For the past 2-3 months we have been working hard to deliver (no pun intended) an online ordering system for Debonairs. Basically, we we were tasked to produce a website and mobi site which would enable Debonairs’s customers to order a pizza using their favourite internet browser. The sites went live a few weeks ago and I thought it would be useful to put together a short blog post describing the solution from a technical perspective.
Both the website and mobi site were developed using Microsoft’s ASP .NET MVC 2.0 framework with some slight modifications to the vanilla setup. We chose to use Spark as our view engine. Spark’s syntax is declarative and resembles HTML which enables us to integrate code seamlessly (i.e. our views don’t evolve into spaghetti code). This is not the sole advantage of using Spark, I would recommend taking a read through the documentation to realise the more important benefits. This is not the first project we’ve integrated Spark with, and we continue to enjoy working with it.
For the mobi site, we stuck with MVC but ensured that the markup produced by the server was XHTML-MP compliant. Given the nature of the mobile landscape, we were required to support a large number of internet enabled devices ranging from smart phones (such as the iPhone) to the hugely popular Samsung E250. For Mobile Researcher we use a library called Device Atlas which enables us to detect the type of device accessing the site and provide information regarding key capabilities. Given our experience with the product we used the same library on the Debonair’s mobi site. Images are automatically scaled and cached for devices accessing the site which ensures the site’s look and feel remains consistent no matter what resolution the relevant device sports. In time, we may begin enchancing the site for specific devices such as iPhones and Blackberrys.
For persistence we chose SQL Server 2008 R2 Web Edition. We have extensive experience working with both Microsoft SQL Server and MySql, however, we wanted to utilise Windows Workflow 4.0 as part of the solution and we didn’t have time to look at writing a custom MySql persistence service for the workflow engine. In any event, our selected ORM (LLBLGEN) enables us to target any number of database technologies so theoretically, we could switch over to MySql in the long term without too much work. From a code perspective, we implemented the repository pattern using custom LLBLGEN templates. At the repository level, queries were developed using LLBLGEN’s LINQ engine.
Windows Workflow 4.0 was used to handle longer running processes such as those invoked when placing an order. Once an order is validated, the order is serialised into XML and posted to a third party POS gateway which performs further validation and propagates the order down to the relevant store. There are number of failure points involved in this process hence the use of Windows Workflow. If the order is not successful (whether it reached the third party gateway or not) an SMS is sent to the relevant customer informing them of the failure. As you can imagine, there are a number of issues that could cause this to happen including network connectivity failures to the the third party gateway, connectivity problems between the stores and the gateway etc. We wrote a custom Workflow Application Manager that manages persistence and execution of Workflows which means the system is resilient against system reboots etc.
A Windows Service was developed to host the workflow runtime and provides the host for workflow execution. Besides order processing, the service handles menu synchronisation, store connectivity tracking and communication (email/SMS) services. To facilitate communication between the web and mobi-site, we used NServiceBus which leverages MSMQ. NServiceBus enables us to deliver messages to the Windows Service in a transactional context which is obviously critical.
As far as unit testing goes, we used a number of frameworks and libraries to facilitate the unit testing process. For the core testing framework, we used NUnit. For our mocking library we chose Moq. Moq simplifies the mocking process considerably as it exposes a fluent API. If you haven’t heard of Moq I seriously recommend checking it out.
Right now both sites are humming away on IIS 7.5. There is a lot more to come with a number of key features still in development/testing, the main being the ability to pay for an order using your credit card. All in all, the
implementation process has has been an exciting experience which has allowed us to leverage a number of new and useful technologies. Without resorting to butchering the idiom ‘the proof is in the pudding’, please think about placing your next order for a Pizza using one of the sites mentioned – we would really appreciate your feedback.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please free to give me a shout.