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The Icon Bar: News and features: Rich's Top 3 E-Commerce Sites

Rich's Top 3 E-Commerce Sites

Posted by Richard Goodwin on 00:00, 13/3/2000 | , ,
Now that RISC OS browsers finally have decent SSL capabilities, a lot of people are looking at which websites work well using these browsers. The following sites are a personal list of online shopping websites that I use all the time; they've been visited using Fresco with the 128bit SSL module, and I've bought goods from them at least once using RISC OS.
You can add comments to the bottom of this page, but if you want to submit your own favourite sites including a short exmplaination as to why you shop at those sites, what they sell etc. then please email us!
  1. Books: Amazon.co.uk
    There's a reason why this (along with it's big brother, amazon.com) is one of the best known e-commerce sites in the world - the selection of books is second to none, and the way they handle your order is pretty neat too (I never use the patented one-click ordering system, the regular flavour is plenty easy enough). You also get things like the recomendations service which looks at your past purchases and suggests something you might like. You can get email notification of changes to your account (such as an item being sent) and also news on new releases.
    It's more convenient than a trip to Waterstone's, and I usually want to buy more obscure books like graphic design tomes and programming manuals which your average highstreet store will never stock. However, for me personally I don't think the same style of site works for the video/dvd and audio CD sections; the amount of reading you have to do to get to the book you want is okay, but applied to videos it's a bit annoying.
    Another small gripe about a largely excellent company is that they charge postage at first class rates; it doesn't pay to make lots of small purchases, I usually lump as much as possible together; if one of the books isn't out yet they'll send what is available and send the rest on later, but only charge you the same as one big order, which is nice. Otherwise, if you only order in-stock books it's next day delivery.
  2. Videos: Blackstar
    This is the best video and DVD store online for oh so many reasons. They have a great range, true; but it's the amount of effort that they go through to give you a great service that impresses. You can search or browse through the many sections (for instance, there's three separate sections for Science Fiction, Futuristic and Fantasy rather than them all being lumped together), but you can also look at future releases up to three months in advance, and get a discount for ordering before the release date. There are always other special offers on too, not just on the website but in relevant magazines too - for instance, top Sci-Fi magazine SFX always has a Blackstar tie-in these days offering cheap science fiction videos.
    And after you've made your selection it's easy too - you can build up a profile that includes multiple credit cards and delivery addresses, then when you've made your selection tell it
    deliver these to [where I work] using my [Visa:delta] credit card
    with very little hassle. You get free delivery in the UK, and although they're based in Northern Ireland I always get the goods next morning in Southern England. You also get similar email notifications to Amazon, plus you can watch for works by your favourite actors and directors coming out (although there's no recommendations).
    And when something did go wrong - an order got removed because I cancelled my credit card after I lost my wallet - their support department handled everything in the same day, including several emails as they removed my old cards, allowing me to add the new data via the secure web page, and then I emailed them and got all the goods at the original pre-order price, as well as a small credit because they'd not cancelled the card when I'd first asked. I even got a complement about something on my homepage!
    This seems to be a site run by people who are enthusiastic about videos and DVDs (after all, they don't try to sell anything else), who know what they're talking about, and actually give a damn about you - after their first year they even sent me a copy of It's a Wonderful Life (one of the all-time classic Christmas movies) free, as a Christmas card!
  3. Computer parts: NovaTech
    Where the former entries to this page are out-and-out winners - I would never consider buying videos online at anywhere other than Blackstar, and Amazon is the undisputed king of book sellers - this was more of a close-run thing. Runners up in this category include Insight (an American company with a UK base in the Midlands) and Jungle.com (who also do music, videos and dvds, and computer games).
    All of these sites have lots of computer equipment, and at good prices - I generally make a tour of all three (and maybe more besides) when trying to find the best prices for spares like hard drives, keyboards and memory. All have their good and bad points. I think however that NovaTech wins out because of an overall good selection of products, with plenty of information, in a site that's easy to navigate. Jungle is competitive, and has information on it's products, but suffers from an overly complex site layout (using frames and lots of coloured tables within tables trying to look cute) and I find quite a few broken links; Insight is great on price and easy to navigate through the sections (requiring JavaScript dropdown menus) but doesn't have the depth of information - so if, for instance, you were ordering a PC motherboard to build your own Unix server, you have to already know what you're looking for rather than browsing and comparing all the different models. If it improved on this it'd be my number one.
    NovaTech also has a decent bargain basement - including an A3000 at one point last year - and is fairly good on search-based navigation, but sometimes lets you down on on delivery, especially "next day". Luckily I live quite close so can hassle them.
    Finally, worthy mentions to Scan who don't do online ordering (you have to use a telephone - yuck!) but do have a great one-day specials page (it even has it's own domain name - http://www.todayonly.co.uk); and Computer Prices UK don't actually sell anything themselves, but look at other online computer component sellers and attempts to give you the best prices. Looks a bit naff in a non-PC browser though.
That concludes my selection of online shops - although I have purchased other items online, these are the sites I visit all the time and so have been able to form proper opinion of over time. Share your experiences by using the comments section below.
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The Icon Bar: News and features: Rich's Top 3 E-Commerce Sites