E-Commerce Solutions: An Apache Overview
Editor's Note: With this column Martin C. Brown begin his regular coverage of Apache and E-Commerce. This initial column maps out the burgeoning area of E-Commerce and what every Apache Webmaster needs to know about implementing E-Commerce on their site.With this column Martin C. Brown begin his regular coverage of Apache and E-Commerce for Apache Today. This initial column maps out the burgeoning area of E-Commerce and what every Apache Webmaster needs to know about implementing E-Commerce on their site.
If you go up to any IT professional and ask them what the hottest Internet buzzword is right now, they'll tell you its E-Commerce. But if you ask them what the term means you'll get a range of different answers. Most people will agree that it refers to some form of selling on the Web, others will classify it as a way of communicating more intelligently with users on a business level. Whatever the real classification of the term, it definitely indicates a better use of the Internet as a tool for making money.
To me this means more than a shop selling the latest CDs and DVDs, or even a portal site like Computer Shopper. E-Commerce also covers the service-based industries like the banking and the ability to pay your utility bills, all through the same web interface. The terms Intranet and Extranet have been around for a long time, and are nothing new, but E-Commerce is beginning to add a new dimension to a previously information only service. In fact, one of the biggest growth areas is in the business to business arena, where the use of E-Commerce technologies is allowing people to big on projects, exchange information, and work more cooperatively.
So, E-Commerce is the buzzword, but how do you actually produce an E-Commerce site?
Well, beyond the obvious elements of an idea and a product or service to sell, you'll need to solve some problems related to identifying and communicating not just with users, but also with the databases and other information sources that go to make up your site.
Here's a quick guide to some of the issues facing the E-Commerce developer that we'll be covering in future articles:
Whatever you're E-Commerce site aims to achieve, it's always useful to be able to track the user as they click through your site. Not only does it provide you with the hooks to provide customized solutions to individual users, it can also help you monitor which parts of your site your users really use. Session managment requires a simple suite of tools that support the creation of unique session ids, expiring old sessions and logging and tracking the session data.
Cookies provide a possible solution to the session management problem that goes far beyond a single user visit. Cookies reside in the user's browser and allow the user to be automatically identified by the site. They can also be used to store other information, including a list of the user's purchases or their display preferences. Using and managing cookies though can be complex, and you'll need to find ways round the problem of users who wont accept cookie data.
Template Driven Pages
Ignoring the issues of executing scripts on your website, you also need to provide a consistent interface between all of your pages. Even simple things like logos and copyright statements will need to be included into your pages. Adding this information manually to the end of each page is a nightmare - especially if you have to change it. It gets even more complex when you mix and match static pages and scripts.