The benefits are obvious to Fairytale Brownies in Chandler, Arizona, which recently implemented AJAX to speed up the checkout process on its site. Founded in 1992 by childhood friends Eileen Joy Spitalny and David Kravetz, both 40, Fairytale Brownies is the nation's leading purveyor of mail-order gourmet brownies, with 2007 sales projections of $8.9 million. When the company recently redesigned its website to make its brownies look more appealing, it used AJAX to speed up the gift list checkout section.
"This gift list shows our customers who received gifts from them before," explains Spitalny. "It's a very popular feature, but we wanted to make it as quick and easy to use as possible."
Before AJAX, any change to addresses, ship dates, quantities or gift messages meant waiting for entire web pages to reload. But AJAX loads pages only once; changes need only small data updates. This translates into a smoother process that benefits not only customers, but also employees, who spend less time on the phone with customers.
Before implementing an AJAX redesign, consider the following tips from David Fry, founder, president and CEO of Fry Inc., an e-commerce design, development and managed services provider in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
1. Perform a usability test. Determine your goal in using AJAX and then select a small audience to try it on. If they like it, expand its use.
2. Make sure AJAX doesn't affect your search rankings. AJAX can distort search rankings because web crawlers have to parse the information differently. To get around it, you'll have to work with someone experienced with the issue.
3. AJAX performs differently with different browsers. Internet Explorer 7 is AJAX-friendly, but if you code your site to be compatible with IE7, it might not be compatible with IE6.
Melissa Campanelli is a marketing and technology writer in New York City.