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Help Steer the Direction of an Award Winner!

Generally speaking, I do very little public housekeeping here, but it’s time for some remodeling and I want your feedback. 

Despite winning some awards and receiving significant positive feedback about the design of this site, I haven’t materially changed the look or the function of Good Grape since November 2006.  Times have changed a lot in the intervening (nearly) five years.  At the time, Wordpress was a very secondary blogging platform choice behind MovableType (I chose door #3).  Facebook had recently announced general availability to the public from its former days of being collegiately oriented; Twitter launched, but was barely a blip on the radar, YouTube was hot (but not ubiquitous) and smartphones were still very niche in general adoption.  Tablets like the iPad?  Nope, at that point people were stoked about rumors of an iPhone that was set to be released sometime the next year. 

A lot has changed in five years and this site has barely kept pace, making due with duct tape and spittle.

image

A number of regular readers have let me know that pieces and parts of the site don’t always work, or the site is slow for them, or it’s hard to comment, or archive pages are junky looking, or links take you away from the site, etc.  And, forget about reading this site on your mobile phone – Good Grape equal’s bad mobile mojo.  The list goes on and on and I have my own list of wishes and want-to’s 35 items deep.

So, here’s the question and the crossroads I’m facing:

Do I keep the same general design (with some slight modifications like making the main text area wider and re-doing the navigation) and simply leave a classic design alone, focusing on enhancing functional and technical aspects of the site?

Or,

Do I take this opportunity to blow it out and set the bar for what a quality, beautiful, professional wine blog should look like, plus all of the social and mobile bells and whistles?

Readers, friends, colleagues, and peers: Your feedback is very welcome.  Should I mess with a good thing for a potentially greater thing, or do stay true to the visual identity in place and simply remodel focusing on functionality, familiarity and usability?

Please leave a comment.



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Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (20) |


Comments

On 07/28, David Honig wrote:

Blow it out. The myriad of highly professional WordPress templates available will make your head spin, and every one of them is customizable to your heart’s content. Most important of all, you will have complete control over your own platform.

WordPress also has gadgets galore, making compatability with phones, tablets, and whatever comes out tomorrow as simple as an additional download.

You can also maximize width. Right now you’re set up for a monitor nobody has used in years.

Let me know when you’re ready, we’ll open a bottle of wine, and I’ll show you everything I did wrong. You can learn from my mistakes.

On 07/28, Thomas Pellechia wrote:

Jeff,

I’m the wrong colleague to ask on this one. So, rather than make my usual snide/cynical remark, I’ll just wish you luck in whatever decision you make.

On 07/28, 1winedude wrote:

For sure, blow it out!  You are a leader in that area my man, given your past accolades, and I’d look forward to seeing what your keen mind comes up with!

On 07/28, Tim wrote:

You have the skills (and access to friends with even more skills) to blow it out.  But it’s your content that makes this site so great anyway.  You could do this using the default Wordpress template and it would still be awesome, due to your thought-provoking writing.

But yeah, blow it out.  Flex your muscles.  Do something fresh.  You’ll be glad you did.

On 07/29, Fred wrote:

Jeff,

With this rather confessional post you are now obliged to fix all the things that are wrong in terms of form & function. So strip away everything that is self-aggrandizing (hello, wine blog awards). Strip away the filler (hello, wine news and soundtracks).  Strip away the badges. And instead format your site to better serve your readers and the advertisers who would like to reach them.

Personally, I think Heimoff and Yarrow’s sits are the most reader-friendly. That is, the easiest on the eyes.  I think Wark’s site desperately needs leading. From there, it moves away from basic formatting issues to How Best to Deliver the Look-and-Feel of Your Brand.
Joe Roberts is eminently readable and has a look that says something about his approach to wine. Samantha Dugan, also a delight to read, has a . . . um, preoccupation, that says something about her approach to wine.
So what’s yours?

I know why I have a feed to your blog: you write about things I care about: the industry, the culture, the pleasures of wine.  Why do others come? It can’t be the wine reviews (thank god).  Have you surveyed folks (and not merely polled them)?

Making your site cleaner is easy and overdue. Finding a look that communicates—and maybe even celebrates—your specialness is quite a bit harder. You are a reporter, a columnist. You are not an iconoclast, a diarist or a humorist. So what should that look like?

Okay then, can you have something new up by Monday . . . ?

On 07/29, Thomas Pellechia wrote:

Fred’s comment gave me a second thought on this matter.

Seems to me that your wine blog is more industry oriented than consumer, whether or not that’s what you chose it to be, it seems that way.

In the print world, a periodical is overhauled with both the reader and technology in mind, in that order.

So, my vote is that you redo the site—every active site should be overhauled at reasonable intervals—but that you carefully keep in mind the majority of your readers.

Having been an audio-visual communicator for the corporate world before getting into the wine world, I learned that bells and whistles may be attention grabbers, and they may even win specious awards, but the question they leave is: do they impart or do they steal from the information?

On 07/29, Jim Caudill wrote:

Blow it up…leaders, lead.

On 07/29, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I must agree with the consensus. Time for a revamp. “Blow it Out”

On 07/30, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Add me to the crowd that says “time to blow this baby up!”.  There will be people who don’t like it, and there will be things that were better the old way, but progress is a finicky bitch.  You gotta keep moving forward.

I will agree with the people who say that the content of this site is the reason I keep coming back.  There are lots of well designed websites out there, but this is one of the most interesting wine blogs on the internet, and that is why it is near the top of my bookmarks.

That said, here are a few suggestions.  Hopefully, you will take all of these with a healthy dose of salt.  Regardless of what you decide to do with this website, I’m sure that most (if not all) of your readers will keep coming back.  Good writing is worth more than a flashy page.  But if you are gonna change things around, you might as well change everything you’ve ever wanted to change, and create something new.  Here is what I would like to see:

1) get rid of all the crap on the side.  I come to this blog to read the posts, and all of the stuff on the right side of the page is instantly ignored the moment I click on this website.

on a related note…

2) focus on improving the other pages of the site.  I have clicked on “good grape too”, “shop”, “wine holidays”, and “links”, and they all leave something to be desired.  The shop is superfluis.  The links are cool, but could be consolidated (think of it as a restaurant wine list with too many wines from all over the world).  The wine holidays, the awards, and the badges are all fine, but maybe that could be consolidated on to one page.

3)  It seems like you write about 1 or 2 blogs a week - and honestly, I think that is a good ratio of quality mixed with quantity.  That said, I check this site more than once a week.  Maybe you can fill in the space with a couple links every week.

4) I just want to repeat, this is a really awesome website.  Change it however you see fit, and I will keep coming back, because the quality of writing is excellent.

On 07/30, Jeff wrote:

Guys,

Thanks very much for the good feedback.  I appreciate it.  I am going to move forward and overhaul instead of an adjustment based on your feedback.  In doing so, I’ll make the braggard stuff a little more subtle and the overall design A LOT cleaner, but also progressive and in keeping with my existing logo and color scheme.

Thanks again for the feedback.  You did sway the vote.

Jeff

On 07/31, Sasha Kadey wrote:

Blow it up brother!

On 08/01, 1WineDude wrote:

Thanks, Fred!

So, Jeff, I think people are saying you should redesign with more photos of me on your sidebar.  Just sayin’.

wink

On 08/02, Joe wrote:

If you’re pining for change, do it.  I like the look of your site, but if the content’s good (and it is), no one will care if you change the look.  As long as it’s easy to read what you’re writing, folks will be happy, and you’ll have the satisfaction of re-inventing yourself.  You’ll be the wine blog version of Madonna.

On 08/02, Jim Kimmel wrote:

I am late to the party Jeff but I would also say blow it up. You have too much good to say without all the “stuff”. Lean and mean.

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On 08/09, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

The pieces and parts of the site don’t always work or the site is slow for them or it’s hard to comment or archive pages are junky looking or links take you away from the site.

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