I'm sure the wine industry holds no monopoly on bad websites. Lots of businesses suffer from poorly establishing themselves online, often because they lack any understanding of how tools like websites and social media platforms can be used most effectively. I understand why small mom and pop wineries tend to focus their efforts on wine production before marketing and sales, but I'm shocked at how many large, established wineries miss most opportunities to engage and inform current and future customers (not to mention their trade partners) by simplifying their website navigation and telling their stories more effectively. These, after all, are the two areas where winery websites seem to struggle the most.
Here are the basic questions I would ask wineries whose websites need help:
Who is the website intended for? Wineries should certainly know their audience, or at least know who they are trying to target. Are the demographics of their customers matched by the tone and content of the site? Twenty-something tweeters and sixty-somethings whose cell phones aren't of the "smart" variety require a very different approach.
What is your end goal with the website? Buy our wine directly from us? Come visit us? Learn more about who we are? Find our wines in the marketplace? Join our email list? All of these are perfectly appropriate goals, but if it isn't clear what the site is trying to communicate from the very moment someone arrives, chances are, they're not going to stick around long enough to figure it out themselves.
What's makes you so special? I cannot tell you how many wineries' website I've encountered which provide nothing but the most generic editorial about themselves. "We grow the finest grapes in the best soils with the perfect exposure." Honestly, this isn't gonna get me to try their wine. I want to know a story. Is the winery the result of someone's personal journey? Has it been a multi-century family tradition? Is it a corporately owned winery focussed on producing wines of a particular character or style or for a specific audience?
There's certainly a lot more to read (and write) on this subject, but those where just a few brief thoughts I wanted to get off my chest. For a terrific ongoing discussion about winery websites, check out Michael Duffy's Winery Website Report.