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Help, I need your professional advice


snipboy
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Hey guys/gals,I'm in the process of creating a web site for a merchandising company. It's a somewhat pro bono undertaking that I'll be adding to my portfolio. So far I know Xhtml & CSS. However the website I'm working on involves the implementation of an interactive interface. Fortunately, I've been looking to learn a new up-to-date and future proof language that will help me insert interactivity into web pages. The merchandising website will need to serve the same function as the very popular: http://www.cafepress.com/ It will need to have a similar marketplace offering users the ability to setup shop and sell their own items. The website will also need to give users the ability to upload their desired image and see that image appear on their chosen product. At the same time I'll need to build the necessary back end infrastructure for a secure and accountable money processing system. I'm in desperate need of some guidance. Can you guys help me get oriented? Is there a coding language that can specifically accomplish those tasks? Can it take care of both the back end and front end functions? And what are my chances of finishing this by the end of the summer?

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WOW - you've bit off quite a bit of development for offering to do it for free.In any respect, any of the popular server side scripting languages (asp, php, coldfusion) will be able to do all that you describe (front-end and back-end). Now, if you know nothing about any of those, well, you're in for a rude awakening unless you are a genius. Not to say it can't be done, but you will be putting in a lot of time into this project if it is going to be done correctly.There is soooo much involved in this type of project. So, lets start with just the overall picture, can you describe what you know about:

  • secure server license (SSL)
  • online credit card merchant/gateway (PayFloPro, Authorize.net)
  • order fullfillment
  • enterprise application development
  • brick-n-mortar vs online retail
  • search engine optimization

What kind of requirement has your client provided (please don't say cafepress.com)?

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Thank you for the quick reply. I'm unfamiliar with SSL. I was going to use http://www.monstercommerce.com/ for my enterprise application and credit card merchant. I'm not familiar with the term brick and mortar. I'm guessing it means the necessary infrastructure needed behind the scenes. My understanding of search engine optimization is that it does just that. By coding your website in a clear cut fashion so that certain tags stick out search engines can better cypher through your site's content and list your website appropriately. Requirements include back end ease of use. They will be taking large orders so they require a flawless system that will categorize and track orders, fulfilled orders, and shipments. Another back end software that would be practical is an accounting system that will automatically calculate our revenues in real time. Most importantly our members will need to get paid if their artwork is sold along with our products. So the revenue of items sold from member shops will need to be parsed between the member and the company. I assume these requirements are part of order fulfillment, correct? I expected this to be a painstaking and time consuming project, but fortunately I have the summer off. So I'll be hitting the books non stop. And with the right guidance I'll be able to cut down on superfluous information. I appreciate your advice, so far I'm very impressed. :)If all goes well I should be getting a rewarding return in the long run. Its more a joint enterprise per say between me and this company.

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Hi,You've got a good overview of the client's expectations, but that is not a requirements documentation. A requirements doc will need to be very specific and outline exactly what is expected. List out ALL the functionality for the buyer, the artist, and the administrator. For instance, you will need to say something like, "When the user click on 'my account' they will see a set of links that allows the user to maintain information retained by yourdmain.com - this includes, contact information, shipping information, billing information, payment preferences, etc (and then a section that details what contact information is , like phone, fax, email, etc.). A good requirements doc that is reviewed by your client and signed off on will give you a clear picture on what exactly needs to be developed. I've not met a client that wants a hard to use back end. Again, you have a high level understanding of their expectations, now its time to strictly define what exactly is going to be developed to accomplish that.

  • secure server license (SSL) - good - you will need this if you want buyers to pay for orders online
  • online credit card merchant/gateway (PayFloPro, Authorize.net) - you need to understand how to transfer money from the online world to the off line world. You're client should have a credit card merchant account by now - if not, then they need to get one. When/if they do, then they need to find out what online gateway it is compatible with. Then, you need to make sure that the product you buy or build can interface with it. Then, make sure you understand what fees are associated with what transactions.
  • order fullfillment - how is this going to be done - again connecting the online world with the offline world. How is the website going to trigger offline tasks like packing and delivery - does an email get sent to a person who then initiates the process, or does the site need to feed an order file directly to inventory software that triggers the delivery process? How, specificaly, an order is to be fullfilled must be outlined in the requirements document.
  • enterprise application development - what is going to do all the work. Is it or can it all be done by MonsterCommerce - if not, what will be done to accommodate the short comings - customizations or standalone applications that get fired off? If this is as big as you elude it to be, then you will not be able to get along very far with source code that is slapped together - you'll need to consider using a framework so that your application can be more stable and be easier to extend.
  • brick-n-mortar vs online retail - brick-n-mortar refers to a physical store front. So does the client have one now? IS that where order fulfillment is to take place - or is everything strictly online? How is customer support going to be handled? I know the actual support is not the web developers problem, but I imagine most customers will be looking to the website for support in some way shape or form - so what is its role? Is it just a web form that say - what is your question/concern or is it a phone number to physical retail store - can they handle the increased volume?
  • search engine optimization - clean code is very important but there are many other things to consider - but only if it is the client's interest to be visible to search engines - figure out their priority in that respect and make sure the requirements document specifies how (if at all) the site will be visible to search engines.

Plan on doing nothing else this summer if the client's expectation is to have a close rendition of cafepress.com:-(

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Skemcin has pointed out a lot of information that needs to be addressed before a single line of code is to be written.Also, not having any server side experience is going to make this large project that much harder. You could easily spend the summer learning PHP/MySql or an equivilent. IMO, you may have bitten off more than you can chew...especially for free. I realize this is to gain experience but not having the skills needed or the full understanding of what is required may give you a bad experience with web development and also give the client a bad impression of your skills. A bad reference is worse than no reference at all.

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Skemcin has pointed out a lot of information that needs to be addressed before a single line of code is to be written.Also, not having any server side experience is going to make this large project that much harder. You could easily spend the summer learning PHP/MySql or an equivilent. IMO, you may have bitten off more than you can chew...especially for free. I realize this is to gain experience but not having the skills needed or the full understanding of what is required may give you a bad experience with web development and also give the client a bad impression of your skills. A bad reference is worse than no reference at all.
I agree, that takes some skills.serverside stuff isnt like learning html / css where you can just look at refrences and build a page!this takes time and effort to learn how to do.. especially something that advanced!
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