Shopping Cart Basics

There are actually two parts to a shopping cart application. The first consists of the actual shopping cart (where the users search and buy items from) and the other is the administrative portion where tasks such as setting price, adding/deleting items to the database are done.

Shopping Cart

An Internet shopping cart actually consists of many subparts. These are the basics:

  • Catalog
  • Session Tracking
  • Search Engine
  • Security
  • Payment
  • Return/Exchanges

Catalog

A catalog is information about goods. Customers can browse the catalog (web pages) and see what there is in stock. Each good will most likely be composed of the name, picture, and price. Rather than assigning an item to each web page, the items can be generated dynamically from a database on to one page. Instead of listing all items on one page, a customer can browse through page by page. (All the items will be browsed page by page. For example, if there are 20 items, then it’s broken down into 4 pages. If there are 100 items, it will be broken down into 25 pages, with links that say Next/Back so they can go to the next page. In a catalog, it’s preferable that items be listed in categories.

Session Tracking

While a customer is browsing a catalog and looking for items, there has to be a way to keep track of what items he/she clicks on (so it gets sent to the customer’s shopping bag). This is done through session tracking. On check out, the check out process will tell them to register (fill in their information and pick a username and password) before checking out. The information, after they register, is saved in the database so they can login next time they enter the site and not have to reenter it again (all except credit card information).

Search Engine

This is closely related to the catalog. Rather than browsing and clicking links to find the item the customer wants, they can go to a search textbox and search for an item. This will be located on a visible spot on each page. After the customer submits the search, it will display the results like a catalog with Next/Back links.

Security

This is vital when processing credit cards and keeping customer information safe. Information submitted by the customer will be encrypted and stored in the database. Also, when submitting information so credit cards get processed, it will be submitted under an SSL secure connection. A logo can be shown by whomever company handles the SSL to make it shown that there is in fact security.

Payment

Directly connected with session tracking and security. Before checking out, customers will have to submit valid information about themselves. They will be sent to a form page under SSL where they must put valid information. After they submit, the data will be validated then sent off to a gateway where the funds will be sent to a merchant account. All done securely. An automatic e-mail will be sent to the user when this process is done.

Return/Exchanges
Done as secure as Payment. The customer will pick which item he wants to return, put all the necessary information from the invoice they received, and the return/exchange will be processed.

Administrative

The administrative portion consists of two basic subparts:

  • Content Management System (CMS)
  • Data Inventory

Content Management System (CMS)
There will be pages on the web site that have significant importance. For example, the home page and the catalog pages. These are pages that will constantly be changing. (The home page can contain items on sale, popular items, “just in,” etc. It might also be a good idea to include some of this home page information on the catalog pages because they are constantly browsed.)

Instead of changing the pages manually (opening up the page, changing the source code of each page), it will be faster and safer (changing the source code has to be done carefully so no errors occur) to do it through an administrative feature. You can go into an administrative panel, and just change that portion of the page that you want to update. There would never be a need to look at any code, just a click, type, and submit. Everything will be done through options. This is what a CMS does. Manages the content of pages.

Data Inventory

There will be a section under the administrative feature where company employees can insert/update/delete information from the database. This information can be customer, item, purchase information. They can also check out a queue of the items customers have purchased.

Shopping Cart Application Add-ons


Contingency Plan

A plan that’s executed if something fails or is performing poorly. For example, if the host goes down, there’s an error in the application, or there’s a hacker break-in.

Automation

Schedule content through the content manager. Can assign by date when something will be on sale, for example. When the date comes, it will display the new information on the page automatically.

Forum/Message Board

This will create an online community.

Chat

Where people can interact in real time.

Rating

Each item can have its own rating. For example, 1 out of 5 stars.

Reviews
Users can critique each item. Contains language filter.

Reports

Stats can be generated according to customer’s habits. What they click on, what the buy, etc. Reports can be generated according to this information. As an option, automated actions can be taken upon reporting information. For example, if a customer has bought purely shoes in the past from the site, then show shoes on the home page.

Advanced Search

Search not only by item name, but by price range, date range, and any other related information.

Data Export

Export information from the database as text files, XML, Access and Excel.

Mailing Lists

Send customers e-mails with news on prices, offers, new items, etc.

Portals

A page that contains links and other related information about other sites.

Gift Certificate

Gift Certificates can be bought online so it can be used in-store or online.

Site Map

Will contain a list or a map of all the sections and pages of the web site for quick navigation.

Other Online Marketing Options:

  • Affiliates
  • Web Rings
  • Forums
  • Search Engine Submission
  • METATAG creation

Virtual piano turns any surface into a keyboard

I will definitely get this when it’s in stores… ^_^

Source: PinkTentacle

Digital Information Development (DID) has developed a highly portable virtual piano that is played with a keyboard consisting of projected laser beams.

The box-shaped device measures about 10 x 3 x 3 cm (4 x 1 x 1 in.) and weighs about 100 grams (3.5 oz.). Using a red semiconductor laser module and holographic optical element, the device projects a 25-key 2-octave keyboard onto the surface in front of it (black surfaces don’t work because they absorb the light). A CMOS camera module and infrared (invisible) red semiconductor laser module detect which keys are touched, and the corresponding notes are emitted from speakers built into the device. Chords can also be played, and DID claims it is technically possible to reproduce weighted notes (but presumably not with this version).

The keyboard has 3 other voices in addition to piano — organ, pipe organ and harpsichord. It is scheduled for release in Japan in November 2006 and is expected to cost around 15,000 yen (US$130).

DID says that a virtual 88-key grand piano can be created by increasing the size of the device.