Guess what I’VE been doing?

From: walt@jamaicaninchina.com

Subject: Jamaican in China!—Guess what I’VE been doing???

Date: September 24, 2010 3:52:10 PM GMT+08:00

I suppose you might be wondering what I’ve been doing, and why you haven’t heard from me in a bit. Well, I HAVEN’T BEEN gallivanting on the Great Wall of China. I HAVEN’T been loitering in Lintong, Xian, Shaanxi Province, home of the Terra Cotta Warriors, NOR have I been encouraging shy girls to “Say Hello To Me!”

So, WHAT, you ponder, have I been doing? Well, I’ve spent the last three days sequestered in a 10 x 20 hotel room debugging a software program. That’s right! It’s as exciting as it sounds! Haven’t left the room for three days, fasted for two of them, all in an effort to get a software program working correctly.

Based on recent feedback from customers and friends, I now realize that the order process for my online products has way too many steps. Sign in, billing address, shipping address, confirmation, shipping confirmation, credit card information, and finally checkout. Wasn’t an issue before, but as people  get more impatient, and as other online vendors streamline their own order process, the bar is set higher for my own sites.

One customer, in particular, included the following comment when she placed her order (teachable moment, here, so pay attention all you potential internet entrepreneurs and future nomadpreneurs):

“The ordering process is too long…too many screen before the order is complete.   I really need this information so I was determined to complete this order.  Otherwise, I would have given up.”

A good friend had said pretty much the same thing a few days earlier. So, not being one to ignore messages from the universe, I set about finding a better shopping cart and found one with a one-page/one step checkout process! Once implemented, it would streamline the order process, encourage sales, and improve cash flow. There was only one little challenge….it didn’t work!!!

Well, actually, it DID work very well, except for one feature that didn’t seamlessly mesh with my existing checkout system. So, I set about debugging the PHP software to get it to work. My last three days in China have gone pretty much like this:

  • Get up in the morning
  • Stare at php code
  • Teach myself php code
  • isolate which file out of 6008 program files is causing the error
  • Deduce a fix
  • change a line of code
  • save the file
  • upload the file
  • Place a sample order with a sample product (enter my billing address, credit card information, click submit)
  • Receive an error message
  • Stare at php code
  • Teach myself php code
  • isolate which file out of 6008 program files is causing the error
  • Deduce a fix
  • change another line of code
  • save the file
  • upload the file
  • Place a sample order with a sample product (enter my billing address, credit card information, click submit) to test if my fix worked
  • Receive an error message,
  • Stare at php codeyou get the idea…At the same time, I’m submitting requests to the tech support department of the vendor, searching the online forum of current users of the software to discover if others have experienced and solved similar issues, posting to the forums, waiting for responses, implementing suggestions from experienced users…. As a last resort, I purchased vendor support and got a “patch” to fix the bug. However, the patch didn’t work. In frustration, I contacted the vendor, cancelled my order and requested a refund, and went to bed (now day two of my fast).

    However, I love a challenge! Never let it be said that I was bested by a software program.

    So, I got up today (Friday, and went at it again.) It would be a few hours until the vendor responded to my refund request, so I would attempt to get this thing to work one more time.

    Long story short (guess it’s already too late for that), at about 12 noon today, after practically rewriting the code of the errant file…..SUCCESS! Order complete! Features performed seamlessly!

    So, to celebrate, I went out into a cool Autumn day and treated myself to some fresh-squeezed carrot/apple juice, then some cucumber/celery juice, a little outing on the subway, and then on to my favorite restaurant!

    I’m still not finished, though. I’m back in the hotel room, and now that I’ve got the back end working (the important order-completion part), I still have to input all the products from all my websites, configure a few more features, customize the look of the cart and do some final tests. So, that should be another day or two here in the hotel, but there’s a light at the end of the PHP tunnel! See you on the other side, at which time, I’ll do my best to show you some more interesting things than the inside of a hotel room!

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