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::A round-up of the good, the bad and the ugly online this week.
:: Vintage Levi
Site of the week. If you're a fan of Levi's off-centre advertising, this site will probably appeal. Although the introduction page on the site is sparse, the site is full of intricate information, from jean styles to corporate history. A video stream of funky people accompanies each section along with a full list of Levi's clothes through the ages. This site is well branded with a good feel for Levi's culture and navigation is straightforward. However, if you want to get your hands on a pair of Levi's, this site will frustrate. A list of local stores is the only route to purchasing a pair. It's a bit bizarre that the only thing you can buy on the site are Levi's books from Amazon. On the other hand, a check to see if those old jeans are worth a fortune could be useful.
:: Burn It Blue
Owner: Que Pasa Media
Agency: Pre-loaded, Snow Valley
Burn It Blue takes in 11 different genres of music under the dance banner, and everything from Drum 'n' Bass to R&B is covered in reasonable detail. The site offers updated news, features and listings for that all-important Saturday night out and there's a comprehensive list of venues and club nights to check out. Rather refreshingly, they're not all in London - you can choose to view information about whatever region you happen to be in. There are also reviews of all the latest singles and albums. At present, it's not much more than a dedicated online dance magazine, and a good one at that, although it's missing the opportunity to leverage its targeted audience with e-commerce. Also, for a music site, it's a shame it has no music to listen to.
Owner: Hill Publishing
There's an eclectic range of stuff in this 'one-stop guide to local London life' - perhaps a little too much if you're expecting a microscosmic version of Time Out. But then that's not what the site is aiming to be. This isn't so much a what's-on guide (although this is a section) as it is a forum for local communities. The emphasis is on providing a platform for residents and businesses to make themselves known, with free directory and classifieds. A search facility allows you to find what's available in your area, with sections covering shopping and property. A lot of the content is drawn from Hill's six local London publications so the resources are there for comprehensive coverage. The overall feel, though, is of a disparate site, lacking focus.
Selection:Uneven, and certainly not the full stock of the flagship London branch. Only five Lego kits on offer, and just one board game.
Navigation: Uses an eclectic mix of concepts ('Pretty in pink'), item groups (trains) and brand names (Barbie). Categorising products by gender is also a bit retrograde.
Email confirmation:Promised 'when order is processed', but none received. A phone call revealed Hamleys' server had been down for a week and Internet orders weren't getting through.
Technical problems: Only discovered the site didn't work when calling to confirm order. Discovering an item was out of stock (no indication on site) made me cancel the order.
Returns policy: Goods will be refunded, but return post is at the customer's cost.
Promised delivery: Orders before 3pm are sent that day. Standard delivery (£3.95) is 3-5 days. For extra, you can set 48-hour, 24-hour or, in London, same-day delivery.
Bottom line: Given the reputation of Hamleys, its limited online selection is very disappointing. A lack of accurate stock information and the fact that the server can be down for a week implies it isn't updated often. Blaming volume of users is a cop-out. A prime example of a bad site trading on its name alone.