load the default searchbox on your site, on an average, you add a whooping 1309 lines of code to your page. This includes about 200 lines of HTML, about 100 lines of CSS and about 1000 lines of javascript. With the current state of this plugin, I’ve only managed to reduce the code by about 10%. That’s still wayyy too much for what it does. For those of you that are curious, you can check the code here.

As several plugin users commented over the last few months, there is an SEO cost to having such a poor code on your site. Page weight and page load time could  be also mentionned but only in a marginal manner.

With today practices, moving the old HTML / CSS into HTML5 would save a couple of lines, for sure. However the saving wouldn’t be major. Now if you look at the javascript code that runs the date calculation and the calendar rendering, there’s a great opportunity for something more impactful.

The user experience

Here I’m not going to talk about color scheme, gradients or anything about how the searchbox LOOKS. day_then_the_restI’ll save that for another day. As a visitor of your own site, did you ever find relevant to start selecting a DAY (a number actually) from a dropdown and then proceed with month and year ?

Another fun one is the calendar. old_calendarNot only the random popup location has certainly driven a few of you nuts (I’m with you on that one) but simple things like previewing 2 months instead of one have become a standard practice. I mean it is certainly a nicer option than having to key in manually your checkin / checkout dates with the dropdown seen above… but really, there’s room for improvement.

Lastly, once you’ve selected your dates in & out, what shows up in the searchbox ? Parameters ! Gone are the actual days in plain language (if your language is covered), you’re back with a first dropdown that shows you checkin day, and another that shows the month and year. People like words better than numbers.

What day am I leaving again ?

Done with the bitching ? What’s the point ?

Here comes the fun. By bringing in some industry standard into the picture, I’ve been able to elegantly get rid off the default scripting for the searchbox. What that means is instead of these ~1000 lines of old school JS code, you’ll be down to about 50 lines enabling a lot of customization… and with that customization comes a series of great user experience improvements !

update_07-26

  1. Look at the date display ! It’s finally only one box and it speaks in your language. You’re no longer leaving on the 27th of July 2013 : You are now leaving on Saturday, 27th of July 2013. Feels reassuring for the vast majority of your users.
  2. Only one box means it’ll take less space on the screen while maximizing the info displayed. I’ve also included the calendar icon into the field to (1) free up some space (2) make it easier for you to change the background colors without thinking about color-matching the calendar icon.
  3. Ultimately the bigger improvement resides in the calendar itself. While this example isn’t styled yet, I wanted to share that you can now display 2 months in one click -which is great for your users- and the calendar will now ALWAYS show up where it’s meant to show up. No more fancy behaviour.

At this stage, this is a very much working example but I’ve not integrated it into the DEV version of the plugin yet. I’ve got some freetime on my hands this weekend and I should be able to make some good progress.

Also, I still have a number of things to improve, like the actual LOOK of the widget, for instance. It’s a much smaller / simpler thing to do, the backend rewrite remains the priority now. After this update, the next one will most probably feature a role restriction option so ONLY the site admins can access the admni panel for this plugin.

– To stay on top of what’s coming next and the future release dates, subscribe to the newsletter here.
– You have more ideas around what could be the next big thing to be added, let me know.

Cheers
Greg

 

 

Stay on top of the news : sign up to the newsletter

Hello

A number of plugin users have asked for a lazyer better way to stay in touch. While there’s always the RSS option, I figured the good old newsletter was probably the less intrusive way for everyone to remain synced.

SO, if you want to receive updates about the future functionalities & releases of this plugin, please subscribe. It’ll take a second, it’s free and I’m not asking anything personal 🙂

Cheers
Greg

Feature for the next release : Greek

Hello

I’ll start a new post category to announce where I stand on the development of the plugin. I’ll warn in advance what are the features I have added and that are already being tested. They might not always be sufficient to justify a new public version, but at least people will know better what to expect in advance.

So, what have we got here ? Greek !

User Yiannis sent me not only the translation in Greek, but also all the code pieces so I only had to add it to the core. I have to say, this is not the first time it happens: Paulo submitted Portuguese and an unknown contributor sent me Turkish.

booking_Plugin_in_greek

That kind of things HAVE to make you love the web.

Anyway, more to come soon.

Efkaristo poli !
Greg

 

Minor release : V1.0.1 is out

Hey folks,

Time for a little upgrade !

1. Widget

Based on the feedback I received, I re-introduced the Booking.com affiliate widget. Just go in your Appearance > Widget page and drag and drop it where you want it to show. Hope you’ll appreciate the dropdown menu, dynamic integration at its finest 😉

If you are using a text widget with a Shortcode with it, no worries, it’ll still work absolutelly fine.

2. Admin panel

A long time user made me realize there was no way back from categorization. You can now deselect your categorizations instead of having to recreate a searchbox. No brainer !

Good good… and what’s coming next ?

A major upgrade is on its way and it’ll start impact the design, finally. I’ve managed to have a good clean and stable code to move away from the original javascript & css from booking.com. Remember, the code they recommend affiliates to use has not been updated in 5 years… For those that have been looking into their html output, you’ll love how clean and concise the future version looks.
Over time this’ll open the door to themes or CSS theming, eventually.

But for now, just one thing to do : go to your WP install and upgrade to the latest version of the plugin !

Cheers
Greg

 

 

Booking.com affilitates implementation examples

Hello

I just found a link to a booking.com page that features a lot of info in one single location just just wanted to share that with you. This might help for you own site !

I am pretty sure there are MUCH BETTER integration examples out there… but these are the ones recommended by booking.com.

Get started today!

Search boxes

This is what YOU control. This can be hosted on your site and tweaked by the plugin I’ve built. This is the first thing you can do to get started in the affiliation business.

Everything listed here is covered by the plugin I created. Also, you will not find examples of multiple searchboxes on one single page… as this is not supported by the booking.com scripts.

Want more ?

Once you start getting some traffic, you can put requests to the Booking.com online team. If you don’t have a minimum of 100 visitors a day, I doubt they will even care about what you ask.

You can’t achieve the implementation examples below on your own. They are relative to your partner ID and hosted on the booking.com servers. Again, the more traffic you get, the more chances you have to have it done in a relativelly short timespan.

More than 100 visitors a day : Booking.com + co-branded

As you can see, the affiliate brand is “integrated” into the design of the regular booking.com pages. Yes it is ! Look closer, top right ;).

 

More than 100 visitors a day : IFrames

In this example, the affiliate site loads the customized booking.com page in a “wide” iframe. Customers feel like they are on one site only but essentially this is 2 sites showing up on one page. It has a lot of pro’s (you still own the integration) and con’s (double scroll bars, security certificate won’t show up, look and feel is weird at times).

 

More than 100 visitors a day : Complete Style Copy / Header-Footer

The Booking.com online team need to set you up here.
To work on your chances, make sure you look at the examples below and know EXACTLY what you’re looking for. The cleaner your request is, the higher the chances they’ll pay attention to your request.

 

More than 1000 visitors a day : Database Dump

This one is relatively rare and I’m not convinced there’s any updside to it.

 

More than 1000 visitors a day : XML

An XML integration is real deal. While it is a bit more costly when you’re just starting into the affiliation business, this is definitely a sign that you are serious about what you want to achieve. There is a cost on the booking.com side to set you up and they will gladly make you pay for it. Also once this is in place, you better be sure to have some good traffic coming your way… a site redesign might force you to rework it all over again.

Hope this helped, feel free to send me your own suggestions !

Greg

Booking.com affiliate plugin updated to 1.0 !

Hey folks

As per my previous post, here’s the result of the last round of updates to the plugin. I took all your feedback very seriously and revised my plans to accomodate for the most popular features. Never an easy task to please everyone (particularly when done for FREE) but I suspect this should please a number of users !

WARNING : This is a major upgrade and simply clicking the “update” link in WordPress won’t be sufficient for you to transition from the old architecture to the new one. Please save your legacy settings offline before upgrading. Your former settings will not be directly imported into this version.
Be sure you have a couple of minutes ahead of you to get things running again. Do not perform this upgrade on the go ! It’ll take you a few mins to get familiar with the new approach and re-deploy your searchboxes.

Changelog

– By public demand, your Booking.com plugin now features shortcodes !

– Complete overhaul of the publication mechanism. You can now have multiple search boxes configured for your site. They are all independant and you can reonfigure them at will. I’m leveraging the default posts engine so you benefit from wonderful native features like revisions or backup. This answer the numerous requests around having unique  search boxes for some of your key full-width landing pages AND keep another widgetized search box for your traditional site template.
WARNING, this does not mean you can have multiple searchbox on a single page ! Just like previous versions the behaviour of the booking.com calendar script prevents that. Nothing to do with this plugin, Booking.com wants it that way. Nasty bugger.

– Add a search box from the regular post editor, TinyMCE, via the Insert button.

Revised layout : Editable width that really works. Reworked div structure that shouldn’t break any templates anymore.

Added Portuguese, thanks to Paulo Santos for the submission.

Still pending

I really wanted to get this release out the door to answer your great feedback & fair requests. That means that I had to make some re-prioritization and descope a few items that were naively slated for this release.

– Adoption of the jQuery datepicker : all in all, I’ve probably spent 50% of my time trying to tweak the default calendar script to get it to work on all major browser and in most circumstances. While not deviating from the source code is part of the idea for this plugin, fact is this the source code is outdated and not scalable. Booking.com hasn’t updated that code in more than 4 years and is providing close to 0 support. Time to move on and embrace the industry standards ! It is not included in v1.0 so legacy users can still use the original booking.com script with the new shortcode codebase. After that, (1) no more random calendar popup location (2) support for multiple searchbox on same page (3) much more flexible styling options. Can’t wait.

Further UI rework for the actual boxes. As I’m now using shortcodes and switched from a unique-per-site to many-per-site approach, the actual requirements to get the frontend working nicely changed a bit… thus taking more time to do it right. No fancy HTML5 stuff but it’s defo on the list for the nexy few releases. With the use of the jQuery datepicker, I’ll probably also borrow a few UI tricks from that library too !

Search results on your own site : it’s been while we didn’t talk about displaying the booking.com results into yout own site and branding… Well it’s still not for this release but the progress achieved here will make this next step much more stable and flexible.

Now what ?

Head over to the changelog for more details, have a look at the new screenshots and last but not least have a try for yourself on a test WordPress install (if you don’t have one setup, try via Instant WordPress).

Once you’re all ready to go and confident about the changes, you’re set for updating your production site !

 

Thanks you all for your patience (hum) and continous feedback… and keep watching for the future updates !

Greg

Are we there yet ? Yes, version 1.0 is days away !

Hey

Good news, I’m almost done with the new release for the plugin. I’m putting the last touches together, updating readme.txt and screenshots. You’ll see the updates coming you way in the next few days.

It’ll be version 1.0 as the code is now stable and I believe it won’t break any designs.

If you want to get the package early for testing purpose, let me know and I’ll send you the zip file.

Cheers
Greg

Minor realease : V0.2.6 is out

Hey guys

As I’m making good progress on the next major release, I believe I found out the tiny UI gap in the live version of the plugin. I patched it and thus I’m releasing yet another minor release. I sincerely hope this will bridge the UI gap some of you have been experiencing.

Please note this error is pulled directly from the source code Booking.com is providing to its affiliates. I’ll let them know kindly.

Also, some users reported calendars might appear slightly higher than the actual search box in some specific conditions (narrow site, wide monitors). I’ve been able to replicate the issue but I’m affraid this is the “correct” behaviour for the javascript provided by Booking.com. I’ll let them know kindly.

Anyhow, all streams ahead to 0.2.6 !

I should be able to keep my planning straight and launch the next major release in the first half of june. I’m 60% there : almost all the backend is now coded, I’m still working on the UI for the search box AND the UI of the admin pageS. More to come…

Cheers
Greg

Minor realease : V0.2.5 is out

Hey folks

As per my previous note, I’ve been working on a number of large updates. I expect the first large update to go live early june.

Till we get there, I released a minor update today for two reason.

1) An anonymous user provided the code for Turkish for the current version of the plugin and I had no reason not to push it live to please some users. I know most people won’t care though !

2) For the non-Turkish speaking folks, I also added a warning notice. The next releases will require some special attention. Don’t just update it while on the go. Make sure you have a few spare minutes ahead of you to make this work. I’ve rewrote the plugin from the ground up and will be using a completely new setup, even for the plugin database. It’s all good stuff really, but like any change, it requires a few minutes to adjust to it.

Also, I’ve noted I had a few broken links on this site as the wordpress.com team asked me to change my initial domain name. Sorry if I didn’t reply to some of your suggestions or freelance requests. I simply never received the notifications.

Head to the download link on wordpress.org or to your installation plugin page.

Let’s be in touch soon and keep the feedback coming (public comments, direct note or features request)!
Greg

Future update for the Booking.com WordPress plugin

I’ve been quite on/off for personal reasons. Based on the feedback I’ve received in the last couple of months, Here’s what the next release will bring to the table :

User interface enhancements

  • Many have complained about conflicts VS their installed templates. Even though the code is absolutely valid, I’m rewrite the UI to align on the latest resonsive standards. Hopefully, this should get you covered with legacy HTML conflicts.
    Having said that, if your template is not responsive or is not strictly valid, there’s nothing I can do about that. Sounds obvious, but I’ve received seriously weird emails 🙂
  • CSS3 will enable rounded corners where applicable and will degrade nicely as it can.
  • Color picker
  • Couple of additional UI controls will allow you to better merge this with your theme.

Under the hood

  • The next release will support shortcode. This will allow you to insert the widget wherever you like. One footnote to that, this might be a child plugin to this main development thread, just so everyone is happy with the UI.

What is NOT coming just next

  • The next release will NOT cover the booking.com result page integration into your blog. This will come at a later stage. While this is a relatively simple thing to do technically, there are way too many options and tweaks to cover in order to give your visitors a great online experience. I’ve been testing this for a while on a friend’s site and I don’t want to take the blame for that on a greater scale.
    Yes, I’ll industrialize the code in the future, just don’t have enough time right now to do it with a good level of quality.

Please remember this plugin is free and done on my own spare time so you don’t waste yours. If you are being frustrated with the timelines, I do understand the feeling but I can’t do much about it. Buying me a coffee is your best incentive at this stage 🙂

Thanks for your patience

Greg

Many many bug fixes

Hi everyone,

I do apologize for the many many plugin updates. While I’m trying to keep this lively and hope to meet your needs, I clearly need to figure out better acceptance tests ! I’ll think about this for a while… once I’m sure the new code is stabilized and every one is happy.

Being a WP user too, I know how bugging updating plugins can be 🙁

Keep the feedback coming !
Greg

Version 0.2 : Calendars are now actually useful !

Hey there,

UPDATED (again): Just deployed 0.2.2 with support for Italian and the ability to select in which browser window the booking.com results show up (self or new).

UPDATED: I deployed 0.2.1 with the missing css file from 0.2. No idea how this was missed from the SVN upload but here you go !

It’s been exactly 2 months this plugin made it to the official WordPress repository. I can’t complain about the number of downloads considering how niche the audience is. Also, thanks for your various notes and the few donations. I can’t say these have been the most rewarding hours of work in my life but it’s good to see some appreciation from strangers 🙂

So what’s new today ? First thing first, I’ve rebuilt the code for searchbox from the ground up. Starting from the Booking.com code, I’ve cleaned the source a bit, added some localization features and made sure I did not break anything. What I’ve been trying to achieve here is really to move away from the standard iframe approach. Although the 90s were great for many reasons, using iframes as part of an online project these days is reaaally bad.

The net change for you, dear plugin users, is simply the code will be running on your servers instead of the booking.com ones. This brings you complete control over the stability of your site and the control of what’s happenning from a clickstream standpoint. This release gives you:

  • Calendar fix : your visitors will now see the calendar instead of having them hidden under the iframe.
  • No more “height” adjustement necessary.
  • Better control over localization. Only 5 languages supported for now but many more to come.

You might also have noticed the url of this site changed to comply with the wordpress.com policy. I wasn’t actually allowed to use the word “wordpress” in my domain name.

Download the latest version of the booking.com wordpress plugin page.

Hopefully you’ll appreciate the update to the plugin. For any new suggestion for the future realeases, please use the tracker or simply drop a note in here.

Cheers
Greg

Plugin added to the official wordpress plugin repository

Hey guys,

Just a quick note to let you know the plugin is finally live on the wordpress.org plugin repository. Now only one place to go for all your downloads 🙂

>> http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/bookingcom-affiliate-plugin/

I’ll tidy up the page with screenshots and all. For now, the main thing is really to get it out the door and get moving !

Cheers
Greg

The first version of the Booking.com plugin is being released !

After quite some time discussing with folks around me I decided to start writing a plugin to make it easy entering the Affiliates business.

Sometimes folks might have great ideas on paper. Things just tend to become difficult when it’s time to implement on a website. Leveraging the whole WordPress architecture, this plugin should considerably make things easier for booking.com affiliates willing to start moving the needle on their online sales.

While the plugin is being validated by the wordpress repository team, you can find it hosted on this site This plugin is now hosted on the official wordpress repository ! I’m working on a couple of support notes, screenshots and enhancements already. More to come !