|Customizing Setup and Operations
The web-based DynaSpecs System for easy, extensive customization
|Dynaprice does minimal hand-customization for the data services it delivers to each of its clients.
Building hand-customized systems for each client, an approach typically used by less-experienced firms, yields high software maintenance costs, delays and inflexibility for systems improvements, and, sooner or later, client dissatisfaction.
Instead, Dynaprice has made a heavy investment in a separate, web-based system to automate the creation and maintenance of each client's customizations. We call it the DynaSpecs System. We know of no other firm that has anything like it.
"Hooks" for hundreds of automated customizations, as well as for small pieces of client-specific code, are built right into the hundreds of "master software templates" we use. These master templates are married to each client's customization parameters to build its own custom business system. These master templates were designed from the ground up to support thousands of clients, each using a different set of customizations -- an investment unique to Dynaprice.
This Dynaspecs System is your assurance that initial, extensive customization will be reliably maintainable, without extra charges or delays in making changes, well into the future.
customize master software
templates into the separate
computer programs that
operate each company and
|With assistance from Dynaprice, client staff use the easy web interface of the DynaSpecs System to build a private set of design parameters for their company and for all the constituent venues they will operate.|
Using design tools within the system and pre-built components available in the shared DynaSpecs Library, they specify most of the customizations needed for their own business systems. These are stored (and readily changed) in a private, Company-secure segment of the Dynaprice-run DynaSpecs Database.
When a client is ready, Dynaprice runs a set of proprietary Application Builder Programs. These specialized computer programs apply the client's specifications to hundreds of master templates and build hundreds of custom, client-specific computer programs and HTML pages for each venue of each client.
It is these separate, Company-secure, highly-customized programs and pages that actually form and operate the distinct websites for each public and private venue. The hundreds of programs included can, in real time, provide tens of thousands of different, displayable web pages within each venue.
The venue-specific computer programs and pages, in turn, gather live data on listings, people, transactions, and the like from staff and public users. The live data is stored in a "Live Item Database" run as a condominium of separate company databases by Dynaprice.
Every record in the shared database is tagged for association with a particular company or venue. Each venue of each client can access only those records it is allowed to see. The custom computer programs that operate each venue enforce this security programatically.
By sharing use of the Live Client Database, clients gain all the advantages of collaborative marketing through networked market portals, as illustrated by "Client C" in the diagram at left. They also benefit from shared updating of user identification and contact information and assured economies of scale in operations and systems maintenance.
Setting up parameters
at the Company level
and setting standards for
|Only Dynaprice staff can set up a new client.|
Once a new client company has been set up, its assigned administrator has full independent control of its DynaSpecs parameters. He uses his own assigned User ID and Password to access his company's DynaSpecs records via www.dynaspecs.com. Dynaprice staff is available to assist him.
When he (or she, or a Dynaprice staffmember) logs in with a Company ID, User ID and Password at the DynaSpecs home page, he reaches the company's own "Home Page" within the DynaSpecs System. From this page he can create new venues and create or edit all DynaSpecs parameters for his company or any of its venues.
At the Company level, he enters identification information and can prepare master templates for several sets of DynaSpecs parameters that can be copied (as "company standards"), modified (as "customized standards") or replaced for use within each subordinate venue. Normally company standards would be set for:
- Basic Operating Parameters
- Communications Texts (with names changed for each venue using them)
- Interface Design (with perhaps only colors and logos changed for different venues)
- Product Classifications (with different venues using different subsets)
- Company Inventory Record (normally a rigid standard)
- Company-specific Descriptors (especially for the inventory record)
Company set-up includes name, address and contact assignment information, including:
- three forms of the company name (different lengths for varied layout needs)
- full postal address
- two phone numbers (administrative and real-time help)
- four email addresses (admin, sales, reports recipient, and CC list)
- one fax number.
In addition, it can include the creation of log-ins and records for company staffmembers who need access to company-level design parameters.
All these parameters are editable at any time, with changes implemented when desired under Website Management.
Setting up parameters
to govern how each
venue is configured and
how it will work
|The company administrator can create any number of new venues and place them in any desired hierarchical and functional relationship to each other. He can completely match a large firm's organization of subsidiaries, divisions and departments, if desired.|
When a new venue is set up, it "inherits" much of the name and address information of the parent company (set as defaults for change later) and can have as its administrator either a Company-level administrator already identified or another individual whose data is entered at the time of venue creation.
When a new company is set up by Dynaprice, a single, inventory-type venue is automatically created under it, with the company administrator as its administrator. This is simply meant to speed the final setup of the company and its subordinate venues.
Venue identification and contact information is the same as that for the company. Venues also have the same set of Basics, Communications, and Design parameters. They can configure each set of these parameters in two ways. They can simply choose from pre-built sets available in the shared DynaSpecs Library (default designs) or from their company (company standards). Alternately, they can start from any pre-built set, make modifications to one or more included specifications, and save the modified version under a new name.
Venues (and companies) may create as many alternative versions of each set of specs as they wish. They can, at any time, switch from one set to another to change the way a venue works.
Beyond the "A-B-C-D" sets of specifications (Address, Basics, Communications, and Design), venues also must be assigned operating specifications. These include:
- Venue Visibility Level (determining the visibility level of items shown)
- Item Visibility Level (determining the visibility level of listings posted at the venue)
- Inventory Source (determining the primary source of inventory listings shown)
- Listings Scope (determining the sources of listings if not from one inventory source)
These settings determine the relationships among different venues within the same company, and set up relationships among company venues and membership-based or fully public marketplaces and market portals.
All together, the settings for individual venues and for relating them to each other provide users of Dynaprice data systems with flexibilities to match organizational and strategic needs found nowhere else. And all may be set and changed at any time by assigned company staff, as independently as desired from Dynaprice.
Setting parameters for
names, timings, major
layout options, and custom
contracts and accounts
|This collection of DynaSpecs parameters provides a diverse array of customization opportunities:|
Customizing the wording
of emails and other
communications with users
|Each company and venue can shape its own "personality" by customizing most of the standard texts used to communicate with users.|
Currently, about 25 different pieces of text can be individually modified and combined into named collections; each venue can adopt any named collection available to it (from its own creations, from company-level collections, or from default DynaSpecs Library collections). When it selects a named collection, all component texts from that collection (some of which may be DynaSpecs defaults, some company-level, some venue-specific) are used to customize the associated emails and web page components.
Currently, most extensive customization applies to the extensive real-time messaging associated with auctions. The new-user "welcome message" is the notable customizable text for routine venue operations.
In addition to these texts, the words used on dealmaking buttons and their explanations are set in Basics, and all custom reports and contracts are individually designed.
Setting up alternatives
for shipping, handling and
payment terms assignable
to each listing
|From the Venue Operations console at each live venue, the administrator can set up a collection of alternative wordings for Shipping and Handling terms and for Payment terms.|
Each inventory listing at the venue can be assigned any of the alternative options available, for each type of terms, when it is posted by venue staff. Alternatives available within any venue are drawn from DynaSpecs Library standards, company options, and specially-created venue options.
Different wordings might be used for low-priced and high-priced items, for those requiring special packing and insurance and those that do not, and so on. There is no limit to the number of alternative sets of terms a company or venue can set up.
Public users do not have access to venue terms; they must key in (or paste in) their standard Shipping and Handling and their Payment terms for each listing they post (and take responsibility for them).
Customizing the user
interface for surplus sales
|Operations Page Customization|
Extensive customization of fonts, colors and related formatting for all but certain "home pages" is done graphically on the web with visual representations of most design elements within the "catalog" and "auction" components of a Dynaprice venue. Administrators simply click on the graphic visualization of each component, reset font face, size and/or color, and click a "view" button to see how the change looks. Formats for page base fonts, column heads, menu texts, form background shading, etc. are controlled by these settings.
Collections of changes are made this way, to each component of the venue. When the graphic visualizations look good, the Administrator saves the design under a reference name. There is no limit to the number of designs that can be separately specified and saved. Generally, a company-level design is set up and each subordinate venue makes minor modifications, often to colors only, so it is presented as a variation of the overall company "look."
The simulator-based customization facility applies mostly to the "body" pages of a venue, including menus; product listings, input, edit, and full information pages; dealmaking pages; the user's My Info page; etc. This "standard customization" is supplemented with hand-customized segments of each venue's "home pages."
Special Home Pages
Several web pages may be initially drafted at venue setup, but are really intended for extensive hand customization. These include are the following:
- The Home Page (which should be highly customized)
- The Pagetop Banner (which should reflect the custom home page design)
- The About Us page (which might well include custom links and graphics)
- The Contact Us page (which might include a staffmember directory and the like)
- The Terms and Conditions page (which might include legal texts)
- The Search Tips page (where other website usage advice might be offered)
When a venue is set up, a "dummy home page" may be constructed. The Venue name and additional text fragments supplied in a "Draft Home Page" form are merged into a "DynaSpecs standard" home page design, which includes a two-level menu summary based on the venue's DynaSpecs and a "Quick Find" search form. Most clients will want to add graphical logos and much more extensive design quality to this home page, then echo the resulting design on the draft pagetop banner also prepared at venue setup time. Customized versions of the pages listed above must be hand-maintained by client staff.
Adding client-unique elements
of the user interface
Building a flexible
product classification system
with menuing that helps
users find what they want
|A special facility is offered in the DynaSpecs System for building product category definitions and hierarchical groupings of these into classification systems.|
Product types (or "categories" or, more properly, "product classes") are generally specified within the shared DynaSpecs Library with a standard set of descriptors, to ensure compatibility across venues. This permits a listing in one venue to be displayed with identical substantive detail (but perhaps in different colors and formats) in other venues eligible to display it. These other venues may be public sales venues looking at a private inventory venue, a company-private redeployment venue sourcing listings from many different inventory venues, or a public market portal showing public listings from all clients.
Product classes may also be defined for use within only one company or one venue of a company. This facility might be used for "mixed lots" or "special deals" that are usefully aggregated across a particular company, but would not make sense to fold into worldwide, public markets. Company and venue administrators can use the DynaSpecs system to define such product classes.
Defining a product class entails giving it three names (of different length, for varied layout formats), setting up a series of "synonyms" under which a search by a user would find it, and adding such details as the number of decimal places in associated item prices. It also requires that a set of descriptors be linked to it -- to provide product-specific description and searching -- and that certain of these be selected as column heads for the comparative listings table for that product class. Dynaprice technical staff, with subject matter experts and leading clients providing assistance, design the descriptions for each standard class.
Once defined and placed in the DynaSpecs Library, a product class can be included in any venue of any client. This is accomplished simply by "linking" the standard class to the proper branch or branches of the venue's classification (menu) system, a quick and easy process.
Alias Names for Product Classes
The names used for a product class in the DynaSpecs Library need not be those used within a venue. Each venue may replace the "DynaSpecs standard" name with an "alias" name of its choosing. These alias names may even be in languages other than English.
This facility importantly recognizes that the same products go by different names in different industries or parts of the world. Differently-named versions of the class, however, retain their standard set of descriptors, to ensure compatibility thoughout the Dynaprice Network.
While product classes must be standardized for cross-venue sharing, classification and menu systems need not be. Each venue can organize the product classes it covers into its own, possibly unique, classification scheme. Normally, a company sets up a company-standard classification scheme and lets its subordinate venues include within them all or only selected parts of the company whole.
The DynaSpecs System web interface makes it very easy for a venue administrator to build his venue's classification scheme by using all or part of a company (or DynaSpecs Library) standard. He can quickly link his venue's top "ALL CATEGORIES" menu item to any or all of the first-level subordinates of his company's standard -- allowing additions to, and changes in, the company classifications to be reflected at his venue automatically. Alternately, he may "clone" a standard DynaSpecs or company-level menu into a venue-independent set of matching classifications; these will not change when an original source is changed, but must be updated separately.
He may also "cherry pick" DynaSpecs Library or company-level classification system parts, picking branches and sub-branches he wants to include and not picking others. He may pick some branches from one source model, others, from another. And he may create whole new classifications from scratch, linking them as higher-level or lower-level branches into other parts of his venue's menu structure. He does this using a web interface similar to that of an ordinary "outlining" system, adding, modifying, moving, or deleting subheadings under each other.
The topology of Dynaprice classifications is of the "web" type, not the "tree" type.
This means that a subordinate branch or individual product class can be attached to more than one higher-level grouping. For example, "Microscopes" might be placed under both "Lab Equipment" and under "Quality Control Inspection" within "Semiconductor Manufacturing Equipment." Such multiple-placement obviates annoying cross references and makes it easier for different users, with different usage contexts, to find what they want by pursuing the section of a classification system most like what they are used to.
Using structured product
detail to customize how
different kinds of products
are searched and described
|Structured product detail is one of the defining differences and advantages of Dynaprice business systems -- the quantity and quality of product-specific description used for listings display and searching.|
The DynaSpecs System makes it possible to describe each type of product with its own unique combination of up to 100 different "descriptors." Each descriptor is separately databased and searchable in a manner associated with its datatype, i.e., integer, measurement, date or text. Each is also associated with a type of web form element for the easy input of descriptive data or search criteria.
Following are the types of descriptors that may be defined and linked to any product class:
The process of defining new descriptors parallels that of defining an outline classification system. New descriptors are defined as to type and qualifications (prefixes, number of decimal places) and linked under menu headings to make them easy to find. The menu of created descriptors is then used when a new or changed product class is being specified: the product class is selected and descriptors are pulled off the menu for linkage to that class. Up to 100 of all types may be linked to each product class and they may be sequenced alphabetically with one button click or in any other arbitrary sequence using an easy web interface.
Column Headers for the Table of Listings
Well-defined product classes have a larger number of descriptors than would fit across a web page as column headers for the comparative table of listings associated with the table of listings for each product class. The DynaSpecs system facilitates the selection of up to eight descriptors (in groups or not) to be used as column heads for that table. The sequencing of these need not be the same as the sequencing used in the input/edit forms or full information page.
Similarly, most print catalogs prepared by lcients do not present all the available, detailed information on every product. DynaSpecs provides a simple interface through which the Venue Administrator can select, for each product type, which of the many available descriptors to include in the venue's print catalog.
Shortcuts to Speed Definitional Tasks
Shortcuts are available to speed development of large numbers of descriptors, maintain consistency of definition among similar ones, and simplify the specification of similar product classes with nearly identical sets of descriptors.
Object-oriented Inheritance of Descriptors within Product Groupings
When a number of similar product types are initially specified, they are generally associated with a grouping within a product classification system. With DynaSpecs, the whole grouping can be assigned a set of descriptors, and they will be inherited down to all subordinate product classes under design. Inheritable descriptors may be associated with each of several levels of a classification system and each subset inherited down across as wide or as narrow a scope as the level it is linked to. Subordinate classes may "disinherit" individual inherited descriptors before final specification -- an important aid to speedy specification -- and may individually sequence the descriptors retained.
Cloning of Descriptors and Product Classes
A new descriptor can be cloned from an existing one with one button click, another shortcut. For example, all kinds of measurements of length specified in inches and centimeters can be created as clones of "length," such as "inner diameter" and "space between housings." Similarly, a new product class can be cloned from a similar one (with all descriptors, qualifications and column head selection/sequences copied) at the click of a single button; when this is done, a new product class can be created by changing only the few descriptors that are different.
When cloning and linking of descriptors and product classes is done from the company level, all the defined classes, descriptors, and parameter sets of the shared DynaSpecs Library (as well as at the same company) may be used. When done from a subordinate venue, all predefined elements at both the DynaSpecs Library and the company-level may be used, as well as any defined within the venue itself.
Matching prior systems
or current copmpany needs
for standard data covering
items of all types
|All the facilities for defining descriptors and associating them with product classes can be used to define the data fields for an inventory record for each company (or subordinate venue, if different). Such descriptors as company-specific geographic codes, division names, warehouse locations, and the like can be created at the company level and mixed in with standard DynaSpecs Library inventory descriptors (like Date Purchased, Inventoried By) to create a set of data to meet any company's requirements. Up to 80 data fields may be assembled into the inventory record that will be associated with every listing in every product class.|
Special facilities in live venues permit searches across all product classes based on inventory record and other standard data fields, such as price, quantity, and headline.
By selecting fields that match or are compatible with those used in an old data system being replaced, uploading old records of inventory items into a new Dynaprice system can be simplified, with major reductions in time and cost.
Reports specially created
around client-custom data
records or requirements
|Custom reports are individually programmed by the Dynaprice technical staff to meet virtually any special reporting need of a client. Each can use any database table and search parameter in the entire system.|
Most custom reports are built around data structures unique to the client. These might include its classification scheme, its inventory record data fields, assignments of staff or users to client-unique selectors, its own geographic breakdowns, or contract add-on or distribution accounts. Custom reports can process and summarize accounting information. They can be built around a client's preferences regarding dates of coverage, formats, and so on.
Custom reports can be made very flexible. They can be designed for parameterization around any number of criteria, so the user can shape the content of a more general report format. They can be formatted for the screen, for printout, or even for emailing to a client-maintained list.
When a client has Dynaprice build at least one custom report, a new button appears on its Venue Operations page, providing access to the client's own Custom Reports page. On that page is listed all the custom reports available, with an input form for selection of parameters for each. From the client's Custom Reports page, any report may be selected, parameters chosen, and results quickly obtained.
Most custom reports can be programmed in one day. Some, however, require additional time to make preparatory changes to inventory records, updates to live data, and so on before they can be implemented. Dynaprice develops custom reports on a time and materials basis after providing a rough estimate of cost.
Design of formal contract
documents and accounts
|Dynaprice inventory venues can convert one or more "agreed" transactions with a single respondent into a multi-line contract. This is an optional feature which requires the prior setup of client-specific forms of agreement, attachments, accounts, and the like.|
The forms used for printed contracts are pre-designed as client-customized documents, flexibly laying out structured information from the Dynaprice contract skeleton on company letterhead, if desired. The Dynaprice contract skeleton has several document and accounting elements:
The way live contracts are formed from agreed transactions and the way they are used is described more fully under "Dealmaking."
Custom contact forms and attachments are, in the manner of custom reports, programmed by Dynaprice technical staff. They are prepared to client satisfaction on a time and materials basis after a rough estimate of cost is developed from review of text matter provided by the client.
Creating draft home pages
and rebuilding custom programs
to implement changed specs
|The setting up of venue parameters, including creation of product classes and descriptors as needed, occurs within the DynaSpecs System. This activity is completely disconnected from live operations.|
When all or a major subset of venue specifications are complete, they must be converted into the programs and web pages of the live system that will run the venue. The decision to call a certain amount of specification work ready for implementation can be aided by progress reports and documentation of completed specifications automatically prepared within the DynaSpecs System.
When the administrator is ready, he chooses the "Manage Website" activity for his venue and is presented with a set of buttons to implement his specifications (or changes in them) in his live system. Buttons permit separate implementations of: 1) the inventory record; 2) the product-specific pages (data input/edit, display, etc.); 3) the draft home page; and, 4) the non-product-specific pages (transactions, venue operations, etc.). It takes only a few seconds or a couple of minutes to convert the most complex set of design parameters into working venues.
Once a venue has been "rebuilt," it can be tested, problems identified, specifications changed, and rebuilt easily and as often as needed. Similarly, venues may be built in stages, perhaps a product category at a time, for the convenience of the venue administrator.
Ensuring that live item data
is correctly and economically
updated with changes in
product database tables
|Most ordinary catalog systems use a separate database table for each type of product that is differently described. This is such a cumbersome technical burden that most don't even bother to have differently-described product types, but list as descriptors the same set (e.g., Make, Model, Description) for all.|
Systems that do provide for product differentiation in the standard way often require expert database administrators and computer programmers to handle changes in all the database tables set up for all the different product classes, and all the web forms and computer programs that refer to those tables. This talent-based, manual work is very expensive, error-prone (requiring extensive debugging, and time-consuming -- especially if hundreds or thousands of different tables and related forms and programs are involved and if hundreds or thousands of live items described in an old table format must be updated to a changed table format.
But there is no such thing as a "finished" product specification. Even after many live listings have been posted, product definitions will change. The burden of changing both the tables and the live data cannot be avoided.
Dynaprice has uniquely invested in automating as much of this work as possible -- though its "Data Preservation" routines. When the descriptor or column head specifications of DynaSpecs product class are changed and the changes implemented, all tables, programs, forms, and live data are updated to the new database structure automatically, with virtually no cost, risk or time delay. Not all respecifications can be handled in this way (some require conceptual redefinitions of descriptor sets), but over 90% can be handled as additions, deletions, and resequences of descriptors and multiple-choice options.
Data preservation assures Dynaprice clients that the value of structured product detail can be obtained without risks and costs of change in the future.
Managing complex product
description specifications and
highly customized business
systems with maximum
economy and ease
|The unique concept of a "Product Data Server" distinguishes the technical architecture of Dynaprice data services.|
The diagram below illustrates how a single collection of data interface code sets, one for each type of differently-described product or service, is associated with and used to access the central live item database.
The unique programming code for each client's (or market's) business system is generated by the "Client Venue Application Builder Program" from parameters entered into the Dynaspecs parameter database. When a client or market system needs to use the live product database, it uses internet server technology to "include" within its own program the execution the database-associated, type-specific interface code set for the selected product type.
A single copy of the code set for each product type is created by the "Product Class Data Interface Builder Program" from Dynaspecs parameters. It is stored on a central "Product Data Server" computer linked to the live item database. When a new product type is added or the specs for an existing one are changed, that Builder Program is used to convert the new or changed parameters to new or revised data interface code on the Product Data Server, and all associated client product records are restructured to the new data schema; the changes are then immediately available to all clients and markets without any patching or updating of their customized business systems.