Week 4

This week I performed tasks to move towards completing the deliverable for Friday. I decided to begin this by deciding and mapping out the hierarchical structure of the website. I did this be analyzing national sites such as Dell and PC World, but also by looking at local sites. I found it very difficult to find localised computer sales websites that were of any decent quality and even less that had the capability of selling products online. Abiko computers was one example of a decent site that customers could use to find information, they included FAQs, information about products and a contact form for example: http://www.abiko.co.uk

http://www.webb-computers.info/ and http://www.nepstore.co.uk/ were at least two examples of local sites with e-commerce capability – both including information about the company and some products for sale on the homepage.

I worked out how wide and deep the hierarchy of the site should be, I decided that top level categories should all be listed at the top of the screen in a navigational bar, with subcategories being accessed from here or directly on the category pages. From the homepage users should normally go “Category > Subcategory > Product” or “Category > Product” where appropriate, the site should direct users to a purchase and channel them to where they want to go as quickly as possible. If the hierarchy ended up being too deep, then some product may not be found due to the user giving up after too much refinement or searching for a niche category area of the site.

A reasonably wide hierarchy enables the user to quickly see the wealth of information and services available on the site. Following this a separate level for category and sub-category should be adequate, with any other search narrowing done by using options available on the screen (e.g. sorting and refinement criteria input from the user), which dynamically updates the content being displayed from the database, rather than having further pages deeper into the site structure.

I drew out a hierarchy structure roughly by hand, so I could scribble any notes and changes and then drew it up later in Microsoft Word 2013 using Smart Art tools available. The whole process of research and drawing up this particular part of things took about 3 hours.

While putting together the site structure I also had to think about what kind of products, services, information and methods of contact with the company should be available on the website. I had to decide what pages there would be, as the site structure depends on the content. Initially I didn’t think about what exactly was going to go on each page, but did think of what the page title / topic would be, along with what general content would be available. This took about 2 hours, roughly with pen and paper. I thought and wrote about the pages in more details when working on the final document later in the week.

The E-commerce site will revolve around the use of PHP and MySQL to interact with the site’s database, these languages will be used to pass data in and out of the database. I drew out the titles of what tables would be needed – such as Customer and Stock, before adding attributes to these tables. I then worked out what the relationship would be between these tables, to ensure there was no data duplication and that no calculated information would be stored in the database. I then wrote a small passage about each table so that I knew what to do in the write-up. This took about 3 hours.

The final write-up involved installing SmartDraw in create the ER diagrams and using a drawing tool in MS Word 2013 to create the hierarchy diagram. Drawing these diagrams took a lengthy amount of time due to re-thinking structures and the time it took to get things to display correctly (I hadn’t had much experience with these tools in the past). When I was drawing the ER diagrams, I also had to think of what the PKs and FKs would be and what the cardinality was between the tables. This took about 3.5 hours.

The rest of the write up took about 8 hours. This involved thinking about what content would be on each page and how this content would be generated, in most cases it made sense to generate the content by pulling it from a database.

Main risks – CMS use and will I use order tracking via reference number or implement user accounts instead, where they can view details about their order from their account.

Time: ~ 20 hours

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