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  1. #1
    Regular Coder ajhauser's Avatar
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    Unhappy Looking for some respectable advice.

    I was hoping to get some guidance (please), and I'm not necessarily looking to be barraged with 50 foreign emails from random programmers... so I didn't post this in the "looking to hire" section. I'm not sure what I'm looking for at the moment.

    I would really like to hear from those who have experience in projects like this if possible.

    I have a small web design company and I have also been looking for a chance to expand into larger eCommerce websites - and recently I was referred to a store in my area that does about a million in business, has several hundred items - and they are looking for a website with:

    1. User Accounts (The users can sign up online, email validation)

    2. Has a cart system, secure online purchasing, Credit Card, Promo Codes, PayPal, etc. (standard cart setup)

    3. Shows recommended items to returning clients based on previous purchases similar to Amazon (recommended items based on searches would also be great).

    This would be phase one. Their time frame is about a year the owner told me, and he is open to suggestions. My question would be where to begin, and how many hours approx. would be involved in something like this?

    So before I ask something stupid like "so what should I charge based on those 3 morsels of information?!", I was hoping we could walk through some steps involved to set me on the right track?

    Many thanks - hopefully that made sense...

  2. #2
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    Ok so the first thing I would suggest, is find out of this employer has all his merchandise in a database. If he does, then you're way ahead of the game. If not, that would be the first order of business.

    There are plenty of good, even free canned shopping carts an eCommerce site can use. Where I work now, we use auctioninc.com. Not sure if its free or not, since it was set up before I came to work here, but one I use quite often is mals-e.com. Its free and works great. It handles paypal payments as well as credit cards too.

    Now back to the database. Once you have the database structure set up(tables and columns) then page content, inventory management, member sign ups and user managements all would work off the database.

    Seriously, you're looking at a full time job for at least a few months to a year, depending on database set up and how experienced you are with them. Thats most of the work in itself, as once the db is complete, dynamic page creation is a snap. So as far as pay, its really hard to tell. Talk with him and discuss either working by the hour, or per "section" of the job...ie database or cart setup...such as that.

    Someone else may shed more light on that aspect than I can.
    Teed

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  4. #3
    Senior Coder djm0219's Avatar
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    Most "shopping cart" software has items 1 and 2 on your list available out of the box and a good number of them have something at least similar or close to item number 3.

    teedoff is correct to ask whether or not the products are already in some sort of database or at least a spreadsheet. If they are in either one of those you are probably looking at 6 to 8 weeks for implementation depending on the solution chosen and how much customization/styling is desired. With little customization or deviation from a "canned" style going live time could be as little as 2 to 4 weeks.

    Given the size of the business described they probably have a good relationship with a bank and I'd look to them for on-line payment processing. If they have it available you'll narrow your choice of solutions to those that support that payment processor.
    Dave .... HostMonster for all of your hosting needs

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  6. #4
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    The company I'm working for now has/had no database whatsoever. They probably have over 10,000 products with about 40% of those products with static pages built. lol So trust me when I say, database creation is a job, in particular data entry...and most of the initial work.

    Hopefully if you do have to create a db from scrath, someone familiar with the products can do most of the data entry for you.
    Teed

  7. #5
    Administrator VIPStephan's Avatar
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    That’s more a career and business advice subject, I guess. But anyway, I don’t have much experience with large from-scratch projects either but I am currently witnessing the process of a preparation of a major website redesign of my girlfriend’s company and there’s a lot of planning ahead of the actual development. So, while a year is probably a long time you should calculate at least half a year for everything from organization, desgin back and forth, programming and implementation, testing functionality, etc. It may take less time but experience with smaller projects has already taught me to calculate more (time and price) than upon first thought.

    Then the first thing is to write a detailed specification sheet where every requirement is listed. After that the design process is starting with wireframing and specifying the basic layout and user interaction (what happens upon sign-up, what happens if the user does this and that, where are certain sections placed on the site, what’s more and what’s less important, etc.).

    Then, based on the vague information you gave, it seems like the major subject of the site is going to be an online shop, so that would be the software to look for. There are some free open source solutions on OpensourceCMS that you can evaluate. I guess all CMSs are more or less modular nowadays so specific things like user accounts and recommended items can be added as modules later on. If the budget is not a big concern you may also hire a programmer to write a custom module for you if one with your requirements doesn’t exist. Of course, there is also commercial ecommerce software which micht be equally good or better (dedicated customer support or whatever) but that’s something you have to decide.

    Now, me witnessing the process in my girlfriend’s company, I am also witnessing the quote they gave, and while they have indeed a very complex redesign I guess you could very well ask for like 10,000 €uros (or whatever currency you’re using). Of course you’ll have to determine that based on the requirements of the client, but don’t forget to count in the time you spend on organization, communication (even before you have an agreement), etc.; this all should be counted in. Determine roughly the time each of the above mentioned steps may take and/or calulate these based on your previous experience with smaller projects.

    I hope I could give you a start at least. Good luck.

  8. #6
    Regular Coder ajhauser's Avatar
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    Thank you both for the helpful response, please excuse my delay in responding:

    1. The store is set up with a database / inventory system already called "The General Store" - ever heard of it?

    2. As much as I appreciate the free suggestions, I am more interested in finding something that can be scaled to medium business - not enterprise or franchise yet, as I assume when we get to that point we would overhaul. I am familiar with setting up Access and Filemaker databases - so while that doesn't help MUCH, it should keep me from making a few bonehead mistakes.

    3. Dave the online payment processing / bank thing is a great point.

    I am ready to tackle a project this size, I just need to get some suggestions on setups that would really be suited for what I'm trying to do here. I have no problem with an "out of the box" or "canned" solution as long as it can be completely tweaked...

    Sorry if I'm being redundant - just trying to get my bearings.

    What might be some of said canned setups?

    Thank you both so much, this is extremely helpful!!!!!

  9. #7
    Regular Coder ajhauser's Avatar
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    I would also be willing to pay a "guide" throughout this project, especially if they are local or willing to walk me through this first one.

  10. #8
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    Some food for thought for what it's worth.

    1) Find out what state the data in their database is in...ie..will you have to "massage" it to get it to a useable state.

    2) Can the server side language you will be using (PHP, ASP, JSP. whatever) "talk" to the database directly or via something like ODBC?

    3) If their current database is not useable, will you or your client do the data migration to a suitable database.

    4) Depending on your skill level and interest, consider
    a) designing your own eCommerce database,
    b) building your own shopping cart and integrate something like Paypal's Website Payments Standard to handle online payments.
    c) build your own backend CMS for the store owner to add/edit/delete categories and products.
    d) build your own database driven store front for shoppers to browse and make purchases.

    If you have a reasonable grasp of html, css, php, mysql, sql and javascript you could do all of 4) in up to about 6-8 weeks including testing etc etc.

    Then you will have a robust complete eCommerce application you can customise to individual clients' needs in the future.
    Last edited by bullant; 03-24-2011 at 04:55 AM.


 

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