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#1: If you mean through the main page only, yoursite.com/ Attempt to read a cookie on entry. If the cookie is found, direct to your default page. If it is NOT found, set the cookie and send to your visitor to the portal page. Note an important point: robots - including search engine robots - cannot provide or accept cookies, so they will likely never get past this page when spidering. Be sure your methods have workaround to allow them though.
#2: If you mean from ANY page of your site, same as above but you'll want to manage this at a server level. On Linux, this could be done using a combination of .htaccess directives and possibly mod_rewrite. There are similar tools for Windows servers if this sounds like what you want to do.
You'd apply the same principles as above, every request without a cookie gets sent to "portal page", otherwise they get sent to the requested page.
We sell thousands of items and ship from the US east coast. Our e-commerce software does not allow for multiple zones. Therefore, we either have to set a default shipping cost for each item or set shipping to zero and add it on later. The boss has decided on the latter. This is also a Very Bad Idea, but he is unmovable on the subject. He wants the customer to read and agree to a statement to the effect that we will add "reasonable" shipping charges at time of shipment. This has already caused some unpleasant confusion with customers as currently implemented, but he's the boss (and doesn't seem to take the web-commerce part of our business seriously).
How do other businesses handle shipping costs? Any words of wisdom are appreciated. Thanks.
You can't force anyone to read anything. Seriously. Our checkout process involves 4 steps. One of those steps we check stock. If an item is out of stock, it displays a page that says
"choose from the following:
- send what's in stock now and out of stock items as they come in at no extra shipping charge
- Hold entire order until out of stock items come in
- remove out of stock items from my order and continue
We still have people claim they saw no such thing when they order out of stock items. It's a radio button, all are unchecked when the page loads. They cannot possibly get past this page without selecting a button.
The only assumption we can make is they simply refuse to read the three simple lines that are designed to HELP them.
You've probably already tried, but forcing them to see a page is only going to annoy and they will probably never even read a word. It's just how people are. Mods here can testify to the # of URL's posted in spite of the obvious stickies in each forum!
Our e-commerce software does not allow for multiple zones....How do other businesses handle shipping costs?
My answer to this is to sign up for and USE the shipping API's for your shipper. Both USPS and UPS have XML-based API's to silently "query" their service and get a result. Pass the origin zip, destination zip, item's weight, (and dimensions for UPS - since you used the word zones I'm guessing that's what you're using) and the API returns a price in realtime. Add your handling charges and you will have a very accurate price in hand at checkout, and the entire problem goes away.
Not sure what software you're using but most of them do support integration with the shipping API's. I'd chase that one down as a solution, and would present it like, "instead of annoying our users and redirecting them to a TOS they'll never read, why don't we try doing it the right way?"