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This evaluation study was conducted to determine whether or not a dynamic website can be used to a great effect on a basic brochure website. The research was aimed to assess how a dynamic website can be used to improve a business and help it to find potential new clients. Could a website be used as a cost effective alternative to hiring new sales staff. Research was also conducted to see if a PHP CMS could be used for clients who have no knowledge on HTML to update the website at a later date.
The research sampled three languages available that can be used to build dynamic websites. These languages were called ASP.NET, PHP, and JS. The research took the form of a qualitative research interview with various members of staff.
The client is called Ringwood Investments and specialises in property portfolio management. The client currently consists of three members of staff. Ringwood Investments buys and sells property usually at a discount or where a short time frame to completion is needed. This usually means that when the conditions are an attractive option in terms of profit. Ringwood Investments also buy attractive properties to add to their rental portfolio.
As Ringwood Investments are moving more into the investment side, a website is needed that will help the company grow its already numerous funding lines with a number of commercial banks. The website was created to attract private investors rather than short term bridging loans to pay for future property purchases. Ringwood Investments feel that they are now at the stage where they are dealing with larger corporate lenders and as such, they need to have a professional website to show that they are a legitimate and professional company for clients and possible investors.
The project has delivered a website that showcases the properties that Ringwood Investments has to offer in a clean and professional design. This was tested by asking fifty random people with varying levels of computer knowledge. The website meets all W3C standards in XHTML 1.1 and CSS3. The website was tested using W3Cï¿½s own website validation tool.
The client had requested a website which displays their current portfolio of services that can also be easily updated by people with no knowledge of web design or coding. The company had had a previous website that did not meet the needs of the company. According to the client, it was slow, had no CMS installed, and looked very amateurish. They removed the website from the server.
An explanation of the acronyms used in this research project
1NF: First Normalised Form
2NF: Second Normalised Form
ASP.NET: Active Server Pages
CRUD: Create, Read, Update, Delete
CSS: Cascading Style Sheets
CMS: Content Management System
HTML: Hyper Text Markup Language
META: A form of data that describes data
MySQL: My Structured Query Language
PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor
UNF: Unnormalised Form
W3C: World Wide Web Consortium
XHTML: eXtensible HyperText Markup Language
UK: United Kingdom
Ringwood Investments has been in operation since 1997 and currently own a portfolio of around fifty premises throughout UK and also owns a few properties overseas. Ringwood Investments has previously paid for a website and was let down with the service they received. As such, Ringwood Investments have been highly sceptical of the website playing a part in the business growth and restricted options to be implemented into the website.
The company however, understands that Ringwood Investments need a positive online presence to be able to attract new clients for portfolio and property management. The company have already paid for a domain name RingwoodInvestments.com..
None of the staff have any knowledge of web site design and with the Managing Directors apprehensions; this restricts options available for future website expansion.
Ringwood Investments are looking for a professional looking website that will attract private investors rather than the short term bridging loans that they currently use. The website will be designed to build up company recognition and branding. Ringwood Investments also has a rentals department of the company, which is called Ringwood Properties but this wonï¿½t have an inclusion on the website as they are two separate concerns. The Rentals division is managed by the third member of the team.
This research will try and answer one main question, the question that will be addressed will be ï¿½Can a dynamic PHP website be used as a cost effective alternative to hiring new sales staff?ï¿½
To answer this question, a number of other questions will be considered:
Can HTML produce the same results?
Is a database required to complete the site?
What languages do other related websites use?
The answers to these questions will be addressed as follows:
The question ï¿½Can HTML produce the same resultsï¿½ was addressed in section x.x
The question ï¿½Is a database required to complete the site?ï¿½ was addressed in section x.x
The question ï¿½What languages do other related websites use?ï¿½ was addressed in section x.x
The principles set by Steyn explain that ï¿½Criteria according to which students have to evaluate their own learning should be formulated in such a way that they are familiar to the user. When the criteria refer to what is right or wrong, good or bad, ugly or beautiful or any other delimited parameters, it is important that everyone using these criteria agrees on the exact meaning of the parameters in terms of their application when evaluating. Consensus as to the meaning of criteria should be reached beforehand in collaboration with the participants in the evaluation process. The students themselves should be involved if possible.ï¿½ (Steyn, 1996) These principles will be the focus of the research answers.
Ringwood Investments plans to build an online presence that can compete against most known larger rivals and unknown future competitors. The websiteï¿½s function is to gain future clients interest in Ringwood Investments services and allow contact to take that interest further offline. To meet this function, RingwoodInvestment.com will be created as a brochure site. This means that there will be no sales online, the site will just act like a brochure, displaying information about properties, services and past history. Just information should be attractive enough to gain a personï¿½s interest to find out more, then the user can call the telephone number or email support for further information.
The company would like to expand their portfolio into the larger market and need a worldwide presence to meet this goal.
The company would also use the site to show investors that Ringwood Investments are a professional, legitimate company whilst showing clients that any property portfolios that Ringwood Investments manage are of a very high standard and will steer clients in the right direction for building their own portfolio or to help if people have a property or land to sell.
The aims of Ringwood Investments are to generate enough traffic into the website and become a market leader for property portfolio management. They also aim is to increase website enquiries which will then lead to profitable and lucrative offers for future property management.
The aim of ringwoodinvestments.com is to be an easy to use website and also be easy to update as and when required in a secure manner by Ringwood Investments. The website will also help develop the mailing list for future clients wanting property management.
The website will assist in finding new clients who are looking for new properties. The website will provide results for the client which reduces the research workload for Ringwood Investments staff. Ringwood Investments will always monitor email and telephone calls during business hours so that they can step in and assist whenever possible.
In relation to the website, Ringwood Investments want clients who may be interested in purchasing any of our portfolios to have a look and get more information regarding specific properties.
The website will also act as a point of contact to assist in marketing the Ringwood Investments brand and give the company a more professional appearance. Ringwood Investments has been managing property for over fourteen years and now need something to display that experience for investors and potential commercial lenders.
Objectives (extension of aims) for project
To generate the traffic for Ringwood Investments, the site will make use of popular focussed META keywords which will boost search engine rankings and create new back links to various other related websites and blogs to help achieve this aim.
The website will be coded using PHP and MySQL along with CSS and HTML. And a CMS will be created also using the same technologies that will allow pages to be created dynamically and allow users to update any properties and pages at any time.
The mailing list will be submitted to a database and the database will be connected to a popular mailing list management website called MailChimp.com. MailChimp.com will be used to send out future mail shots.
Currently, Ringwood Investments source properties through a variety of estate agents, websites, auction houses and also through the current network of contacts.
Ringwood Investments are always online looking at sights such as Rightmove.co.uk, Fish.co.uk and FindAProperty.com. Part of the network of contacts includes local estate agents who are asked multiple questions about properties currently on the market or about to come on the market. They do this in person at viewings, online and over the telephone.
The third method of finding new contacts is to join many mailing lists that make Ringwood Investments aware of any upcoming property sales.
Ringwood Investments do have a lettings side, which is called Ringwood Properties that looks after the tenants and properties. Ringwood Investments has strongly hinted that they do not want any properties that are run by Ringwood Properties to be incorporated into the website.
Ringwood Investments are trying to focus more in the investment side of the business. Ringwood Investments have funding lines with a number of commercial banks but are really looking to attract private investors through the new dynamic website rather than short term bridging loans and are now at the stage where they are dealing with larger corporate lenders and now have a need to have a professional website to show that they are a legitimate and professional company for clients and possible investors to look at. They are looking to have a website that will build company recognition and branding. They are also considering a way to market properties from the website via a link to Rightmove.
Ringwood Investments currently operate in two ways. The first method is to find property on the internet through contacts and listening to word of mouth. They then contact the seller and try and advise them the best way to make a profit on the sale. This includes introducing them to an independent financial advisor and an independent solicitor if that is required. Then the client would be invoiced for the work completed and offer to stay on as the sellerï¿½s property portfolio management advisor until completion if it is required.
If Ringwood Investments decide to purchase the property themselves, they will negotiate directly with the seller and offer terms with cash, finance or part exchange. If terms are agreed, then Ringwood Investments will pay for an architect to view the property and instruct solicitors to do all the required legal tasks. Finally, the transaction will be complete and Ringwood Investments will have added a new property to their portfolio to be used in either rental, or as a future sale.
Ringwood Investments currently buys and sells property as part of their portfolio. Property is usually bought at a discount and Ringwood Investments specialise in properties that are available where a short time frame to completion is needed. Ringwood Investments will operate whenever the purchase is a good one in terms of profit or an attractive addition to add to the rental portfolio.
Ringwood Investments currently control over fifty properties throughout the UK and Europe that is used both in rental and sales.
Investigation of context, literature and/or other products available
In this research of limited scope, not much literature has been written about replacing staff with websites. However, older work was found and will be reviewed. An example would be
There are two main types of Research Methodology, Qualitative and Quantitative. Quantitative Research Methods uses number data such as questionnaire responses whilst Qualitative Research Methods is an analysis of data from sources such as interviews, objects and pictures.
For the purposes of this project, all research was completed using Qualitative Research Methods. The type of Qualitative Research Methods used was called case study.
In case studies, the researcher monitors a person or a group of people
Data was collected through observations, interviews and previous records. Therefore, research was carried out to see the strengths and weaknesses of the current system. As interviews are the most common form of Qualitative Research, this was used as the basis for the research. The reason it is so popular, is due to the flexibility of the interview and its processes.
The goals of this project are to create an operational dynamic website that introduces clients to Ringwood Investments. The website must be easy to use by clients and easy to update by staff with little or no knowledge of Hyper-Text Mark-up Language.
To achieve these goals, a crash course in PHP was undertaken using paid sites such as Lynda.com and NetTuts.com. The E-Commerce module was also very helpful in learning PHP for this project.
To find out more about Ringwood Investments, the members of staff was shadowed around the office for a few days. Qualitative research interviews were conducted with the three members of staff and questions was also asked asking them about procedures inside Ringwood Investments. This was done as the results are far more personal than if you ask the same respondents the same questions in a questionnaire. (Valenzuela & Shrivastava, 2009)
An online questionnaire was also submitted for networked web designers using Survey Monkey and it received *** respondents. The questions included questions about aesthetics, ease of use and navigation. The results then provided feedback on the quality of the site and sections was changed based on these answers.
To ensure that the website is accessible, the Ringwood Investments website has been designed in accordance with guidelines provided by the W3C. Compliance must be adhered to for a number of reasons. The website must be made available to visually impaired users as well as people with cognitive neurological disabilities. Conformations on this matter are actually a legal requirement under certain circumstances and in certain countries. (Brewer & Henry, 2006)
The website must adhere to all legal matters for the countries for which it is intended. One problem that arises from this is visitors from countries not targeted for. (Taylor)
Originally, five hand drawn images were presented to Ringwood Investments of which, two was returned as being acceptable for final use. As these designs were hand drawn in pencil, it was suggested that electronic copies would be made so Ringwood Investments could make a final decision.
When the two electronic designs were handed over, it became immediately apparent that one design stood out for selection. Ringwood Investments accepted the design and work was started on coding the layout of the website. Brief discussions held with staff showed that they favoured one layout that would be used throughout.
When the layout was coded, it was then uploaded to the server for final changes to be made. It was suggested to change the background and they asked for ideas for alternatives. The only alternative was quickly accepted by Ringwood Investments and it was quickly added to the site. The new background proved to be the final finishing touch.
Once the site layout was finished, the database was then designed. The database design went down to 2nf as it was felt that no further changes could be made.
The first table to be created was the content table. This was going to be used for the website to pull data from the database and display it on the relevant page on the site. It was created like this for easy website content updating by Ringwood Investments.
the real work on the PHP coding started. This work was undertaken using the waterfall process, a bi
Conclusions from the work undertaken
Evaluation of the work undertaken
The problems found
What you did to solve the problems
How you found the process
What have you learned
What you would have done differently in retrospect
What still remains to be done