A recent article in Internet Retailer notes that speed sells on ecommerce sites. At the same time, consumers want more rich features that can, consequently, slow down their sites’ performance if not implemented correctly. I’m excited to introduce our new Learning Search with AJAX, which addresses both of these issues.

Our Learning Search with AJAX doesn’t require a page refresh each time a user conducts another search query, selects a refinement, switches between grid and list views, reorders the results or clicks to the next page. In any of these instances, only the data that is needed is requested from our servers so the results can appear much faster. This gives a snappier, more engaging search experience that makes me smile every time I use it – and hopefully it will have the same impact on your customers.

We’ve put a lot of work into making sure that the search still works as your customers expect it to. You can still use the back button on the browser to go the previous page. You can copy the URL and send it to a friend, and they’ll see the same page as you do. These simple, everyday features required careful design so that the AJAX search matches users’ perceptions of how a webpage works. Our AJAX search also works with our merchandising controls, meaning that banners, landing pages, tuning rules, and so on still work as they do on normal search results pages. Our AJAX search also works if you are using SLI for some or all of your navigation pages.

We have designed the AJAX search with web search engines in mind. Although Google has announced a proposal to crawl AJAX pages, they and other major search engines currently do not crawl such pages. SLI’s AJAX search includes a non-JavaScript version of the search and navigation pages – in other words, your existing landing pages and navigation pages are still available, so the crawlers from the web search engines will be able to access these, as will any of your visitors that have JavaScript disabled.

You can see how our AJAX search works on our customer’s site, Footwear etc. Some of our beta customers have seen significant positive impact in their sales following the rollout of Learning Search with AJAX.

AJAX search is currently in Beta testing but will be available as an upgrade to existing SLI clients starting in January 2010. Contact your Customer Success Manager about creating an AJAX version of your search. If you’re not a current SLI customer, we’ll still consider building you AJAX search at no cost, which qualified customers can try out for free for a month.