The Order Form
The Order Chain
The Dagra Software CGI Program SORD.CGI
The Dagra Software Windows Program SORD_CC
We Do Custom Applications

A Simple Plan for eComerce on the Internet

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The system outlined here fits the model where up to ten or fifteen items are offered for sale and the expected load is less than a couple of hundred orders per day. The goal is to get up and running quickly without spending thousands of dollars to get started. The programs described below are fully tested and ready to implement on your Web site.
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The Website will contain (1) a listing of the goods that can be purchased, perhaps with icon sized product photos. Each item will then have (2) an HTML file with an expanded explanation along with photos, diagrams, specifications and anything else that is appropriate for that item. A single order introduction page (3) that explains what is expected of the user. Finally the order form (4) which is the only file in the stream that requires a secure connection. Website layout

The introductory page is an important part of this plan. It can be called from any number of places on the web site, yet it is independent of any particular product. The link to the order form establishes the secure connection. This is the only place in the entire web site with a need to access the secure server.

We have found that people are somewhat apprehensive when filling in a form that involves credit cards and spending money. The intro page is the ideal place for special instructions and is an opportunity to build the confidence level of the user. Equally important is the experience factor, the more experienced a user the less instructions are required. Instructions on the intro page can be scanned quickly by an experienced user while the same instructions on the order form are in the way and even tend to obscure important notes that must be there.

The secure order form should be kept as simple as possible. The simpler it is the less confused the user will be. It is advisable to design the form so the user can print it if desired and the fewer pages the better. The secure server must encrypt everything and the browser must decrypt it, this takes time. It is best to avoid images entirely or limit to a single small logo.

The maintenance of the site is easy because all of the components are normal HTML pages that are designed and created using the normal tools. Each product is listed in three places, the listing, the product explanation page devoted to it and the order form. When a new item is added most of the work involved is with the creation of the product explanation page. To remove an item it could simply be deleted or commented out of the listing and the order form.

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The Order Form

Our system uses a standard HTML order form that can be created or altered with a text editor or with standard HTML tools. The demonstration form also employs JavaScript to do the cost and tax calculations as the user makes selections. There are some considerations of the CGI program as the form is created. The form is a single section form with out nested sub-forms. This is a typical requirement of forms that call to CGI's. Fields within the order form have a special naming convention that conveys the purpose of the field to the CGI so that it can determine how to test the data in the field. With this signaling system the flexibility of the system is fantastic and changes at the form level do not require any changes to the CGI program. Details of the HTML form will be found in the sord.cgi documentation. It is important to remember that anything that can be misunderstood will be misunderstood.

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The Order Chain

Your customer on the Internet fills in and submits the order form. That initiates a chain of events that leads all the way to the shipping of the order. These steps are abbreviated to better illustrate the whole process, but are fully explained in the documentation for the programs.

  1. The secure order form is completed and submitted by the user.
  2. The Dagra Software CGI program receives the data and verifies some fields like users name and credit card number.
  3. The CGI then returns a generated HTML page for the user to verify if all tests passed and informs of the error if not. The user can use the browser back button to correct data in any field.
  4. After reviewing the verification form the user submits it for final processing.
  5. A confirmation is email is sent to the user by the CGI program and the order is sent to the company for fulfillment. The CGI then serves a generated page thanking the user for the order and displaying the order reference number.
  6. At the company a Dagra Software Windows program reads the newly received order and again verifies* that credit card information has been provided and is in the proper form. The order can be printed if you wish.
  7. Software provided by the bank for credit card authorization reads the records for the batch of orders and submits the actual key strokes of the person who filled in the form on the Internet for credit card authorization.

*Should the Dagra Software Windows program discover a problem with the data the order is written to an error file that can be edited when the correct information becomes available. The order will then be placed back into the data stream to be read by the bank's program and sent for authorization.

Note: Step 6 and 7 are optional, if volume is low enough the credit card authorizations can be done by calling the bank and reading the information over the phone.

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The Dagra Software CGI Program SORD.CGI

When the user submits the order form a call is made to the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) on the server that served the order form, in our case Lightlink. CGI programs or scripts come in many flavors, many are written in an interpreted scripting language named Perl. Ours are compiled programs that are written in C or C++. The advantage to C programs is that they are more secure as no read permission is required and they execute faster. Since C programs are compiled the environment encourages more discipline. The documentation is easier to maintain over time as it can follow versions.

SORD.CGI manages the data that is submitted from the form and tests fields for content as specified by the order form. If all tests pass, a verification screen with only field names and the users input is served for the user to double check. If any test fails an error explanation is returned with instructions that tell the user what to fix. For a complete explanation if the CGI program you can read the sord.cgi documentation.

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The Dagra Software Windows Program SORD_CC

Once the order is received by the seller the process has only begun for those who must account for it and ship the goods. You must:

  1. Determine that you have the goods that were ordered in stock and that the address is a shippable one.
  2. The credit card information must be submitted for authorization and the money encumbered.
  3. The goods must be shipped or delivered to the customer.

For a complete explanation if the of the Dagra Software Windows program for credit card order management you can read the sord_cc.exe documentation. This program will run on your PC and address the PTC program provided by the bank.

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We Do Custom Applications

The system outlined here uses all standard components that we can implement on your Web site quickly. However if you have special or additional needs we can accommodate them with custom extensions to these programs or with additional programs. We have experience with database design and creation including the study and planning phase. We interface C++ programs with databases, new or existing, for data import and data collection. For example we might want new orders to be written as records in your order database. After processing we might want to collect the credit card data and apply it to the software supplied by the bank for authorization. Our programs run on UNIX, Linux and Windows operating systems. We worked with the PICK system some years ago as well.

Note: These pages were designed to be printed as well as viewed on-line. If you hit the print button on your browser the result will be ready to punch and place in a notebook.

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