One of our target markets is the wine industry. The wine industry typically values good design – everything from their branding, labels, and print advertising all the way to their choices of interior design and architecture are often of a high quality. However, we feel that the BC wine industry has some catch-up work to do when it comes to the quality of their website designs.
Some of the biggest names in the market have websites that really don't live up to the level of design excellence that's displayed across the rest of their organizations. But rather than focus on the negatives, I wanted to highlight what I feel are the top website designs in this market. To make it into this list, the websites had to pass the a basic competency list:
- aesthetically pleasing design
- consistent design framework across the entire site
- consistent navigation
- no broken links, images, etc.
- consistent display across multiple browsers and operating systems
But more than just meeting those basic requirements, the best websites in the BC wine industry are more than just solid brochure sites. They also help achieve some of the things we think winery websites are capable of:
- promote the winery
- tell the story behind the wine, winery, and people behind the wine in greater detail than other marketing materials
- increase sales
- build brand recognition
- reflect the quality of the wines
- inform users:
- how to get to the winery
- how to contact the winery
- how/where to purchase the wines
- info about news, upcoming events, etc.
During our market research, we took a good look at the websites for every single winery in BC. The following sites, in my opinion, feature the best website designs out of all the BC winery websites. (As usual, I've tried to credit the designers whenever possible – if you can help fill in the blanks, please let me know.)
Road 13 Vineyards, design by City Soft
This is one of my favorite sites in the BC winery market right now. It's very elegant and simple, with great consistency across the whole site. Minimalist design is a deceptively tricky thing but this site handles it well. It has great product photography, and an ordering page that is straight-forward and effective. (It's remarkable to me how many winery websites neglect these two key elements.)
Laughing Stock, design by Brandever
This site does a good job of extending the Laughing Stock story: two successful finance industry types start a winery that focuses on selling high-quality wine to the finance industry. Again, this is a good example of a site that does everything right: it helps develop their brand recognition while remaining very useful and functional. There's great consistency across the whole site and a clear ordering form. While I like the simple design, I wish the designer had pushed the stock market metaphor a bit further. Also, I find the interaction with the Flash banner a bit annoying when you actually start using the top nav menu… but that's really a minor quibble.
Rocky Creek Winery, design by Hired Guns Creative
What can I say? I feel that Richard's design really propelled the Rocky Creek Winery website into the same category and the rest of the websites on this list. The design is rich, vibrant, and unique – there's nothing else like it in the BC market right now.
Church And State Wines, design by Star Global
Nice, wide site with great big banner photos of the winery, effective ordering form, and good integration of the SimpleViewer photo gallery plugin. My minor gripes: I find it odd that it's not easier to get to the individual wine pages – it seems like there should be an "Our Wines" option in the main nav menu with links to each wine page. Also, the typography of the main content area often feels a bit crowded and inconsistent. But overall it's a good, solid site.
Dirty Laundry Vineyards, design by Brandever
Another winery website that elegantly reinforces their brand recognition. It's got all the elements of the Brandever formula: unique story from the region's history, clever quotes sprinkled throughout the site, an irreverent sense of humour, good product photography, and an effective ordering form.
Another clean, elegant site that does everything right.
This site has design elements that I like: the color scheme, the typographic treatment of the vineyard's name, and the way the designer has integrated photography through out the site. I'd suggest that the order form might benefit from the addition of small images of the label design added to each wine listing. Also, bottle label magnifier on the individual wine pages is a little silly. Who really needs to see an enlarged version of the bottle glass… why not make it so that just the label designs are magnified? But again, this a very minor thing in an otherwise strong site.
What do you think? Do you have a favorite BC winery website? What about winery websites from other regions? – Leif.