I’m a web developer who builds and maintains websites for wineries, so naturally I’m going to be talking about winery websites – how they work, how they don’t work, what’s new in the field, what’s coming in the future. For my first guest post here on the DTC site, I have to start with the warning that this one time at least I’ll be stating the obvious. But I’m not apologizing for that. Clichés are clichés for a reason. Sometimes the obvious must be stated. So what’s so obvious?
Just this: the web is all about the content. Not for nothing did Vice President Al Gore and other early proponents refer to the internet as the “information highway”. Content can be videos and music, and especially for those in the youngest demographics that’s a huge chunk of bandwidth, but for the most part content is information. It is stories, it is facts, and it is product information. All of the good stuff we need in a winery website. Sometimes those of us who build websites, those of us who maintain websites, and those of us who own websites tend to forget that. Instead we get caught up in the latest design trend or the latest effect, or we try to create that trend ourselves. The result can be that we neglect content as we seek to create great design.
Here’s an illustration I ran into recently that makes the point better than me.
While it may seem like an abstract concern, the problem manifests itself in countless concrete ways on winery websites. Often it’s an issue keeping content fresh. You’ve probably seen winery sites where the most recent blog post is two years old. (Helpful hint – if you have a blog and you’ve yet to post in 2015, it’s time to take down the blog.) Or products that sold out long ago. No doubt your site is better and fresher than that. I hope so! But ask yourself this: if somebody visited your site last month, what reason is there to come back today?
Information doesn’t just need to be current. It needs to be accurate. Have you ever had a customer call to report a typo on your site or a fact sheet? I got just such a call this week. Yes, maybe this person does have too much time on his hands. But look how he chooses to spend it. You post information on the internet to tell people about your wines. It should be as current and as accurate as you can possibly make it.
As apt as the illustration above is, it misses something big. There is more to a website than Design and Content. There is a third component that is equally important: Function. With apologies to both David Hicks and Katy Perry, I would revise the illustration like so:
Function can be how a site streams videos, how it aggregates data from other sites, or how it indexes its own content. It can also be as simple as how the user navigates his or her way from one page to another. Even such a simple task as that is complex in application, because it can break down in many ways for many different users.
For commercial sites, the most important function we have to worry about is how it records a sale and collects payment information: the path to purchase. This is a topic for another post, but I’ll start with this: before choosing an e-commerce platform, go online and check out the path to purchase on other winery sites. Check out other kinds of commercial sites too. You don’t have to actually make a purchase; just follow the path until the confirmation click. See if there are any parts of the process that confuse you, puts you off, or does anything else that might make you not consummate the deal. Didn’t find anything? That’s good. Now try it on your smart phone. Still good? Maybe you should buy that wine after all.
John Gavin, Member of the DTC Consultant Network BIO