Like many computer programmers, I have a weird fascination with bright, attractive, modern-looking interfaces.  Its almost unhealthy.  GMail and Sharebuilder and many of the other sites I visit on a daily basis have good use of AJAX (well, OK, Sharebuilder’s is obnoxious — but it sure is shiny!) and I think it, in general, adds to the experience.  Unfortunately, I have the web-programming ability of a newborn squirrel, so I was resigned to always having my website look and feel a wee bit frumpy.  Granted, the open source design at least lets me have coordinating colors and an attractive look, but the ordering pathway, for example, is rather abrupt.

Until now.  e-junkie, who I use to handle payment processing (Paypal takes the money, e-junkie sends out the key), has made some significant improvements recently.  First, they started taking Google Checkout, which as I mentioned earlier greatly increased my interest in Google Checkout, since it would greatly decrease the costs to switching over from Paypal.  Then quite recently (I got an email about it within the last 48 hours) they rolled out what they call a Fat Free Cart

Its actually much more fun to play with the cart than it is to have me describe it to you.  Run on over to their page or to my test purchasing page which incorporates it and have a looksie.  (That link will go bad within 48 hours.  If it has already gone bad, try my normal purchasing page.)

Anyhow, here is me trying to describe it in words: the cart is a very, very slick interstitial popup over your website.  You can clearly see the original site’s branding in the background, but you can’t interact with it while the cart is up.  The cart seemlessly integrates both Paypal and Google Checkout — just click the checkout button on the bottom and you’re wisked over to the appropriate page to complete your transaction.  e-junkie handles all the email sending and key generation (assuming you use that option) in the background.  At the end of the transaction, your customer ends up back at your website at whatever page you’ve specified.

The best part: it took me 45 seconds to integrate the cart with my page.  Take Javascript code, copy-paste.  Update Buy Now URLs.  Done.  Everything else is accomplished by their significant web-programming wizardry, allowing me to get back to the important business of getting Bingo Card Creator 1.05 ready.

I’m told there will be support for volume licensing added to the cart within 2-4 weeks.  This makes me unspeakably glad because I’ve wanted to offer it (and have offered it), but it was previously incompatible with e-junkie.  As a result, I used eSellerate.  With this coming right around the corner in the cart I have given eSellerate the old heave-ho.  They can keep the $90 or so in sales (I never made it up to $100 there to trigger them writing a check) — I’m quite glad to be done with their quirky interface and murderously long ordering path.  Plus with the Fat Free Cart (sidenote: does this strike anyone else as a silly name?) I get Google Checkout as another payment option “for free” in terms of marginal effort, so I no longer have to keep prices/keys/product descriptions/emails synched around two payment providers.  From the POV of my customers, Paypal and Google Checkout are distinct.  From my point of view, I control both through my e-junkie control panel (which, if you haven’t seen it, is one sweet AJAX app if I do say so myself).

I continue to advise anybody and everybody just starting out on their uISV to use e-junkie.  Its cheap ($5/month) and it gets you back to doing your business in a matter of minutes, rather than worrying about boring payment processing trivia.  Their customer support is also fantastic.  Obligatory disclaimer: although I probably praise them enough to be an honorary member of their marketing staff, I’m not compensated in any way for it.  Well, aside from the fact that they help me make a couple hundred dollars every month.