Software designs
to improve business

For their senior projects, Julian Tucker and Judy Vo created an online shopping cart and product review system for a skateboard and snowboard merchant, while William Cummings devised an online job posting board for use by any employer.

The students, who were in the Business Analysis Seminar in IT class taught by business information technology assistant professor Alan Abrahams, were among six students who displayed their web-based software work during “BIT Senior Project Showcase Day” in the Pamplin atrium last fall.

Designing a shopping cart for different user categories

In his project report, Tucker noted that the technology had to serve three categories of users. “The system must allow the store owner or employee to manage stock and process and ship orders and should store product information in a standard, simple, naming convention.”

System administrators should be able to add users and assign privileges, and add, edit, or remove products and product information. Lastly, customers should be able to pay, using various methods of payment; calculate shipping costs; and add, edit, or remove orders or shopping cart items. The system should also be able to store customer information and allow customers to rate products.

An impressive accomplishment

“Everything looks great. I am impressed with how easy the site is to navigate through,” said Daniel Johnson, owner of Greenhouse Boardshop, which has brick and mortar stores in Blacksburg and Roanoke, Va. “It actually makes me want to add a shopping cart on to our present blog-style site.” Johnson, who had been in contact with Tucker in particular on the project, noted that “Julian has been a pleasure to work with.”

The students in his class completed data and process analysis, design, development, testing, deployment, and monitoring for their projects, Abrahams said. “All projects were developed in Drupal 6, a popular open-source, content-management framework based on the PHP programming language and the MySQL database management system. The projects were deployed live on a commercial web hosting account, giving the students experience with popular hosting platforms, like the cPanel control panel.”

Developing a product review system

In her report on the online product review system she developed for Greenhouse, Vo noted that the objective was to educate users about product performance during the purchasing process. “It can be classified as a low-risk, high-return project,” she wrote, requiring “minimal resources.”

The product review system will directly benefit three shareholders: the customer, manufacturer, and Greenhouse Boardshop. “The system will make it easy for customers to post reviews on a product, which will assist other customers in their purchasing decision. Manufacturers will benefit from direct reviews on the quality/functionality of a product for future production. Greenhouse can also use this information to determine market demand for a particular product and control inventory levels.”

Vo identified the system’s three major components: product information, including product name, the stock-keeping unit code, description, and price; product ratings comprising the user’s rating and the official or aggregate rating (“displaying both separately shows a more trustworthy representation of how the products perform”); and custom searching, to allow shoppers to quickly find products they’re looking for.

The system has log-in/log-out capabilities, a comment field for summaries of the product’s strengths and weaknesses, a product field to hold detailed product information, and a rating field. The system also supports a product list, which allows users to view all reviewed products, displays the official rating, and is searchable by key words.

Alan Abrahams, Judy Vo, and Julian Tucker
Professor Alan Abrahams (left) and students Judy Vo and Julian Tucker get ready for BIT Senior Project Showcase Day last fall, where visitors also enjoyed some of the 150 pounds of candy donated by The Hershey Company for the occasion. Vo has since graduated and is working at Noblis, Tucker has also graduated and is now at Deloitte.

Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Magazine Spring 2011

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