Timetable Tips

Timetable is a great WordPress plugin. It lets you create professional-looking schedule grids really easily, helping you avoid ADA-unfriendly spreadsheet screenshots or having to send users out to an external site.

But after creating a few timetables, I’ve discovered some idiosyncrasies that will save you some time if you learn them before using the plugin yourself. These tidbits are not particularly organized and will be most helpful when Timetable is open on your computer.

New Event window

When you create an event, the window that comes up looks like the page/post creation window. The parts that can appear in the schedule grid are the title and anything from the Timeslots header on down. The text block below the title block will only show on this event’s page. For things like event schedules, I use this block to list the names of those in charge of the events. The schedule already has a dropdown menu for those people, but it’s limited to registered users of your site.

You need to create columns before creating events; otherwise, they won’t be available for you to select for your events. Be careful about creating too many columns; in my experience, more than about six makes event information hard to read. If your theme allows it, you’ll also want to disable sidebars to ensure your timetable has as much space as possible to stretch out.

Start and end times are in 24-hour format, but they’ll appear on your schedule as AM and PM.

The Description field doesn’t have paragraph breaks. This makes reading a large chunk of text difficult. You can opt to describe the event below the title instead.

REALLY IMPORTANT: The one thing I still mess up the most is forgetting to hit the Add New or Update button after making changes to a specific event. When you edit pages or posts, you’re in the habit of just selecting Save Draft, Update or Publish in the upper-right-hand corner of your screen. But if you do this in the Edit Event window, it will only save changes to the overall document, the title, and the document blocks below the title. Any changes you make inside the Timetable plugin will NOT be saved. Get in the habit of saving the event, not the page, first!

I give every event a background color, because the default color blends into the grid’s background and is confusing. I keep all events the same color – it can get pretty messy otherwise – reserving one or two colors to make special events stand out. This will be useless to mobile users, though.

Edit Page window

After you add the Timetable block to a page, look at the event categories. The ones you’ve set up determine which timetables your event appears in, if you have more than one. These categories are only visible to you, so name them in a way that will help you distinguish among your timetables.

If you create categories or columns after creating your timetable, you have to go in and manually add them. Select the timetable, then select what you want to add. The ones you selected before will already be highlighted, so if you’re just adding to that list, make sure the others still are too. If you select a category or column, all events in that group will be added to the timetable. You don’t have to manually add every event in them.

Below that, you have options to add time, title, description, subtitle and event head. I keep it to time and title; my timetables tend to have a lot of slots and space is limited. The event titles link to their more detailed pages, so I leave the other information to that section.

One drawback of this plugin is that if two events occur simultaneously in one timetable, they don’t show up as splitting the column. One gets displayed after the other. That’s why it’s useful to keep the event time listed in the timetable, even though the time is also displayed on the timetable’s left-hand side. 

If there isn’t room for your event text, you can change the block height and font size, listed below the title/time checkboxes. (Keep in mind that your users will be viewing this timetable on a variety of devices and screen sizes, so they will see a range of timeline sizes and shapes.) Below that, you can also decrease the time frame displayed in the timetable. If each block is 15 minutes, the event will have four times more room than if each block were an hour.

I don’t do a lot with the options below that, but I keep horizontal alignment centered and vertical alignment to to the top. 

Mobile issues

As you create your timetable (and this applies to anything you do on your site), keep in mind how the page will look to mobile users. My WordPress theme (Hoot Business) is responsive (the layout changes based on window width), so when I reduce the window to mobile layout, the grid disappears and all the events appear in dropdown menus. (Having a responsive theme is still totally worth it, and everyone should do it. Just keep an eye on how accessible your theme is to screen readers. I digress.) The disappearing grid renders the timetable pretty useless, so descriptive (yet short) titles are key. To help somewhat, I listed all events by category on separate pages people can browse. The links are listed above the timetables on my schedule page, and appear the same way to mobile or desktop users. This can be dicey, because now I’m maintaining two versions of the same information, but those dropdown menus really are useless. The extra work on my end is worth it on the users’ end.

Because the grid goes away on mobile devices, the event colors do too. If you’re relying on colors to differentiate your events, that won’t help your users when that distinction goes away. Use another method, which will vary depending on how you want to organize your events. In my case, I wanted to highlight events ideal for newcomers and children; I just indicated that on each event’s page. Not ideal, but it was one option. I could also create a separate page of links to those events.

If you have any questions about this or anything else on the Panther Vale website, I’m happy to help.

Brita Pendane, Webminister