School bake sales not withstanding, you don't normally think e-commerce when someone mentions a K–12 school. In fact, the traditional bake sale or holiday fund-raiser is what most schools have normally relied upon in order to generate funds for special events.
Center Park School was (emphasis on the word "was") no different, prior to the design and implementation of their Web site. But the school administrators knew from an early stage that they wanted to take advantage of the generous (and technology savvy) nature of their community, so that describing "Center Park School" and "e-commerce" in the same sentence would not be a misnomer.
Indeed, very early in the site design meetings, you told the administrators that a functioning online store was something very much within their reach. You also said that by integrating it with the larger functionality of the site, the store could be seen as a natural component of the overall site, and not just a "gimmick" or something that was gratuitously placed just in order to try and raise money.
But the relative technical ease of implementing an online store masks the underlying complexity in the business processes needed to keep it functioning, and to satisfy customer relationship management (CRM) requirements. Put simply, just because you can list something for sale on a site doesn't mean that it's easy to actually sell it! You need to consider such things as billing, inventory control, shipping, and (as it relates to CRM) ensuring that the customer has a pleasant experience at your online store, and thus wants to come back for more. Granted, the Center Park store is fairly small potatoes compared to something like Amazon.com, but the basic principles still apply: presenting items for sale in a easy-to-access format, providing a smooth process from item selection to check out, and ensuring that the customer has a good experience.
You would be hard-pressed to visit a major Web site and not find a part of it dedicated to selling something. The everyday user doesn't know how much work goes into creating an online store. Because of the difficulty involved in creating an online shopping cart—due to the lack of a straightforward approach to doing so—there are almost as many different implementations of shopping carts as there are online stores. In this chapter, you'll learn one way of creating a shopping cart that resides solely on the client's computer. This chapter will use many techniques presented throughout this book, but will rely heavily on cookie processing, which was presented in Chapter 11.
There are really three different parts to a shopping cart. The first part is the page or pages wherein items are added to the cart. The second part is a page where the user can view the current contents of his cart and remove items from it, if necessary. Last is the checkout page— every good store needs a checkout counter, and online stores are no different.