Video Retailer Is One To Watch

With the advent of digital TV you could be forgiven for assuming that the days of the humble pre-recorded video-cassette are numbered. I don’t believe a word of it and, fortunately, neither does Black Star, which claims to be the UK’s biggest video store.

Design

With a name like Black Star, it is perhaps fitting that the design is generally dark and moody, bordering on the drab. The layout is very familiar, adopting the white background, minimal graphics and heavy use of coloured boxes favoured by 99 per cent of book/music/video retailers online. But, the simplistic use works well on the Net, allowing speedy browsing and easy navigation.The video information pages are well thought-out, with decent sized images of the cover art and easy-to-read fact boxes. The only oddity here is the ‘add to hitlist’ button in addition to the more standard ‘add to basket’ button.

Not exactly inspiring then, but highly functional. 8/10

Content

As is becoming expected of a major e-commerce site, there is a vast database of products available, from obscure art-house to Hollywood blockbusters laden with special effects. Many are offered in a bewildering number of formats, such as widescreen, limited edition boxed sets, Dolby Surround and DVD.

While it may lack the sample video clips that some of the US Web sites have, and the almost obsessive detail found at the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com), there is plenty of information available about each video, including running time, format, a brief synopsis, release date, rating, director and main stars. Certainly enough to encourage a purchase, especially considering Black Star will ship the video anywhere in the world completely free of charge. A key feature of the site, and one that is becoming increasingly popular, is the order tracking facility. Consumers are starting to demand access to this information from retailers, so it is certainly a wise investment. 8/10

Use of the medium

As with most Web sites that are built on an enormous database of products, a powerful, yet easy to use, search engine has been placed at the top of the screen. This is certainly a vast improvement on previous sites that required a click on menu button and lengthy delays to download search forms. These days successful e-commerce sites need to be fast and convenient to keep the shoppers from heading off elsewhere.

One of the most superb features of the site is the cross-linking built into the product database. Whenever a user looks at the full information on particular title, the director and actors are presented as links, which bring up a list of other titles directed by or starring that person.While this may seem an obvious use of database technology, it is a million miles away from having to hunt through the shelves of the local video retailer, and a powerful linked-selling tool. I ended up finding out about a video from my favourite musician that I did not even know existed, and I consider myself to be his greatest fan. Simple and brilliant…

Summary

As you can see it is incredibly difficult to find fault with the Black Star Web site, with just about every vital aspect of online shopping well and truly covered. It is easy to navigate, has a comprehensive database of titles, is keenly priced and, most importantly, actually makes the shopping experience easier than its high street counterparts. With the optional gift-wrapping service available for an additional £2, Black Star makes shopping a piece of cake.

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