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Custom ExpressionEngine template solutions

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I've come across a few little solutions/fixes recently to various problems I've encountered when building sites with ExpressionEngine (EE) that I thought it would be worth sharing. A couple of these were tips I picked up from other posters on the EE forums and the third was one I came up with myself to solve a particular problem I had.

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Animated navigation items using jQuery

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Dave Shea recently published an article on A List Apart (ALA), CSS Sprites2 – It's JavaScript Time', about how to use jQuery to create the effect of animated rollovers on navigation items.

The technique he outlines makes use of the same image replacement method as outlined in ALA's original Sprites article. The problem with this method however is that it uses a large negative text-indent to remove the default text from screen, and with images turned off in the browser, you don't see anything. This has accessibility implications not only from the perspective of those with disabilities, but also for those who deliberately turn images off, i.e. people on slower connections or those using handheld devices who are trying to limit the amount of information downloaded to their phone.

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Checking backlinks with Yahoo’s Site Explorer Inbound Links API

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Recently I wanted to create a page that would list the backlinks to certain sites that I had chosen. Yahoo always seems to have the most comprehensive list of backlinks and luckily they also make available a series of APIs that enables you to access their data. Using the Site Explorer Inbound Links API, and an example of a script towards the bottom of that page, I was able to put together a script that closely mirrors the sort of results you would get if you entered a site's URL into Yahoo's Site Explorer.

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Connecting to an external database from within a Wordpress post

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For the article I wrote recently on web design galleries, I compiled a table of the galleries in a MySQL database. To be able to display the table and the associated charts and other statistics that went with it, I needed to be able to connect to this external database from within Wordpress.

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PayPal options and ExpressionEngine’s Simple Commerce Module

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Recently I had to add basic shopping cart functionality to a site that had been built with ExpressionEngine (my CMS of choice). “No problem,” I thought; I can use the Simple Commerce Module (SCM), which as the names suggests, is ideally suited to simple ecommerce requirements, and which I had used before on other EE sites.

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Rescinding the reset

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For a while now I've been using some sort of 'reset' for my stylesheets. At first it was the global reset which involves zeroing out padding and margins on all elements by with the universal selector, e.g., * { margin: 0; padding: 0 }. Later I read about the problems this can cause for form elements and so have been using Eric Meyer's Reset CSS.

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