Breweries, you are making this hard for us

When we find a beer we’re interested in or that excites us, and we decide to write about it, our first instinct is to link to more information on the brewery’s website.

Invariably, however, we find:

  1. little or no concrete information
  2. an interactive animated carousel, rolodex or merry-go-round of ‘Our Beers’
  3. hidden behind a ‘tell us your age’ pop-up.

What we’d like is simple: one static web-page for each of your beers with pictures, details of the recipe and process, and perhaps some choice quotes from the brewer behind it.

We’ll link to it, your Google ranking will improve, everyone will be happy.

Why would you not do this?

31 thoughts on “Breweries, you are making this hard for us”

  1. Sounds pretty obvious to me, there are far too many sites that are trying to hard and mostly without a reason other than ‘they can’… or at least their web/designer can.

  2. Agreed. Having up-to-date information is also essential. Many times I have tried a new beer by a brewery but the website doesn’t even mention it. Why would you not want to promote a new product? Links to where to buy the beers are also really useful. Please try to do these too.

    1. Yes! Good linkage to XKCD. My university website was a nightmare for finding out where buildings were and details about my modules!

  3. I agree completely. However, there are a few points I’d like to make in defence of brewers that don’t.

    For any brewer who is not able to put together their own site they are indeed at the mercy of web designers, who often want to show off with sill Flash plug-ins. Complete waste of resource and sometimes I get the feeling it’s just geeky IT nurds justifying their existence. Mind you, that problem isn’t just confined to brewing.

    But, for brewers like us, who look after their own website but have many things to attend to, it’s just another thing on the list that we’d like to get around to. When working 60-70 hours a week or more, It’s often well down the list after getting bottle labels and pump clips sorted and doing the mundane stuff like VAT and Duty returns.

    We’ve been in business for nearly 9 years now in total and mostly, it’s not that we don’t understand the need for what you describe, it’s just that being in business is about juggling resources. Often most people in business know what they should be doing, but haven’t got the time or money, or expertise to do it.

    Still, it’s a reminder for me to try harder, and I still agree, it’s sound advice you give.

    1. Especially when the web is probably a main source of information for customers.

      I disagree re it being the fault of the web designers…its up to the brewer to specify what they want

    2. “sometimes I get the feeling it’s just geeky IT nurds justifying their existence.”

      I’m a geeky IT nerd, and I can assure you it’s not *us*. It’s actually web developers, who tend to be more at the design&media end of the spectrum, rather than the geeky/technical end. These people very often go for style, innovation and ‘wow factor’ over usability and stability.

      These people also don’t give a monkeys about whether the sites they design are accessible to users with disabilities.

      Can you tell this is a bit of a bugbear for me? :)

    3. Dave, we put in significant hours (more than 80) running our pub and one of the things that sells a brewers beer is information! I have to agree completely that the gathering of information about brewers products more often than not is close to impossible. We put all the beers / ciders we have on our website and they are checked regularly by our customers before they make the trek out here into the wilds on Halkyn Mountain.
      I cannot understand anyone who produces a product that doesn’t make time to market it effectively. Part of our long hours are spent specifically on that and it pays off. I can understand a brewer not particularly bothered about it when from their perspective demand outstrips supply but do spare a thought for the rest of us. We might sell enough of your product to help you justify a brew kit upgrade.
      Steve Marquis
      Blue Bell Inn, Halkyn
      http://www.BlueBell.uk.eu.org

      1. Hey, I used to run a pub. Total sympathy.

        But, there is very certainly a difference between brewers who can’t be bothered and those that have assigned it below actually fulfilling the orders they have already got.

  4. yes, definitely. I don’t want downloadable PDFs as the only source of information either…by all means have the PDF as an extra feature but I want to link to a specific beer on a separate page damnit!

  5. Actually, it’s more often the client that wants “Flash” rather than the nerdy web designer. A decent designer knows how to make websites look good on all devices without flash. I’ve been doing it for years.

    An easy solution is to get someone to design a custom wordpress theme, which means updating it IS easy, and not time consuming at all. It takes 1 minute to write a page for a beer, would have a simple link, and is search engine friendly.

    But, more often than not, people don’t want to pay the going rate for websites, and end up with old ones that are never updated.

    As for the page that requires your DOB, isn’t that a legal thing, supposedly to protect the young ones..

    M

  6. Shameless plug but I run Brewsites which I set up to try to offer a well priced easy to manage website specifically for breweries, I can totally understand why a lot Of websites end up the way they do.

    Like people have mentioned its not always the brewers fault but it’s not always the developers fault either at the end of the day the client should get what they want but not at the expense of usability and function.

    More often than not a web build comes down to budget, a lot of brewers don’t want to spend their hard earned cash on a frilly website when they can spend it on casks or new equipment, this inevitably leads to a friends son or daughter doing it or the brewer trying to do it them selves, getting half way through then giving up.

    I’d love for more breweries to have better websites, nice and simple with the right information for people. It always surprises me how many emails
    I get that are meant for breweries where people have searched for a brewery ended up on my blog and then emailed me. Quite often the brewery in question doesn’t have a website or if it does its
    Not on the first page of the search engine.

  7. Yes, brewery websites are notoriously bad – the Wychwood one is a glaring example. Fussy, overdesigned and uninformative.

    And the age verification thing is utter nonsense, as, unlike pron, accessing the website doesn’t mean you’re getting your hands on the actual product. You’re not allowed to drive until you’re 17, but car makers’ websites don’t ask your age.

  8. The AVG is a legal requirement – the full code being

    “companies should require visitors to a dedicated brand website to navigate an AVP before being allowed entry to the site.

    The method of AVP should require the visitor actively to input their date of birth (e.g. from a drop-down menu) rather than allow access through clicking a default
    option. This is because the former method is the most stringent and the most effective deterrent to under-18s.

    If access is blocked because the visitor enters an age/date below 18, they should be given an appropriate message or directed to an appropriate alternative site. The Drinkaware website has a dedicated landing page for such re-directions (www.drinkaware.co.uk/about-us/information-for-under-18s). Companies should not use patronising language or refer to the visitor to a clearly inappropriate website (e.g. a site for toddlers’ products).”

    Exciting read huh?!

    The challenge is it’s often not the fault of the web designer or the brewer. A designer is usually as good as their brief and a brewer doesn’t know what makes a good website. Or the brewer can’t afford a designer and do it themselves and still doesn’t know what makes a good website! Plus there’s a belief that everyone else has a website so I must have one, whether or not I have the funds or experience to do it properly (see the same for twitter, FB, YouTube…..)

    I guess the question is better a bad website than no website at all? I’d go for the latter (unless of course you employ Andy) often that does less damage for a start up brewery than people writing about your website being rubbish.

    1. Kristy, “legal requirement”? _ I don’t think so. A made-up directive from major multinationals to appease silly neo-prohibitionists more like.

      I know of no law. When are they going to put a similar law that prevents billboards advertising alcoholic beverages to underage people who happen to walk past?

      There is no reason web pages have to have that silly, easy to by-pass age thingy when printed media does not. IT’S JUST DAFT.

      It is NOT a legal requirement. You made that up.

  9. Legal requirement? So a brewery can be prosecuted and fined, directors jailed, for failing to put an age verification page on a website? Surprised there hasn’t been more in the headlines about the dozens of microbrewers that don’t have this on their websites.

    I’d list some, but I’d rather not draw attention to them if they’re breaking the law.

    (For the avoidance of doubt, I don’t think it is a legal requirement. I think it’s just guideline for those companies who are members of the Portman Group.)

  10. For the avoidance of doubt Portman regulations apply to all alcohol producers, not just those that are members.

    Digital marketing, and therefore websites, actually comes under CAP ( therefore the ASA) and has done since March 2011.

    You might think it’s overly officious but every brewer that flouts the spirit of self regulation brings alcohol a step closer to enforced, government regulation. Believe me, that happens and then you’ll have something to really complain about, assuming beer is allowed to advertise at all.

      1. I was pretty sure it was just an advisory thing as its not illegal
        To read about booze

  11. This post caught my eye from twitter. I post as someone who enjoys real ale, brew myself and own a web design agency, and hove done for 10 years.

    HardKNottDave. We’re not all ‘Geeky IT nurds’ Yes there are plenty of those or bedroom designers as we call them. It would be just like me saying that brewing beer is just water and barley. There’s so much more to it.

    My question to you is why are you still doing your own website if you have 100′s of other jobs to do? You need to delegate and use skilled professionals so you concentrate on the areas of your business that you do best. That’s just basic business acumen.

    Back to good web design. Of course the problem is that the tools to make websites have been given to all and suddenly all are empowered. There’s so much to a good website and most of it comes from planning before you even think about design and coding.

    Who are my potential visitors? Pubs, drinkers, other breweries, wholesalers, retailers etc and so how to I provide the right content for them all without overloading it or alienating. Content strategy is key. From there you know what pages you need. Then you write the content for each page and get it written by a professional copywriter, if you write it yourself then it’s likely not to make sense to some and you’ll use your own language or jargon.

    Then and only then would you look at design because now you know how many pages / sections and how much copy has to be factored into the design.

    Of course the biggest ‘excuse’ is that you can’t afford it but then you wouldn’t make your own brewing equipment because things would fail so why make your own website? If you invest wisely in a good site your ROI will be many more times that of your own.

    Good blog post. Hope you don’t mind my long comments and hope it’s useful for your readers.

  12. Hands up everybody who puts “1912″ as their year of birth in the AVP? It’s a small pleasure, but the thought of screwing with some marketeer’s analytics by making it look as if a percentage of visitors to their website are centenarians does make me smile inwardly.

    1. As a former geeky IT nerd, I usually give my birthdate as 1 January 1970, but if I’m feeling particularly wicked, 31 Dec 1969.

  13. Lumme. Thanks for comments, everyone.

    On age restriction pages/popups — quite apart from the fact they seem pretty useless and are certainly annoying, if breweries do feel the need to use them, what we’d like is for that not to break our attempts to link to specific pages by, i.e., redirecting to the homepage.

  14. I realise website designer and brewer are unlikely bedfellows, and that smaller brewers especially (business size, not midgets) work very long hours with no-one else to help, but there is nothing worse than a never updated website.

    Core beer ranges rarely change, but so many breweries do one offs specials etc, that this info needs to be added as well, wether your visitors are stockists, tickers, wholesalers, or like me, butter memoried bloggers who like ale more than retaining notes.

    And where to buy is essential info, especially if people are planning to come to your area. One of the joys of travelling to the corners of the UK is finding out who brews in the area then searching their beers out – websites that offer this can direct you to pubs you might not otherwise find.

    Basically, just update the chuffer please.

  15. @ Gary Dickenson – “…you wouldn’t make your own brewing equipment because things would fail…”

    You’ve obviously not been round very many UK microbreweries then!?

    Some are or at least look homemade, some still manage to brew great beer!

    Others look all shiny & hi-tech, but make sh*t beer!

    It’s a funny old world :-D

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