Red Hat Micro-Winery - Part II

5. What was the timeline of the project?
Experience has taught me to overestimate the time a site will take because it seems that something always crops up that I hadn’t anticipated, especially with each new CSS related design. It is our policy to develop 2 sketches for the client to choose from and then refine the final sketch. In addition to the front-end work, there was a back-end I wrote to allow them to add events, wine listings, definitions, and what not. I think total time to develop the site was 3 weeks, spread over 5 months!

6. What were the clients’ goals going in?
Initially, the client just wanted a nice site to help advertise their new company. This seems to always be the case. We aren’t experts by any means, but our approach is to try and educate our clients in what some of the possibilities are. It wasn’t enough to just create another winery-type website that had goofy images of grapes and people drinking wine. We wanted to educate prospective clients who would be coming to the site or the physical store. Wine is a somewhat pretentious field and there is a lot of misinformation that circulates, mostly due to the ‘elitist’ attitude that some people have towards it. Red Hat wanted none of that. They wanted simple, clear, fun language to describe their wines. Fortunately, one of the co-owners is a freelance writer, so he was able to write some witty statements about a lot of the wines.
In addition, it was agreed that we wanted to define what the wine terms such as “body”, “buttery” or “cat urine” meant. So with each detailed view of a wine, there is a definitions callout that displays each term and its simple definition. This is a part of what web standards is as well; making information accessible.

7. Did you have to explain to the clients or convince them of the benefits of CSS?
While we did take the time to explain CSS and web standards, I don’t think there was ever a doubt that this was the direction that we wanted to go. Interestingly, the target audience for the site is 50 year-old women. When it comes down to the buying decision, this demographic has the most say. I would say this influenced our design not only in terms of color (green, red, cream, contrasted with golds and peaches) and style (the stenciled vines on the background), but also in terms of typography (14px; a much larger default font size than what most sites have been doing, larger headlines).

8. What compromises did you have to make with the design?
Fortunately, Red Hat did not have a lot of pre-conceived notions about how the site should look or function. Like most clients, they provided a list of sites that they liked. One of the co-owner’s also provided a nice site map and rough sketch of each page. We took the site examples, site map and went from there. It is our practice that Kimberly designs one sketch and I design another. Typically, clients like elements from both sketches, forcing us to deliver a kind of hybrid design. We work well together and while we generally provide very different sketches, there is enough “common language” between us that its fairly easy for us deliver a refined final sketch that really does contain the elements from the two previous sketches.

Another compromise we had to make was junking up the markup with some extra spans in the headlines to facilitate image replacement. The nice part is that if the visitor has images turned off, they can still see all the headlines and quotes. Unfortunately, they cannot see the navigation. I despise using images for navigation elements, especially drop-menus. However, the client liked the sleekness of the drop-menus over a list style navigation, so we succumbed.