Week 3

I obtained a HTML & CSS book from Amazon, I also obtained a MySQL & PHP book from the library, I also downloaded a Javascript book on my tablet. These materials should assist with the project, the MySQL & PHP one should be immediately helpful to me when putting together the next deliverable over next week.

I have read a couple of chapters of each of those books, the HTML & CSS I more jumped to the sections I wanted to read and covered more chapters as there was less detail to learn.

I discussed the use of WordPress’ own database system with two of my friends who are choosing to use WordPress. I have considered using Joomla or Drupal instead and am still making my choice. WordPress can be used for an e-commerce site, however it is generally used for making blog sites, information  sites and other fairly non complicated sites. It is very easy to use, but looking at the specs there could be some constraints at everything seeming to be in a WordPress environment, with WordPress plugins and WordPress tools etc etc.

Joomla offers perhaps more of a challenge in installing it and getting going, but seems to have more possible components that are independent to the CMS. This could lead to more specific / advanced components being used to create an e-commerce site.

Both CMS’s have communities of followers and documentation, with WordPress being by far the biggest.

I also looked at Magento and OpenCart – these are both very good open source options. However there are a bit too “turn-key” as one of them described themselves, it looks like it would be easy to get going – but a lot of the technical detail may have already been taken care of. It’s certainly worth installing one of these to take a look though, which I plan to do soon.

Therefore the biggest risk I face at the moment is which CMS I am going to use, as then the tools I use following this depend on this choice. The reduction in risk will have to be further research, discussing choices with my colleagues and trying to install some of them to try (or using demos, I already played with the OpenCart admin and customer facing demo).

Week 2

This week I had to complete a Business Analysis for Jenkins IT as this deliverable was due on Friday.

I began this process by figuring out who would want to use the site, how they’d use it and who are the company that wants to have the site built. I wrote down some notes on why people would do these things, to write an introduction later. Following this,  I figured out who the typical users would be. Initially I searched online for typical user demographics who used computer websites or purchased IT equipment, however it was very difficult to find useful figures to reference, the only ones I could find were many years old so they would be useless in this industry. I wrote down a list of typical users of the site, such as personal users with varying levels of IT skills along with other types of users. I did not describe them at this time.

Following this I spent some time reviewing last terms (Group Project) lecture slides on project scope and this terms lecture slides on Business Analysis, so that I could get a good start on my rich picture. I wrote down stakeholders such as customers and insurance companies before writing between 1 and 4 bullet points for each of the stakeholders, so that I had notes to work from later.

I wrote down some ideas for use-cases, so that I could write these when writing in the hand in document. I however forgot to complete these in the end as I got caught up focusing in other areas, so my use-cases are very poor in my document. I should have made a better time plan so that I didn’t forget and waste marks in other places (e.g. too much resource focusing on minor issues).

I analyzed a number of websites that were similar business’ to Jenkins IT. The first website I analyzed was Dell. I browsed the Dell website viewing it’s product pages, adding items to the basket and attempting to checkout etc, I did this to study their process’ and the way they’d implemented an e-commerce site. The site was informative and generally very good, however they did have a problem with outdated information and a few minor things that could be changed such as the wording of their checkout system. I took many screenshots of the site using the Microsoft Windows Snipping Tool and included some of these in the end document.

The second website that I analyzed was the PC World website (almost identical to Dixons and Currys). I took screenshots as I navigated their pages and generally followed the same steps as I did with Dell. Currys possibly had better product information pages as it involved less windows and confusion about where to click, however their product range pages weren’t as good as the categorization of products and wording of the categories could be confusing. For example there was a Notebook section and a MacBook section, yet in the notebook section Mac’s were listed as “Apple Notebooks”.

Finally I did a quick analysis of the KNOWHOW website as these are just a service website, mainly catering to Currys/PC World aftersales. I thought their service descriptions were easy to read, however the presentation of the site didn’t quite suit what they were selling, it looked a bit like a media website, e.g. one selling music and video. I did however pick up some tips such as describing services in a basic, short way and then offering a more advanced description section.

I installed a photo editing program so that I could create a rich picture, based on the stakeholder short descriptions I’d created. I gathered public domain (free to use) images along with company logos that were often available from a “media resources” type of section on their site, or through finding a version in the public domain through Wikipedia. I then placed these in a diagram and linked up the relationships, such as Jenkins IT liaising with insurance companies to offer extended warranty as an additional service to customers.

Finally I used all of the notes generated to produce a final Business Analysis document, before converting it to PDF. I was happy with the final document apart from the missing use-cases. I could have done with an extra hour or two so need to start writing the final document earlier next time!

This week I need to use my previous work so that I can figure out how to turn these theories, ideas and scenarios into an actual data, website and database. I’ll need to work out what kinds of information on each page and where the information comes from, for example how many static individually written pages will I have and how many dynamically written pages will I have, that pull data from a database (e.g. product information page).

Another thing that I will need to think about and begin writing is the navigational structure of the website. I will need to work out how many top level categories there are and how many sub categories there are in the tree. It should be defined in such a way that navigation will make sense to the user and will still require the shortest amount of clicks for them to find the content they want.

Finally I need to work out what tables are required in the database and the relationships that exist between them, I will also need to decide how this will be implemented. The implementation will hang on whether I use WordPress as a CMS or find an alternative solution. I see this database specific part as the biggest challenge at the moment.

Time spent: Preparation and research earlier in the week – 5 hours. Preparation and implementation of the document later in the week – 9.5 hours. Total: ~14.5 hours

Week 1

This week I had to come up with a proposal for my major project, following the briefing we had from Chris in the lecture.

I started off by brainstorming some ideas of what could go into a website or a web app, this included topics / ideas such as:

  • e-commerce (physical and electronic goods)
  • calendaring
  • task management
  • support ticketing
  • games (online playable)
  • movie review aggregator

Following this I thought about what skills I had and what I needed to learn, to be able to implement these things. For the most part, I need more experience in using PHP and MySQL, therefore I’m going to get a book on this to read through and try things out. Also I believe Adrian Shaw will be giving some refresher sessions in this kind of area.

I spent further time writing down bullet points for a number of final idea which included the following websites / web based applications:

E-commerce (sale of physical goods)

  • List stock items that users can put in their cart, checkout and pay for
  • Allow some custom configuration to build an order
  • Order tracking

Photo upload site

  • Upload a photo
  • Rate photos
  • Comment on and share photos to social media sites

Car garage bookings

  • Check cars into the garage, logging various details
  • Create “jobs” to complete mechanical work and allocate resources (staff) to complete the jobs
  • Log updates to jobs. Possibly allow customers to check this themselves online

In the end I weighed up the pros and cons of the ideas, based on the complexity (scope) of the project, how relevant it would be to me and my future but also how interesting it would be for me. I also discussed these ideas on a number of occasions with my friends, to see what their opinion on the matter would be. Although the photo uploading one was possibly the least run of the mill idea, the e-commerce idea interested me most, as I am interested in business and IT tools for business, oh yes, I am taking Business IT after all. If I do the e-commerce one, I can also envisage easier visible progression along the way so that problems can be resolve more quickly and if things go wrong, there will still be other working parts in place that I have invested time in and can be observed to function well.

I believe that HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, MySQL and Ajax are likely to be used when developing my site.

Things I need to look into over time include PHP frameworks, Content Management Systems and what will attract users to the website the most. The latter two being more important to begin with. The user aspect of things will probably be answered during my Business Analysis document creation this week, the other two I can look at during the week (preferably) or next week.

Time spent: ~11 hours