Sunday, April 11, 2021

Agency Secrets: This Is What We Would Suggest To the Happy Grape

red wine toast

Let’s say you decide to hire an agency to help you spruce up your website and attract more visitors. What can you expect?

Agency Secrets

Every agency will have a different approach but I’m going to show you how I would handle this request. That way you can see a real-world example.

This is the website I’ll be analyzing:

http://myhappygrape.com/

Keep in mind I’m retrieving this website in the fall of 2020. If you’re reading this later, it may have changed.

I’ll include screenshots so you can see how it stands at the time of this writing.

Case Study

For this case study, I’ve chosen the Happy Grape Wine Bar and Bistro located in Lexington, Ohio.

To be clear, they have not requested an evaluation. I’m not affiliated with them in any way, other than as an occasional customer.

As an aside, they have the best flatbread pizza on the planet. If you’re ever in town, stop by and try the Bartlett pear. It’s amazing.

That said, here’s what I’d do in a hypothetical situation where the Happy Grape has asked for my help. I’ll show you step-by-step.

Which CMS?

First, I’d use the free Built With tool to profile the website. The main thing I’m looking for is the Content Management System (CMS) they’ve used, which in this case is WordPress:

happy grape cms

This is good because WordPress is my specialty.

If they had chosen a CMS outside of my expertise, the design advice would still apply. But I wouldn’t be able to do the work for them.

They could decide if they wanted to move forward anyway or not.

Since the Happy Grape is using WordPress, we can move on to the next step.

Scan for Quick Wins

Often you can find some quick wins for the client. Two or three things that will greatly improve the website with little time and effort.

Let’s take a look at three potential quick wins for The Happy Grape. Here is the home page at a glance:

happy grape home page

1. SSL Certificate

A  “Not secure” message does not engender trust. Websites should have SSL encryption, especially if they take payments.

ssl warning

The client can easily correct this by installing a valid SSL certificate. Most hosting services offer them at a low cost with easy installation.

An even better idea would be to sign up for a Content Delivery Network (CDN). For example, Cloudflare is a popular CDN that offers SSL certificates for free.

2. Location Information

The location information should be moved from the main section to the footer. Ideally, this would replace the logo.

The logo only needs to appear on the page once. The header is the best choice.

happy grape location information

Location information in the footer is available on every page. Visitors won’t need to return to the Home page, for example, to find the phone number.

3. Main Content Area

The Happy Grape is a wine bar. That’s the central feature, so it makes sense to remove the “Drink” page from the main menu and move the content to the main section of the Home page.

happy grape wine section

Most visitors will expect the main content to be on the Home page. This will be a major improvement.

Color

The colors on the site are attractive. But there’s a high concentration of inky black.

It would be better to use a softer black and break it up with another background color. The green that’s in the top border will do nicely.

Below is a sample that incorporates that color in the main content background:

Eat

Events

About us

The pub

Blog

red wine toast

Wine

Here at The Happy Grape, we offer a wide variety of wines from around the world.

Our varieties range from bold domestic California Cabs to amazing Old Vine Zinfandels…

The Happy Grape Wine Bar & Bistro

300 E. Main St.

Lexington, Ohio 44904

Image

Notice that the new image is landscape (horizontal) rather than portrait (vertical). Also, notice the placement

The image in the revision appears above, rather than beside, the text. This is usually better for different-sized screens, including mobile devices.

A portrait image next to the text might perfectly align on your screen. But it’s hard to predict how it will appear on screens that are of different shapes and sizes.

The landscape image is a safer option.

Text

The writing is also simplified.

Hemingway App clocks the first sentence at Grade 14! That’s graduate-level writing when the general public reads at about a 7th- or 8th-grade level.

Long complex sentences are hard to read. Especially on mobile devices.

The rewrite is at a 5th-grade level and much, much easier to read. It would be a good idea to rewrite the whole block and aim for no higher than 8th-grade level.

Before:

Here at the Happy Grape we offer a wide variety of wines from around the world ranging from amazing Old Vine Zinfandels to big bold domestic California Cabs…

After:

Here at The Happy Grape, we offer a wide variety of wines from around the world.

Our varieties range from bold domestic California Cabs to amazing Old Vine Zinfandels…

When it comes to writing for most digital marketing spaces, simpler is better. Make use of short sentences and lots of space.

First Pass Complete

The three recommended changes above offer a lot of bang for the buck. Those changes alone would be huge improvements.

An agency might offer this advice to a client during a 1-hour free consultation. The client would walk away with valuable takeaways and a simple action plan.

If we decided to work together, the next step would be to address a glaring omission.

A Glaring Omission

The website has basic location information, but there  important questions left unanswered:

  • Can I get a delivery? If so, how? Uber Eats, DoorDash, or in-house service?
  • Do you have a take-out menu with the prices listed?
  • Do you offer curbside pickup?
  • What are your business hours?
  • Is the patio open?
  • How are you handling the COVID-19 pandemic? Is your dining room open?
  • Do you sell your wine and beer online?
  • Etc.
Potential customers can call or email, but it would be more convenient if this information appeared somewhere on the website.
Getting all or most of this information incorporated into the website would likely be a high priority

Social Media

Social media icons appear in both the header and the footer. One problem with this is that updates have to occur in two places.

Facebook

Right now, the Facebook icon in the header has a broken link that leads to a “This Page Isn’t Available” message.  The footer version works.

Someone skilled with Elementor could create a template to drop in anywhere. Changes in one place would show up everywhere.

It’s better to only place social media icons in one place, and I recommend the header.

It looks like The Happy Grape relies more on Facebook than the website, which might explain why it’s bare bones. This is something to keep in mind during design discussions.

If a client doesn’t want to invest heavily in the website, then it’s better to keep it simple. If updating social media is all they want to commit to, then it’s not helpful to add things to the website that will grow stale.

But one thing they should keep in mind is that not everyone has a Facebook account. Some people are relying on the website, so there should be a balance.

Twitter

The Happy Grape uses Twitter to advertise events and that makes sense, so long as they keep it up-to-date. Someone can follow on Twitter and count on seeing upcoming events.

Right now it looks like there are some long gaps between tweets, so it’s important to consciously decide if this is a social media platform they want to maintain.

Pinterest

Is there really a need for a Pinterest account? I would ask the client what they want to accomplish with this account.

LinkedIn

The LinkedIn account looks like an inactive placeholder. I would remove this link.

Blogger

The blog is on a completely different website, on the Blogger platform. At the time of this writing, it hasn’t been updated in nearly a year!

I would remove this link. If the bistro wants to maintain a blog, it would be better to use the native features in WordPress.

WordPress Blog

Not every company needs a blog. One reason to have one is to increase traffic to the site.

Generally, a great blog is a resource-intensive project. If you’re happy with at least one post per month and can publish consistently, then you can create posts in WordPress fairly easily.

If the client wants a blog, I’d put it in WordPress and add it to the top menu, as I have in the example above in the “Color” section.

Contact Information

Notice there are two email addresses on the homepage. There’s no indication that either should be used for a specific purpose.

Of the two email addresses, [email protected] is a better option. Using your own domain is preferable to a generic service like Gmail.

Also, in this case, the Gmail address is very long and unwieldy. It’s fine to use in the back-end to do things like connect Google Analytics but it’s not customer friendly.

Best Practices

That said, the best practice is not to use an email address at all. Email addresses invite spam.

This is why you see many websites using a contact form instead. You can use a simple form, or make it fancy and include features like a map or an image.

You can either put a link under “contact us” in the footer or add the contact page to the main menu. Where you place it depends largely on how eager you are to have visitors contact you

Dynamic Content

Notice the copyright at the bottom lists the year 2016. This isn’t a major issue, but it should display the current year.

The best way to handle this is with a dynamic time/date field. That way the year will automatically update every time the new year rolls around.

Page: Eat

The earlier commentary regarding colors on the home page also applies here.

Notice there are no prices on the menu. This is another glaring omission, though it may be deliberate because the business owner may not want to keep the prices up-to-date.

It is often better to omit something than to neglect it, but it’s hard to feel confident ordering takeout if you have no idea what the prices are. Again, this relates to how people can do business with The Happy Grape.

Ideally, the prices should be maintained on the website. If that’s not practical, then it should say “Sample Menu” and patrons will have to guess the prices or call in and ask.

Touchless Menu

One fantastic option would be a touchless QR code menu, which many restaurants have implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers can view the menu from their mobile phones.

This not only helps on the website. It can also replace physical menus in the dining room, reducing the spread of germs. Some of these services are available for free, including this one.

The images of food are nice and if anything, there could be more of them.

Page: Events

The Events page is kept up-to-date and has a working link to the Facebook events page. Again, the black could be broken up some, and the small text placed on a white background for easier reading.

A “nice-to-have” would be photos with descriptions of some of the events. The Happy Grape has amazing bands, art shows, holiday events, and so on.

This is a great place to showcase all of that and get creative.

Pages: About Us & The Pub

See earlier comments about breaking up the color and simplifying the text. Both of these suggestions apply to these pages as well.

Descriptions (Metadata)

“Metadata” refers to the descriptions you write for your pages, posts, images, and so on. Technically the word “metadata” means “data about data.” 

But it’s easier to understand if you have an example. Notice the results when you do a Google search. 

Links that come up have descriptions. Some of them are more enticing than others. The whole idea is to get you to click and view the link. 

Investing time in great metadata is important because you want your business to stand out. Here is how The Happy Grape metadata compares to other wine bars: 

Happy Grape Wine Bar and Bistro
– Drink what ... - Lexington my happygrape.com
HAPPY GRAPE COLOR. The Happy Grape Wine Bar & Bistro. 300 E. Main St. Lexington, Ohio 44904. 419-884-9463. Contact: ... ‎Eat · ‎Events · ‎Drink · ‎The Pub
City Winery
Official Website | Choose Your Citycitywinery.com
Founded by Michael Dorf, City Winery is a unique facility, combining a fully functioning winery with intimate concerts, food & wine classes, private events in a ...
Oak & Brazen Wine Co.
www.oakandbrazen.com
Central Ohio's premier urban craft winery located in downtown historic Delaware. Known for award-winning wines and a one-of-a-kind tasting room!

Which one do you want to click? Metadata is an opportunity to get attention.

The Happy Grape is a charming and wonderful place, so I would recommend sprucing up the metadata to make that apparent in the search results.

Additional Opportunities

Below are a few ideas The Happy Grape might also want to consider.

Parking & Accessibility

The bistro is located just off of I-71 and features free parking in a large lot. The location is also handicap accessible.

Storefront

A virtual storefront might be a good idea, possibly on Amazon. Customers might appreciate being able to buy online.

An online store could be another revenue stream. This might be especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic when sales are down for many restaurants. 

The Patio

The Happy Grape has an amazing, hidden patio. This is where bands play when the weather is nice and it’s quite cozy.

There is a whimsical mural painted on the side of the building. Sometimes the mural features recognizable faces, including those of their regular performers.

This is a feature to showcase, even if it’s seasonal. I may be looking at the site around Christmas, but decide the patio is amazing and I need to check it out in the spring.

The patio is in my view a hidden gem for this place and they should make the most of it.

Conclusion

If the client signed a contract and I could peek behind the scenes, I’d be able to offer a more thorough analysis.

But this Case Study shows you some important design considerations and a few of the tools that can help you evaluate and improve your website.

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