Development update: November & December 2022

A 6 minute read, posted Paul Dean on 21st December 2022.

Development update: November & December 2022

Welcome to the third Easy Eatery development update.

Unlike previous months, we're combining the goings-on in November and December into a single update.

Things slowed down in the last two months of 2022. This was expected and was primarily due to Christmas and other commitments, but also in part due to us getting to a point where we need to launch our first early access website before we can go further.

That being said, it would be wrong to say that we weren't hard at work on Easy Eatery...

Test, test and test again...

Much of our energy in the last months of the year was put into testing the early access version of Easy Eatery. In anticipation of bringing on new customers early in 2023, we wanted to ensure everything was ready for that next step.

We decided that the best way for us to test Easy Eatery was to use it as if we were one of our customers and set up a restaurant website from scratch —and boy, am I glad we did...

That's not to say our experience was terrible — far from it — but it did highlight a number of ways we could improve Easy Eatery — and improve, we have!

Whilst we found that much of what we've created worked well, we discovered that some design decisions we'd made months ago, whilst looking great at the time, could have worked better in practice.

Simplifying forms and re-ordering fields made Easy Eatery much easier to use.

We've implemented over 200 "quality of life" updates.

All in all, we applied 247 separate quality of life updates and fixes as a result of testing in November and December.

I don't think there's a single part of our control panel, "My Easy Eatery", which hasn't been improved as a result of testing. Our page builder, form builder and, in particular, our menu builder all received several user-experience-related updates.

A great example of this was in our menu builder. Whilst setting up a demo menu page, we quickly realised that if you needed to add 40 new menu items from scratch, you were going to have a bad time.

Everything was fine, technically. Everything worked, but the process was way slower than we would have liked. We realised that the design of the form and the ordering of the form fields in the 'create a menu item' form was the problem.

The fix was simple enough; we changed the layout of the form to simplify it and updated the order of the input fields so that they appear in a more sensible order.

The effect this change had was remarkable — creating new menu items is now a much quicker process.

And this is just one example - there are similar examples of this kind of improvement across every module within Easy Eatery.

We completed our new theme, Lux.

Our theme editor was again put to the test as we created our newest theme, Lux.

This theme is the first to utilise our theme customiser, allowing site owners to choose fonts and change colours without editing any code.

Building Lux turned out to be just as much a test of the theme editor, as it was the integration with our theme customer. Suffice it to say — we learned a lot.

While everything generally worked as expected, we encountered bugs and quirks that caused us to reevaluate how some parts of the theme customiser needed to work.

We also ran into some minor limitations that we should have considered beforehand. For example, the colour picker in the theme customiser does not support alpha transparency, so we currently can't support customisable CSS gradients with transparency.

In principle the fix is simple enough, but it's firmly on the list of features to come later rather than something that needs to be addressed now.

Above all else, our theme editor is the part of Easy Eatery I'm most proud of. It does its job genuinely well, and I can't help but smile when I use it. But, occasionally, that smile would turn upside-down when I would run into issues that disrupted my workflow.

None of the issues we found was particularly troublesome — all very much user-experience related. Still, they certainly got annoying after a while.

A great example was encountered when switching from one file to another in the editor. The code editor for the new file wasn't automatically focused when switching, so you'd have to click into the new code editor before you could write any code.

Clicking into the text editor box would only take a split-second. Still, this could be minutes or hours wasted throughout a theme build, so I immensely enjoyed addressing this issue.

We completely overhauled our template engine.

At the heart of every Easy Eatery website is our template engine. This software combines your website's theme with your text and images to create the web pages that your customers will visit.

We've rewritten the template engine from the ground up to be faster and more efficient than the original version.

We also worked to address issues we discovered when developing the 'Lux' theme, when using optional content fields.

Case in point; the quick links block displays a list of links to other areas of your website. It also has an optional title field, which in Lux, adds a heading above the links.

As a developer creating a theme, you'd want to wrap this title in a heading tag, such as a <h2>, when this title is output.

But with optional fields, this could result in an empty HTML tag being added to the page if no value for the optional field is provided, which isn't ideal.

To address this, we've added the ability to add a 'flag' to a variable. This allows you to state that if a particular field has a value, it should be wrapped in the specified HTML tag when rendered.

For example, { --h1}, would output as <h1>Easy Eatery</h1>.

We've also added parameters for adding both CSS classes and ID attributes to HTML tags added in this way.

As a result, the template engine now offers additional features that give developers more options for building themes and makes it easier to add more functionality in the future.

We're building Blueprint, our starter theme for developers.

Unlike the themes we've worked on so far, Blueprint isn't intended to be used as-is. Instead, Blueprint is meant to be a barebones theme that developers can use as a starting point for their Easy Eatery projects.

Blueprint will contain all the bare essentials required to create an Easy Eatery theme, with and only the essential CSS styling and JS included.

We've extended our page builder again.

Our page builder's number of standard content blocks has grown again to 25.

The new addition is a 'carousel banner'. This block allows site owners to create a full-screen collection of banners, each with their own title, descriptive text, button link and background image.

Visitors to the site can navigate these banners manually, but you can set the carousel to autoplay and set how long each banner is visible for — and also set how quickly the carousel will transition to the next banner.

But wait! There's more...

Some of the other things that we've done recently include:

  • We've added Google Local Business as a new social media link field.
  • We've added as a food ordering service link field.
  • We've made it possible to toggle the visibility of content within the 'Venue banner', 'Venue details' and 'Contact' blocks, such as social links, opening times and contact details to give additional flexibility and avoid doubling-up on information.
  • We've improved the media manager by opening it on the currently selected image, rather than the main directory of the media library.
  • We've added an optional title field to most content blocks, rather than relying on the user to add a heading within the text editor, which will make websites more visually consistent.
  • We've revised the layout of most of the content blocks within the page builder.
  • In the menu builder, we've added an optional 'Section title' field to each group of items in your menut. This is useful if you want to give a section a basic name for the navigation, but want a more detailed title within the menu.
  • Our gift vouchers component is now fully designed and is ready to go into development.
  • The new email builder will go into development at the same time as the gift vouchers component.
  • Version 1.0 of the theme customiser is complete.

Over the last couple of months of 2022 we also began to prepare for what's to come in 2023.

The main Easy Eatery website is undergoing a substantial update behind-the-scenes with several new pages detailing various aspects and benefits of Easy Eatery.

Our knowledge base is growing in size, with new articles written daily and will be launching as soon as we have all the basics covered.

I'm so proud of what we've done in 2022 and I can't wait to see what 2023 brings!

All the best,


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Paul DeanPaul Dean

Paul is the owner and lead developer at Easy Eatery and is also senior web developer at the award-winning Cardiff-based digital creative agency, Blue Stag

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