WNC Website Review: Pisgah Brewing Part 2
The first part of this review was written in May of 2011, at the time I had been working with Rob Bunch of Media Hat on a few projects and he asked me to hold off on writing about Pisgah because he was in talks with them to do a redesign.
Well a few months later he made good on it and we had a meeting with Pisgah to talk about what they wanted to do with their website. They wanted to do a few things:
1. Get a complete design makeover: They knew that the old site wasn’t going to cut it anymore. As Rob put it they’re playing with the big boys now and it’s time to use their big boy voice.
2. Keep the focus on the beer: Pisgah may be one of the best venues around but they will always be a brewery first. The new site needed to reflect that focus.
3. Make it easy to find showtimes: Most of the people using the website are looking for either directions or show times & prices. Having a clearly displayed show calendar helps them to provide the information people are looking for.
4. Make it easy to find directions: Pisgah is hard to find the first time, it’s in the middle of a business park on a back road and people unfamiliar with the location can get lost easily. They needed a way to keep employees off the phone with customers needing directions.
5. Administration should be as easy as possible: Pisgah is still a small business, they don’t have the staff to dedicate to managing a custom website. Updates need to be fast and easy.
Rob and I took all this into consideration and came up with a basic plan- we would keep them on a wordpress installation since they were already familiar with that platform and the setup and customization mean that we can save some time versus a fully custom site. Rob came up with an awesome first draft of a design and we were off.
The Front End
A simple menu with 5 main nav items: Beer, Events, Media, Goods, & Info. replaces the old navigation items:HOME,BEERS,2011 OUTDOOR CONCERTS & EVENTS,LOCATIONS,CONTACT/DIRECTIONS,MUSIC/EVENTS,ART GALLERY,FRIENDS
The index page has simple and bold elements that direct the user immediately to distinct actions. A marquee of upcoming events shows users what’s up now and what’s up soon.
Each main nav item points to a landing page that has a generous sidebar subnav. This will let Pisgah create a lot of content without crowding the navigation or confusing users. The landing pages are used as an opportunity for large promotional graphics.
There are several pages that use custom layouts to create lists of individual entries. i.e. the ‘what’s on tap now’ subnav item in the beer section lists all of the varieties of beer available in the taproom (duh) but each item on this list points to an individual beer entry with custom information such as alcohol content, hop types, etc. This level of customization is also translated to the events pages so that the user can quickly determine what show is happening when and where and how much it costs.
The Back End
All of this neat user interface is driven from a typical wordpress installation. I’ve seen the results of some attempts at managing disparate information (beer, page information, events, etc.) like this before and wordpress typically makes it hard on the administrator to keep everything in order. I implemented custom post types to help Pisgah manage their data better. I’m a fan of this approach for reasons well described in this article by Konstantin. The end result is that to add an event Pisgah admins now only have to click ‘Add event’ and fill out a form specifically made for them. When they’re logged in if they see an error the administrative bar works just like a typical wordpress post. This means they can leverage the system they’re already comfortable using and do it in a way that perfectly meets their custom needs.
The design was built into a custom wordpress theme so that in the future if layout changes are necessary it is easy and straightforward to make them.
Every time I’ve mentioned that I’m working on Pisgah people always have the same response “Good! the need a new website!” Once the new site goes live I hope they feel that the changes reflect the quality of the live Pisgah experience. A comparison of before and after images is shown below (reduced to show the full layout), as you can see Rob at Media Hat deserves big props for coming up with what another designer immediately recognized as “awesome”