E-commerce wrap-up: What a ride!

Sit back and watch the money roll in! I started this e-commerce series on my blog with only a vague idea of how it would all come together. Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot along the way. I had this crazy idea that Zoho Creator could be used to create an online catalog of products or services to embed in your Web site, which led me to try experimenting with using this same idea to automatically create the appropriate PayPal codes for every product entered into the catalog. The idea sounded great, but I had to delve deep into the Zoho Creator and PayPal codes to try to make it all work.

Although it took me a long time to get everything working the way I wanted it to, I think it was worth the effort. I’ve had some great feedback from my readers about this series, even from the Zoho Creator team! I appreciate all of the support you’ve shown me.

One of the comments I received was from Pete Thomas, author of the ShareTactics and Land of ZC blogs. Share Tactics explores how technology and the Web are changing the way we live and work. Pete has dedicated his Land of ZC blog to “all things Zoho Creatorish,” and he has an amazing collection of ideas for what people can do with Zoho Creator. His work goes into far greater depth than anything I’ve been able to do. His blog really pushes the limits of Zoho Creator, covering topics such as:

  • Creating a hyperlink directly to an editable version of a single record within your application. This can be very useful if you are using Zoho Creator to generate registrations for individual users, or need the ability to allow users without Zoho accounts to edit records in a private application.
  • Encrypting Zoho Creator Data. This is a nice way to ensure that a publicly-available application can only be viewed by authorized users, or on a Web site that you control. Because public applications are indexed by search engines, this is a nice way to protect the private information people may submit in your forms.
  • Backup your Zoho Creator data to Dabble DB. Sad to say, this is something I never even considered when I started building my online catalog. While it’s not a problem for me (since I currently only sell one item), this is very useful information for anyone who plans on creating a large catalog (or any other application) with Zoho Creator.

In addition to these and many other useful posts, Pete has also taken it upon himself to interview the Zoho Creator team to find out what makes them (and Zoho) tick. I will be using the Land of ZC and ShareTactics blogs a great deal as I explore new ideas for building a dynamic Web presence on a “limited” (read, nonexistent) budget.

So, while you sit back and watch the money roll in from your online store (hopefully), you might be wondering where we go from here? To be honest, I haven’t made a final decision, but I have several ideas in the hopper. I’ll be taking next week off for Labor Day, so that will buy me a little time. I think, however, that I’ll probably start a new series on creating enhancements for your Web site. I’ll use Zoho Creator for many of these enhancements, so it might not be a bad idea to go over them now, while we’re all in the Zoho Creator mood.

Most of the enhancements I’m working on are built to provide workarounds for the deficiencies with Microsoft Office Live Basics (MOLB). If you were with me earlier this summer, I mentioned that anyone could register a domain name and start their own personal or business Web site absolutely free, thanks to this new service from Microsoft. Unfortunately, however, there’s not much you can do with the site using the tools available, aside from just creating a Web site with a variety of different pages. However, the free domain name registration, free Web hosting, and free slew of e-mail addresses offered definitely make the service worthwhile. But I wanted to build more interactivity into the site, as well as to create more dynamic content. I have several ideas in mind, which I’ll explain in detail in the next few posts. One of my ideas is to create your own Content Management system. For example, you could have one page (details.aspx for example) that would display any details you specify, depending on the attributes you provide. While the structure of the page would remain unchanged, the information displayed would be different for details.apsx?page=27 than for details.aspx?page=4. Another (very similar) idea is to create shortcut URLs for your site. Rather than point someone to http://lockworldherald.com/documents/catalog.aspx, I can point them to http://lockworldherald.com/?page=catalog. There are two primary benefits to this. One is, obviously, to shorten the URL (especially if you are linking to pages outside your site with longer URLs). The other benefit is the ability to create multiple shortcuts pointing to the same destination. For example, I could also point people to http://lockworldherald.com/?page=products, which would take them to the same destination as page=catalog. Also, rather than editing the information on a static Web page, you could create one (or many) Zoho Creator applications to hold the specific content for you. Instead of editing the whole page, you could edit portions of the content individually. This series will make use of another great Zoho Creator feature—JSON scripts, which allow you to access the data in your applications via JavaScript. Ultimately, I’d like to find ways to practically build your site as a single page that could serve up different content based on these attributes. Although I’m not quite there yet, I am very close.

That’s all for today. Thanks again to everyone for showing such interest in and support for this blog! I look forward to starting the next series after Labor Day.

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