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Serenata Flowers Proves AJAX for All Trades

June 7, 2006; 05:05 AM
Online flower boutique Serenata Flowers established itself as an Internet innovator with the launch of several new website features that show how ecommerce can engage in the Web 2.0 model popularised by community-driven sites.

The three new developments on SerenataFlowers.com – super-quick image loading, an intuitive product-finding filter and a product ‘quick view’ – have exploited the possibilities of AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) to enhance usability without compromising search engine optimisation or compatibility with disability guidelines.

AJAX, which enables a speedier, more responsive website by executing requests client-side as opposed to server-side, is one of the technologies driving the evolution of a second generation of web services and applications that deliver a richer, more collaborative user experience. Although Web 2.0 has been popularised by social networking sites such as Flickr, del.icio.us, and Google Maps, ecommerce companies have typically been slow to adopt the new paradigm.

Serenata Flowers will be enjoying more than just the kudos of being an early adopter, however. The AJAX implementations on the company’s website allow visitors to overcome the two main obstacles to online usability that are directly linked to poor sales.

Slow speeds on Serenata Flowers’ image-intensive website are now a thing of the past, thanks to a revolutionary download-minimising technique. High-resolution images are a double-edged sword: presenting the luxurious flowers at their best, but trying users’ patience as they take a long time to display. The new AJAX image loader now loads lower-resolution images to deliver instant visual gratification. Behind the scenes, high-resolution versions of the images are simultaneously downloaded and gradually replace the poorer-quality duplicates without the visitor noticing.

Meanwhile, the product wizard and quick view allow visitors to quickly scan and search for their flowers, filtering the catalogue by price, colour and product name. According to UIE.com, sites that reduce the need to pogo-stick between category lists and product pages can increase sales by as much as 225 per cent.

James Saunders, Head of Ecommerce at Serenata Flowers, is enthusiastic about the potential benefits of AJAX, despite its slow uptake by the UK’s online retailers: “There are very few well-known UK ecommerce sites that are using AJAX currently. Part of the reason for that is that the ‘best’ example is known to have cost $10m and therefore it’s perceived there is high cost associated with adding these types of features. In truth, it is pretty simple technology, and as long as you know the ‘gotchas’, creating improved experiences should be very cost effective.” Sounds like there could be even more avant-garde AJAX applications on SerenataFlowers.com in the coming months…

Serenata Flowers is passionate about flowers and totally committed to offering the best in floristry at affordable prices. It’s also the UK’s fastest-growing online florist and largest independent retailer of flowers. By cutting out middlemen, rejecting the relay network model, and sourcing fresh flowers direct from the best growers around the world, Serenata is able to deliver fresher, more luxurious flowers and pass on significant cost savings to customers.

With distribution centres in London and Birmingham, Serenata Flowers is able to offer same-day delivery of floral gifts to 70 per cent of the UK’s population and next-day delivery to the whole of the UK.




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