This sort of blew my mind. The Gap Stores (which include the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy) actually shut down to upgrade to a new AJAX-style interface. The New York Times has an article up about it.
I’m dumbfounded as to how (a) the business people would even allow that to happen, no matter the cost and (b) why they’d even have to shut down in the first place to get this done. As to (a), this is yet another classic example of hostage-taking by technology. The customers here (the Gap business itself) simply don’t have the prerequisite knowledge to question this kind of call. As to (b), the fact that the site even has to come down calls into question the architectural soundness of their whole e-commerce infrastructure. Mind you, I’m criticizing from miles away, but you can’t help but ask why.
If you visit the site through the front door, you’re turned away. However, you can actually play with the new interfaces here and here and here. Are they revolutionary? I don’t think so (despite the quotes in the Times article). I couldn’t help but notice how Flex-ish this all seems though. Anyone who doubted that AJAX isn’t a threat to Flex should compare the Gap sites to the Flex-powered TJ Maxx. In both cases, the application of next-gen technologies to improve the flow of the user experience is half-baked. TJ Maxx leans on Flex for the shopping cart experience while Gap focuses on the configuring the product and adding to cart portion. At this point, we’re still struggling with fitting this stuff into classic HTML-based e-commerce. Hopefully we’ll get to a day where we can look back and note how hoaky this all seems.