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December 30, 2008

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Andrew Kamphuis

This is definately an interesting and different winery website. The first time you visit it, it's definately engaging and will waste 10-15 minutes of your time.

(Websites like Chandon, Robert Mondavi, etc have been doing creative flash interfaces for a long time, but this one is definately more indepth)

If the goal was to build a brand statement, stand out and be different they hit it.

For me the site drew me in to read the story. I also like some of the subtle features - the best one being the magnifying glass on the left hand side to enlarge everything on my monitor.

Seeing as they went all flash except for their store, it would have been nice to see a little more animation after your into the site. It seems like the animators spent all their time on the video at the beginning.

I'm also not sure that once I've been to this site that I would ever come back.

As a website developer, I would like to see the webstats on a project like this. What is the average time a first time visitor spends on the site? What is the repeat visitor rate and how long do they spend? There would be an interesting story here.

I would also like to see what the goals the marketing team had for this site. They are definately different than the goals the average winery website has.

Paul Mabray

Mike,
Thanks for the link. This is by far one of the most theatrical sites for a winery ever made and is one of the best I have ever seen for imparting the feeling of their brand (reminds me of how I felt when I played the game myst). I especially love the risk since they are an AZ winery and the cinematic experience of the initial animation. On another note - ecom falls off a cliff and needs to be worked on, love the twitter addition, all flash sites are not optimal for all viewers and they lose some corporate viewers unless they have an alternative (didn't have time to check), nothing that promotes their customers to return to the site as far as community, bookmarks??? really??? bookmarks???, font on the side tabs is a bit small (and I have a 24" Monitor and almost didn't see the magnifying glass), journal updates quite a bit dated, lab was missing a ton of info.

I have to say that despite not being a full flash site fan for many reasons (90% tech), this site really made me happy that a winery was taking a risk and stepping into a realm of brand immersion that was true to their winery (love the names of the wines - chupacabra - swwuuuueeeettt).

If nothing else I think this site is one of the most interesting and unique I have seen in the last ten years of winery web sites. They should be applauded for their gamble and need to fix their weak links to round out the experience.

Paul Mabray - Chief Strategy Officer
VinTank.com

PS - I echo many of Andrew's comments as well.

Jason Reed

It's an interesting concept, but it's fatally flawed for the web. Ten years ago it might have been cutting edge, but now it misses the mark in several key areas.

1. Long load times. I've got a very high speed internet connection, and it took far too long to load. If I wanted information about their wines, I would've hit the back button 10-15 seconds in (if I was feeling patient that day). Even with the site cached, it took 20-25 seconds before the site fully loaded. Users could easily be confused, think that was all there was to see, and hit the back button.

2. Plays sound without asking permission. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. If I've got music playing, or if I'm in a quite office, I don't want a website playing sound without asking me first.

3. Unreadable text. It is far too small. If your site requires a magnifying glass to use, you're doing it wrong. Also, because the site uses Flash exclusively, users with vision disabilities won't be able to resize text or use a screen reader, so they're out of luck.

4. Too cumbersome to navigate. The flipping pages effect is fun the first time, but becomes obnoxious and in the way very quickly. Additionally, not being able to bookmark or link to pages is a HUGE mistake. I'm not going to bother blogging about your wine if I can't link directly to the page I'm talking about, so you've just lost a source of traffic and search engine ammo.

5. No content for search engines to index. Yeah, Google is reading Flash now, but still, you aren't going to get the search engine visibility you would with a normal HTML site.

That's just my super quick take on it. I understand the goal was to stand out, but they've made some fatal usability flaws, in my opinion. The site doesn't engage the user right away- it's too self indulgent and requires too much work. A similar atmosphere could have easily been attained with straight HTML, using Flash as an accent (which in my opinion is the way it should be).

Dylan Elliott

I find this site really amazing and artistic! The vineyard is run by Maynard James Keenan of the heavy art-rock band Tool. Most of his music videos were completely wacky as well so considering the source its GREAT! As for Flash I'm over it unless for entertainment purposes.

Jared Brandt

Site looks great but it doesn't make me want to buy the wine. (Ironically, my brother in-law just gave us a bottle since he is huge Tool fan.)

It took too long to navigate and find useful information. If there was a buy/mailing list option, I missed it.

kburgin

I'm with Jason Reed - it reminded me of a game called Myst, back in teh mists of time.

You keep reminding us on this blog that the purpose of a winery website is to SELL - this one puzzles and possibly amuses, but it's hard to even find the Store.

rick

I hate it. HATE. Poor usability, slow to load even on a 8megabit cable connection, imposes theit sound/music on my and... worst of all... it's all about them. I don't go to someone's site for self-indulgent art/branding projects, I go there to find out something about the winery. Guess what? It's not about you, it's about the visitor. This site is a prime example of how to win advertising awards and lose visitors.

Specifically,

1) Once it's loaded I'm left with the caduceus that the raven dropped. What do I do now? Oh, I need to click to get in the site? Umm what the hell do you think I wanted to do when I first hit the site? Why should the visitor have the 'click to enter'? What ELSE would they want to do on this site? Stare the the loaded graphic in admiration?

2) I click on the book... and I see... an entry on a blog... and it's about them setting up a Twitter account?? What the hell (you;ll see that phrase again) does this have to do with your winery? Much less why I might be on your site?

3) Oh, wait... over their on the right are some tab like things that are rotated, tiny and hard to read - they're menus! How cute... how... unusable. Let's click one...

4) Ah information about a wine... in a nice easy to.. ohh never mind. The text is nigh on illegible. And when I do read it, the description is less about the wine than some pretentious garbage about snake oil salesmen. I wonder if that's self-referential irony? Hmm... (And can someone turn off that damn sound?)

5) Oh look in tiny print in the corner is... Store. You can buy here?

This is what happens when you mate pretension with a graphic artist armed with Flash Professional. Did I mention I hate the site?

frank  Haddad

Very pretty, petty useless, not very user friendly for folks with bad eyesight. The wine lab facts would be useful if they where easier to find. The information on the site is very complete, but download time way to long. Would I buy their wines from descriptions on the site? Probably not. They should reign in the techie, a little(maybe a lot) less flash. If the wine is as self indulgent as the site hmm.

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