Sunday, August 9, 2009

Winery Websites

One of my favorite aspects of working with the Oregon Wine Blog is that I also get to maintain the actual website. I've been doing web and graphic design for about 13 or so years now and it's something I love to do for fun. Many of you have sent kind remarks about our recent redesign and I'm glad you all like it.

I mention this because while writing for a wine blog, I also visit a lot of winery websites. Almost every winery out there has a website and I've discovered an odd trend; there is an inverse relation to the quality of a winery and the quality of its website..

Granted this doesn't hold for every winery, but let's try a little experiment. Think of your absolute favorite winery, open a new tab, take a look at its website, and come right back here. It's OK. I can wait.

Welcome back! If your favorite wineries are anything like mine, here are a few things you probably just noticed:

-The website you just looked at looks like it was designed in 1998. If their wine is really good, you probably even noticed they used tables!

-It probably has some useless Flash animation. For some reason, certain designers seem to think that Flash somehow makes up for having a crappy website. Don't have any real content to post? Make a wine bottle fly across the screen!

-Any sort of News section is out of date or scarcely updated. With so many websites using simple content management systems to update information, not having timely updates is just lazy. You could even just use a Twitter feed if you felt like it.

-It looks like garbage on a mobile browser. Sure, accessing websites from something like an iPhone is a newer trend, but it's a good idea to have your site work on mobile devices if your business is one where people will be traveling to visit you.

Alternatively, Sutter Home's site is great! Look at those delicious recipes and how much fun their cycling team is having! Also, Yellow Tail's website is very web 2.0. There are all sorts of useful information posted, like what functions to drink what wine with. Backyard temperature chardonnay? Sign me up!

Now that I've been largely negative, let me preface that I completely understand that small, family-owned wineries make significantly less profit than large conglomo-wineries. The larger point I want to make is that if you make world-class wine and have websites that get very little attention, some may think the same kind of attention is given to your wine. Those of us in the industry know that's not the case, but it's not at all difficult to have a decent, modern looking website. Services like Wordpress, Blogger, and even iWeb make websites incredibly easy. What's even better is many of these services are free. The Internet is a powerful tool and using it to your advantage can do great service to your business.

I'd also like to fully acknowledge that this is by no means the best designed website on the planet. We have a list of things we'd like to change and will get to them when we can. I also fully understand that like wine, everybody has different taste.

Own a winery and want some suggestions on how to improve your site with little effort? Drop me a line and I'd love to share some thoughts.


  1. What no mention of the Winery Website golden boy, Black Estate? Y'know the dark minimalist site that's on every web design best of list of 2009? I don't even think it's that great. But yeah, at least there's no tables.

  2. Mikey - I actually hadn't seen that site before, but I understand what you mean. What's interesting about that page is that it's one giant list. I guess the floating navigation pane is supposed to distract you from that?