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The Unusable and Superficial World of Beer and Alcohol Websites


I was pretty excited when I came up with the idea of examining and showcasing some of the most famous beer and alcohol-related websites from a number of countries around the world. After all, who doesn’t like the odd drink now and again? (Well, besides me — I can’t stand alcohol in any form.) Surely this would make for an interesting article that would elicit quite a few comments. Well, if that’s the result, it wouldn’t be for the reasons I suspected when beginning to research this piece.

Instead, I’ve concluded — due to problems related to typography, accessibility, and usability — that the apparent “beauty” present on many of the websites related to this industry is merely “skin deep”. To put it quite bluntly, the designers and developers people responsible for decision-making in the beer and alcohol website industry should be ashamed of themselves for creating such horrendous user experiences. My analysis here will attempt to inspire modern-day designers and developers to avoid imitating the superficial design and development techniques employed by these web professionals.

But I won’t just focus on the negative. There are some positive things to be mentioned, and a showcase of some of the nice sites is certainly in order, so that will round out the article (and might even fool a few of the “I’m here for the pictures” visitors).

The Painful “Age Verification” Screen Link

Something that is common to nearly every site I found when researching this article is that all the sites require that you confirm your date of birth before you can view the content of the site. Obviously, alcohol is a very serious issue, and reasonable precautions must be taken to ensure that the owners of these sites are not encouraging underage drinking. So, typically, a site will have a “date picker” form where the website visitor can enter their date of birth (month, day, and year), as shown below on the Corona401 website:

Corona Age Verification Screen2

Since it is impossible for such a welcome screen to actually ensure the user is really old enough to drink, then why not simplify this process? You’ll notice that the welcome screen on the Corona website also asks the user to enter their country of residence, which further complicates the process of entering the site. But don’t get me wrong; I am not suggesting that alcohol-related websites remove the age verification screen. In most countries, they’re probably required by law to do this. I’m suggesting that they make this process easier for the user.

First of all, if you want to know what part of the world your website visitors are from, use Google Analytics (or similar technology), or track IP addresses. Don’t waste your visitors’ time with a question that they could lie about anyhow. I certainly hope the owners of these sites are not depending on those statistics for any serious demographic analysis.

But more importantly, since the user can enter any date of birth they want, and the site will never permanently block a person that enters a non-qualifying date, why not just have a simple screen that clearly asks if they are of drinking age in their country of residence? It was surprising how many sites did not have a simple means of entering. Below are two of the few examples that I found that had a user-friendly intro page:

Christiania Vodka3

Christiania Vodka4



At the very least, if you must ask for their age, why not just ask for the year? It’s true that the person’s exact day of birth could determine whether or not they’re qualified to enter, but let’s be honest here — this screen isn’t stopping anyone. And you can’t drink a website. So simplify the process and get on with what you really want people to see.

During my research, I wondered if there were any laws in Canada or the United States that required the use of such a splash page. I contacted Labatt Breweries of Canada7 and I was informed that there was no law requiring the age verification screen, but that it was a company policy to have the user enter their date of birth. Okay, that’s fair enough. But I wondered why they would opt for the complicated version over the simple examples shown above. The woman I spoke to reemphasized that it was a company policy to have the user enter their exact date of birth. She suspects it’s the same for most other companies as well. I had also contacted Anheuser-Busch8 but hadn’t heard back from them.

Maybe the site owners are ensuring that they don’t risk any legal trouble (regardless of laws), thinking that the more difficult the process, the better it would look in their behalf. But considering the age form isn’t really stopping anyone from entering, it’s more likely that these sites suffer from poor usability management and tend to fall back on bad habits that were carried over from the old days of the web design industry. Also, some sites did have a simplified version of the age verification screen (as shown above), so there really is no reason for the overly complex version of that screen. If anyone involved in the alcohol website industry would like to provide some feedback on this matter in the comments, I will make any corrections as needed.

Unnecessary Complications Link

Some age verification screens are complicated for no good reason, and certainly for no legal reason. Take for example the Budweiser9 landing page:


After selecting the month and day you were born, the years are shown in 10-year blocks, with the start of each decade representing each block. In order to select the specific year you were born, you have to hover over the appropriate block, then slowly move your cursor until the year you want appears. What a usability nightmare!

The Samuel Adams11 website goes beyond ridiculous in who it allows to enter. Initially the user is presented with this screen:

Samuel Adams12

Then, after you’ve entered a date of birth, you’re informed that you’ve “signed in” (which is not technically correct and can potentially be confusing) and now you have to reenter your year of birth:

Samuel Adams13

It’s safe to say the Samuel Adams’ website architects have turned the bad intro page into an art form.

Yet another example that has two different age verification screens is the Rémy Martin14 website. When you first visit, you’re presented with this screen, unnecessarily created with a barely usable Flash-based date picker:

Rémy Martin15

Then you’re redirected to a completely different domain, and once again are asked to enter your age:

Rémy Martin16

The site colors and branding are different from the first screen, leaving the user wondering if they’re even still on the correct website. I really don’t know what they’re thinking with this dual age verification system, but it’s obvious that the site architects have little knowledge of modern website usability best practices.

Below is another overly-complex age verification screen, on the ZIMA17 website. Try to find your year of birth in this unnecessary mess:


Another problem with the age verification screen was that some sites required you to manually enter a 4-digit year, while others allowed you to choose a year from a <select> box. The Busch Beer19 site is one of a few sites that expects the user to enter the year in just two digits:

Busch Beer20

After customarily entering a year in 4-digit text format, or from a familiar select box, this 2-digit option comes as a bit of a surprise. So naturally, when I tried to enter the site, I typed a 4-digit year beginning with 19 — and the “19” part stuck. I got this error message:

Busch Beer21

What if I was born in 1919? Well, after some experimentation, I discovered that anyone born before 1930 is considered “too old to drink” (which is fine), but despite initially receiving an error message, if you continue to attempt to enter a year prior to 1930, the site instead redirects the user to Worlds of Discovery22, “a place of enjoyment for people of all ages.” All usability problems aside, that was pretty funny.

You may have also noticed the 1999-style “site requirements” notification in the above screenshots. Another strong reminder that the sites we’re dealing with here seem to be managed and developed by people who have not done a whole lot of research on modern design and usability trends.

Overuse of Superficial Elements Link

What makes a website “cool” today, is not the same as what made a website “cool” 8 years ago. In fact, if you didn’t know any better, after visiting 10 or more alcohol-related websites, you’d think it was 2001. It was astounding how many of these sites employed self-indulgent, superficial techniques that make the entire experience quite a drag.

While perusing some of these sites, I often had no idea what was clickable, when an animation was going to finish, or where a particular sound was coming from.

Too Much Flash Animation Link

Most modern developers understand that creating an entire website in Flash is rarely a good choice. Granted, in some industries Flash is useful for full sites. Kids websites23 and games sites are two good examples. But for the most part, the use of Flash in the alcohol web design niche is often unnecessary and seems to be used in a trendy way because of the false assumption that a complex Flash site equates to a “classy, upscale” experience. As mentioned, around 2001, that may have been the impression that users got, but that’s not the case anymore.

The Seagram’s Gin24 website is one of many examples of a full Flash website, an extremely common practice in this industry.

Seagram's Gin25

Why Not JavaScript-Based Animation? Link

I’m not saying that these sites should never use Flash. Some of the sites I visited had some complex user interactivity that would certainly require the use of Flash-based technology. But in many cases, animation and effects could be implemented through good semantic code manipulated unobtrusively with jQuery or another JavaScript library.

For example, the Finlandia vodka26 website has a mostly-Flash interface with promo boxes that could have been done with plain HTML and JavaScript:

Finlandia vodka27

Another site that overused Flash is the Three Olives Vodka28 website. Take a look at the screen capture below:

Three Olives Vodka29

The content section displays the different vodka flavors, with a Flash-animated rollover effect for each bottle — which is understandable since the animation is somewhat complex. But the entire site is created in Flash, including the very static logo, top navigation, and text-based footer. All of those sections could have been done using conventional coding methods, making the site cleaner and more usable. In fact, many of the animations on this site could have been accomplished with JavaScript, making the experience much more up-to-date, intuitive, and flexible for future development.

The BACARDI30 website is another one done completely in Flash, including the header, footer and dropdown menus — all of which could have been done with HTML and JavaScript without losing anything aesthetically:


Another 8-year-old web design trend used on many commercial alcohol sites is the “skip intro” button, which is obviously a symptom of what was discussed in the previous section — overuse of Flash. Below are a few examples of sites with Flash intros that have the option to be “skipped”.

ZYR Vodka32

ZYR Vodka33

Bombay Sapphire® Gin34

Bombay Sapphire® Gin35

Mount Gay Rum6236

Mount Gay Rum37

Even worse, after verifying your age, the Jameson Irish Whiskey38 website loads up a Flash intro of a super-fancy animated 3-D cube that does not even have a “skip” button:

Jameson Irish Whiskey39

Auto-Playing Sounds and Video Link

When Flash is overused, it’s inevitable that embedded sounds will be also. Sound should generally only be triggered by the user, and should always have an obvious method for toggling or reducing the volume. Many of the sites I investigated failed miserably in this regard.

After passing the age verification screen, the Corona401 website plays an intro-style photo animation with music playing. As seen in the screen shot below, there is no way to skip this animation and no way to turn off the sound.


The Bud Light42 website doesn’t even wait for you to pass the age verification screen to trigger automatic “ambient sounds” (people talking in the background, like at a party). The sounds are mildly annoying — but at least there’s an easy-to-locate on/off switch in the top right corner of the screen.

Bud Light43

The Blue Moon Brewing Company44 website is a very beautifully-designed but nightmarishly-unusable site. It’s done with a book-style look that has nice animation, but is really out of place on the modern web. After verifying your age, a lightbox-style overlay initiates to advertise something about New Year’s Eve. This overlay is accompanied by the sounds of Auld Lange Syne45 — with no apparent method to disable the song.

Blue Moon Brewing Company46

The Michelob47 website plays a video during the age verification, and again when the site loads. In both cases this is done without initialization from the user. In this case, they weren’t annoying and obtrusive, and they were very brief — so I’ll give them credit for a much nicer and more usable experience than some of those we’ve already considered.


A better option would have been to have a large play button to indicate the video is there, and allow the users to initiate it at their leisure.

The SKYY Vodka49 website plays a series of videos after you verify your age. At first glance, there is no apparent way to disable the videos or the sound. But when you roll your mouse over the video area, a video toolbar appears allowing you to pause the video and/or turn off the sound. Better than some of the other options we’ve considered, but considerably less than user-friendly.

SKYY Vodka50

And now for the Russian Standard Vodka51 website. What can I say about this horrendous, irritating, and unusable monster of a site? It’s a full Flash, fluid-width site that embeds a giant video as the background in the Flash movie, and, as is common, does not have an obvious way to disable this annoying video that shocks you to your very core — until you realize that clicking anywhere on the background of the movie will toggle the pause/play option. A true usability nightmare, and one of the most self-indulgent techniques you’ll ever see on a web page.

Russian Standard Vodka52

They weren’t the only ones to implement this bad practice, however. The Hennessy53 website similarly has a giant auto-playing background video with no apparent method to pause or stop it. The sound can be muted, but the background plays a series of videos with no end in sight.


There were so many more examples of sites that embedded sounds and videos. It’s amazing how the sites in this niche hold so much in common in the area of bad practices. The designers and site architects seem to live in their own little world of “trendy” web design and have, for the most part, failed to break out of many old-school techniques from which most modern designers have moved on.

“Mystery Meat” Navigation (in 2009?) Link

Until I started researching this article, I thought mystery meat navigation55 was an old-school practice that was overcome by a modern-day movement of user-centric design — but that is obviously not the case in the commercial alcohol website industry.

Because of the many superficialities, the overuse of Flash, and other self-indulgent design tendencies, many of the sites in this industry suffer from this “mystery meat” or “Where’s Waldo?” phenomenon — that is, pages where the user has no idea what is clickable and what is not. Take a look at some of the screen shots below and see if you can clearly identify the clickable elements. Below each screen shot I’ve included some explanations to decrypt the “mystery” elements so you can see how unusable some of these sites really are.

San Miguel Beer56

San Miguel Beer57

On the San Miguel Beer website (above), in addition to the navigation bar links, nearly all the graphical elements in the content area are clickable, including the car, the truck, all the doors on the building, and signs. Who knew?

Widmer Brothers Brewery58

Widmer Brothers Brewery59

On the Widmer Brothers Brewery site (above), there is a “mystery” link associated with each of the following elements: Both Widmer brothers, the big glass of beer, the lemon slice, the bottle cap, the keychain, the laptop, and the dart.

Malibu Rum60

Malibu Rum61

After enduring through the auto-playing “island” sounds, repeating animations, and the obtrusive “drink mixer” overlay advertisement, the Malibu Rum site visitor is presented with a semi-underwater island scene with “mystery meat” navigation as the focal point of the page. The five primary page elements (the mirror ball, the binoculars, the coconut, the bottle, and the drink mixer), however, are not the only clickable items; there’s also the satellite dish in the background.

Up to this point, all the examples of “mystery meat” navigation display a graphic or text hint, on mouse over, that explains what the clickable item points to. The next example doesn’t even go that far.

Mount Gay Rum6236

Mount Gay Rum63

The Mount Gay Rum site (above) is all Flash, and the main content area is a book with pages that turn when clicked. First of all, finding the exact spot to click on the corner of each page is not the smoothest experience. But there are other clickable elements outside of the book object; you can click the liquor bottle (the barely-visible object in the top left, not the one in the content area), the glass of rum with ice, and the red hat (top right). In my experience, after turning the pages and clicking the mystery items multiple times, I still don’t know what those extra mystery links are for, and why they’re not labelled.

Outdated Design and Typography Link

From my research, many of the sites that do not suffer greatly from the problems discussed above, and are actually fairly usable, incorporated outdated trends and layouts. A few examples are shown below.

The Miller Lite64 website is too small for modern screen resolutions.

Miller Lite65

The Martell Cognac66 website has tiny font sizes and other small elements.

Martell Cognac67

Beefeater Gin68 has small navigation text and even smaller drop-down menu text.

Beefeater Gin69

The 4Copas Tequila70 site is somewhat old-looking, uses small typography all over its pages, and has an outdated vertical navigation bar.

4Copas Tequila71

The Jack Daniel’s72 site is too dark, and many sections are almost unreadable because of the small typography.

Jack Daniel's73

Showcase of the Best Sites Link

As promised, although this article did come down quite hard on the designers and developers of many alcohol-related websites, there are many sites that are well-designed, usable, and do not overuse Flash animation and other obtrusive techniques.

Many of the sites I’ve already considered are actually nicely designed (usability issues aside). Therefore, this last section is not necessarily showcasing sites that are “pretty”, but instead taking all factors into consideration to compile a list of the highest quality sites, in line with modern web design and development standards and best practices.

Some of these sites have a few of the weaknesses I’ve discussed, but generally are more intuitive, non-obtrusive, and easier to navigate.



Coors Light76

Coors Light77

Sleeman Breweries Ltd.78

Sleeman Breweries Ltd.79

Molson Canadian80

Molson Canadian81

Deschutes Brewery82

Deschutes Brewery83





Mike’s Hard Lemonade Co.88

Mike's Hard Lemonade Co.89

Aviation Gin90

Aviation Gin91

Silver Oak Cellars92

Silver Oak Cellars93

Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery94

Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery95

Rombauer Vineyards96

Rombauer Vineyards97

el Jimador Tequila98

el Jimador Tequila99

Jose Cuervo100

Jose Cuervo101

1800® Tequila102

1800® Tequila103

Bushmills Irish Whiskey104

Bushmills Irish Whiskey105

Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey106

Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey107

Admiral Nelson’s Rum108

Admiral Nelson's Rum109

Captain Morgan Rum110

Captain Morgan Rum111

Conclusion Link

In no way does this article mean to imply that the designers of these sites are not talented. In fact, most of the designs presented here are far beyond anything that I could personally accomplish. But, as web developers have learned in recent years, beauty in web design does not guarantee success — and in many cases, a quest for a more visually appealing experience can often weaken the more important aspects of a website.

As shown by the final showcase in this article, not every site in the beer and alcohol website niche is unusable or superficial. But the number of poorly-executed design and navigational techniques and the overwhelming amount of self-indulgent elements I’ve discussed here make it clear that this industry has some important ground to make up in usability, accessibility, and best practices.

If you’re reading this and thinking that I’ve chosen a few specific examples to serve as a basis for an overblown opinion, you should know that there were dozens of other examples of poor usability and downright annoyances that I didn’t include. I also did not discuss special needs users, graceful degradation, semantic markup, and table-based layouts — any of which could have provided further evidence that these sites, for the most part, are downright awful.

Maybe there are underlying reasons for many of the decisions made in these designs. Those reasons could be due to business politics, legal issues, or even a failure to encourage forward thinking — so I will acknowledge that some of these criticisms could be, upon further analysis, overly harsh.

Or maybe these problems have something to do with the possibility that these designers are exposed to a lot of free alcohol…? Hmm…

Footnotes Link

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Louis Lazaris is a freelance web developer and author based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs about front-end code on Impressive Webs and curates Web Tools Weekly, a weekly newsletter for front-end developers.

  1. 1

    Great article. There’s nothing worse than a website that doesn’t work properly. Most of these are from huge companies too! The Sony website, though not an alcohol site, is also a usability nightmare.

    One thing I’ve never understood is the age. Since I was about 6 years old I lied about my age when using the internet to access pages that I wouldn’t usually be able to view, it’s just common sense. There’s absolutely no consequence if you lie. Why put alcohol adverts on during the day if you can’t view the pages online?

  2. 2

    Great article!

  3. 3

    looks like an interesting read..and WOW is that budweiser date thing annoying!

    • 4

      The slightly-over-the-top Budweiser date picker is in Javascript and the rest of the site uses Flash. Interesting.

  4. 5

    Nice review and list of beer brands, you have seem to missed out on Heineken, one of the worlds largest beer brewery. They have a corporate website at and special sites like where you can design your own bottle of beer.

  5. 6

    good article – i recently worked for one of those companies out there and i can tell that all the issues you mentioned here, i experienced during that time as well.

    the main problem is that the designs are often part of campaigns created and build by those huge global advertising agencies – alcohol is usually big business and so are the agencies hired – big.

    these agencies are far away from being web professionals, they usually follow a very offline approach when creating websites – actually the CDs responsible for print outlets are the same who are doing those web designs. that means that you find great professional artwork and poor usability, total ignorance when it comes to seo and all of this lousy flash/skip structures and also browser compatibility is a big issue.

    the problem of a web designer being involved in such a project is that you have no influence at all because you’re coming in too late. from my experince you’re coming in when all creative work is done, the month-long process of approval has finally come to an end and people are just happy that the multi-million-dollar client finally is satisfied with what he’s seen so far.

    that’s why at this point you have no other chance than doing a quick PSD to HTML conversion and people will be happy with that.

    so as far as the big agencies don’t include web professionals into their creative processes there will be no change.

    after all you still have this huge ego thing – a CD working on clients of this size will never listen to a freelance web designer when it comes to suggestions related to usability, seo, social stuff , etc. – he will not even change the color of his links …

    • 7

      And it ain’t just alcohol clients!

    • 8

      Awesome to see the reply from those in the know. Thanks dude!

    • 9

      That comment sums it up perfectly! I’m an in-house web designer in the fashion industry, it’s the same story here!

    • 10

      Excellent perspective. I agree, with great size of project comes a horrible red-tape. It would take years before web designers are included in the whole decision making chain.

    • 11

      Why would these brands need seo?

      Sure the usability of some of these sites are a little poor but that’s what you gamble when you push the boundaries of web design in new directions.

      • 12

        @jimmyink, I’m not so sure that some of these sights are “pushing the boundaries of web design in new directions”. I recently had a chance to design a website for a local beer distributor. I looked at a lot of the sights that Louis commented on and found that not only were they confusing but very poorly thought out in regards to design. I understand that usability is more of a concern in some industries over others but when a user who has no special needs can’t use a sight, that site becomes huge waste of time and money. As Louis put it, it is self indulgent, and in my own words it is ignorant.

  6. 13

    I’ve recently ran into an alcohol website that I found both usable and attractive. What the really amazing was that the site was flash and I found it in google. After disabling javascript I realised the trick :)
    I think that website is the proof that not all alcohol webistes are “unusable”.. :)
    The site is . The english is sometimes quite poor though.

  7. 14

    Thanks for the detailed review.

  8. 15

    Great article.
    I have 2 remarks:
    IP tracking as suggested: as a user, I HATE IT. Happened to me a few times to experience wrong recognition of where I came from, or sometimes you log in from another country and messes things up with inappropriate language.
    Small typo: I thought that, as screen sizes increased, you could make (a bit) smaller elements to get more white space around (which I personnaly like).

    But I’m curious to have other people’s remarks on that.

    • 16

      That’s a different issue. Because the IP gives the user’s location sometimes it is not necessary to have the user enter in their location. If you want to see where your visitors are from just pull it from your analytics. It’ll be more accurate and give the user a better experience by removing an unnecessary step.

      What you’re talking about is forcing location-based language. I agree that it’s a terrible idea, but a different problem.

  9. 17

    I just knew Guinness would be in the list of good examples! Nice article, if not pureply from the point that you found so many bad examples!

  10. 18

    Does entering your date of birth really matter that much?

    If I was a kid I’m sure I could work out that I need to be over the legal age see the rest of the site.

    • 19

      yes, it does. and if the smashingmag demographic were actual professionals, they’d likely know that there are serious legal requirements for alcohol advertising.

  11. 20

    How would you use Google Analytics to know where an IP was from? I’ve never seen this as an option.

    • 21

      Google Analytics tells you what countries your visitors are from, not their IPs.

      • 22

        I don’t think the country question is purely for analytics purposes. It’s because of different legal ages in different countries. perhaps rather than getting rid of the country Q, they could have just preselected the appropriate selection based on some ip2geo, and then allow the user to change it after if needed.(that is, only if it’s really company policy to have it there anyways)

        while there was a lot of good info in this article i found it an annoying read because of the overall tone of the author. And rather than attacking the poor web guy that got handed the mess perhaps, Louis, you could have done some research into the relationships between big corporations, the agencies they hire for their multi-million dollar campaigns and then the poor saps who get hired by the agency to convert the already finalized non-negotiable designs into the final web websites.

      • 23

        Exactly. The article made it sound like you could use GA to pull the country in real time.

        • 24

          No, the article made it sound like you could use GA to check country origination for tracking and analysis purposes.

  12. 25

    Really enjoyed reading this article, thanks. The company I work for has openings into the drinks industry so I have seen some of these horrible/dated UX issues already. Refreshing to see it all explained nicely in an article though.

    If we get a chance to do some new work for one or more of them, then we can hope to change this! Small steps…

  13. 26

    I found a german website which i think is also very nice. It is a company for quickies.
    You can watch the site here:

  14. 27

    Great article! I love the quote “seems to be used in a trendy way because of the false assumption that a complex Flash site equates to a “classy, upscale” experience”. It’s so true. I once worked for a blue chip organisation and it’s funny how people with no experience or knowledge of web usability ignore any advice and drive forward the production of 100% flash sites based on that mantra. They even produced a complete replica of their site in HTML/CSS for ‘accessibility/usability’ purposes afterwards! Ha!

  15. 28

    Thank you louis. This article was very informative and well written.

  16. 29

    Great Article, greater read.
    You are absolutely right mate.

  17. 30

    A nice round up. I imagine the use of the country field is to check the age of the user against the legal drinking age of the country they’re in – 18 in the UK, 21 in the US for example. It’s a lot of effort to put every country in there though!

  18. 31

    The Beer/Alcohol sites are NOT news-portals, or similar mass usage websites. People that come to Alcohol site are HIGHLY MOTIVATED to be there, and as such, a lot of the usability principles just do not need to apply. As a contrast to that, when user stumbles upon news site, via Google for example, then you need to use absolutely all knowledge to hold that user by making design easy to use, intuitive, etc.

    Users coming to Alcohol sites came there by their free will by typing in the domain name and knowing that they will spend their next 10 minutes there. You do not need to make such site super usable, super intuitive. You can give them intro that can be skipped, why not? Navigation can be “mystery”, let them play with the site for a while.

    Borderline conclusion: we, the designers, need not apply our entire knowledge of usability on every site. Sites vary in user’s will-to-be-there and as such we can vary our designs to fit the need.

    • 32

      well now, I’m just a regular user; I’d like to think my opinion on the entire branding (I include the usability of the website in this) was important to the company. I may go to an alcohol website voluntarily, my opinion of that brand changes when I realise it’s another horrible flash website. Most notably I was disappointed by the Bombay Saphire website when looking for their ingredients for the gin. A nightmare!
      I agree there’s more scope for play as it’s a free-time type site, but these websites should still feel intuitive and interactive, but generally, they don’t. Why just discount the users who are there to look for information & not play around?

      The Babycham website is also disappointing, but there’s a nice lot of info about the history of the drink. They could be so much better, it’s very annoying!

      • 33

        There is a difference between “horrible Flash site” and a well crafted Flash site that just lacks some parts of usability that are needed on high-volume news sites for example.

        All I am saying is that Alcohol websites and their usability should not be even compared, nor it is necessary to compare them, with news site like usability.

    • 34
    • 35

      I agree that a one-for-one comparison with news sites may not be apt, but if visitors can’t locate information, get lost, have audio they didn’t request or can’t turn off… I think none of these are good, no matter what kind of site.

    • 36

      Jewen Soyterkijns

      December 7, 2009 12:44 pm

      The author should stick to webdevelopment and freelance writing (well focus on the development…). Flash is a very good choice for nearly all those websites.

      – The range of users with flash is incredibly high.
      – Even the most daring design will render just fine in IE6.
      – Manager meetings at alcohol companies are fueled by cocaine and flash is the only way for a designer to meet their expectations and compete in the niche.

      These are not information presentation sites. These are interactive commercials. Compare these to the corporate sites that accompany these sites. You think a distributor of these beverages uses the same sites to get his information and prices?

      Click on the ! in the yahoo logo on Mystery navigation or (not so) subtle branding?

      You give a mute button on the remote control, just like everyone can control their own PC speaker sounds. You don’t start a commercial with: “Hey, if you don’t want to listen to this commercial, put your fingers in your ears: like this!”.

      “I am really sorry client. But my understanding of flashy, interactive, classy and dynamic websites is not adobe flash. I feel personally that is overused and often unneccessary. Why don’t you stop visiting us, a flash design bureau, and go somewhere else, where they can make javascript rotating menu’s and Silverlight that works in IE6”.

      “Ow and here are the numbers from the marketing department. It seems like our target online audiance is: over 21 years old. Hold the presses! We can use this valuable information to steer our online campaigns to great heights.”

    • 37

      I agree on that!

    • 38

      No mate, I think you’re wrong there. If I want to play around on a website, I’m not going to get far if I can’t use it.

      Molson Canadian website as an example: I couldn’t even enter because I couldn’t be arsed working out a valid Canadian postcode to be allowed to enter.

    • 39

      “Users coming to Alcohol sites came there by their free will by typing in the domain name and knowing that they will spend their next 10 minutes there.”

      People don’t go to a website on purpose without a purpose.

      The only people who go to a site to spend 10 minutes exploring all the cool Flash features of a website are other designers, and competitors interested in seeing what others in their industry are doing.

      The rest of the world doesn’t. They go there for a reason. They don’t want to “play with the site for a while”. They want what they originally came for.

      Web users aren’t passively cruising by. You don’t need to attract them with flashy gimmicks the same way you do in traditional advertising. They have come to your site on purpose, they want something from you! Are you going to give it to them? Or are you going to ignore them and hope like hell they want to listen to what you have to say instead?

      @Jewen Soyterkijns
      “These are not information presentation sites. These are interactive commercials.”

      Commercials need to distract a customer’s attention away from whatever they were doing. In print or TV, you use images, sounds and fancy motion to achieve this.

      If someone is visiting your website, you already have their 100% undivided attention! You don’t need to distract them from whatever they’re doing, because that thing is probably what you want them to do anyway! Anything you put in their way is just an obstacle.

      I can’t believe this sort of thinking still exists in the industry in 2009.

    • 41

      Actually, as someone who does use alcohol websites, I’m highly motivated but often disgusted with them. I don’t give a damn about your lifestyle pushing, I want to know ABV, main ingredients, calories, and what notes YOU think your product has. Sometimes, in the case of specialy liquors, I want cocktail suggestions, but usually I want basic info which is often hidden and hard to get to.

    • 42

      Thats just such typical BS. Brands need to wake up to the fact that they are just another brand. They’ve spent squillions to engage with consumers and then they blow it with a bad online experience. Crazy, daft…why?

      Consumers care way less about them (the brand) than the brand owners marketing team or agency of the day. It’s about time brands and agencies wake up to usability – otherwise they’re just chasing consumers away.

      We’re all maturing as web users, and as users we want better experiences.

  19. 43

    Nice Article. I’d say the age verification feature is only put in place due to a request from an alcohol regulation body. I’ve never made any beer/alcohol products website but have dealth with regualtors before. Your website can easily get ripped apart. It’s an external factor controlled by people who don’t know about usuability.

  20. 44
  21. 45

    I’m sorry but why is SVEDKA in there, based on everything you’ve just said SVEDKA doesn’t deserve to be there. Just because it is a side scrolling site doesn’t make it cool, If anything it took me a while to figure out that I was supposed to scroll sideways.
    It also took me ages to get past the age verification, I agree with you on that, they do drive me crazy.

    • 46

      As I mentioned, even the sites included in the “good” section have weaknesses. But I thought they were the best ones. I liked Svedka because it didn’t overuse flash and had an interesting design. I didn’t find the horizontal scrolling problematic at all.

  22. 47

    Ha, someone messed up again with the stylesheet… ironically this article looked way better in Google Reader than here!

    • 48

      That’s not especially the stylesheet that’s messed up. It seems to be the whole subdomain that’s crashed

      Difficult to red, but even more difficult to post a single comment

      I’l checck the article when it’s come back

  23. 49

    You can’t stand alcohol in any form? What on earth is wrong with you?

    We’ll never do business. We have nothing in common.

    Good day sir.

    • 50

      wow, that was constructive!

      I semi agree with a lot of that stuff, Daemon made a good point that these sites aren’t your daily use type of thing, and they usually are self-indulgent b/c they are using the website as free advertising. Would a crappy website stop me from buying a certain brand of liquor? No because I like the liquor, but a crappy website will stop me from buying online. Who would even go to their favorite liquor band’s website? I haven’t in the10 years I’ve been drinking.

      I think these sites are probably neglected b/c the company is so big in a lot of cases, the brand managers don’t understand the website standards and principle b/c they can’t sell anything online anyway, so who cares really if it’s not in their bottom line.

      Just my opinion, i could be wrong. But great article, great work and I had a blast reading it!

  24. 51

    Very interesting article.
    There are many large companies that knows nothing about usability, but are only dazzled by the “flashy” graphics.

  25. 52

    Purely as a usability analysis exercise, I would recommend anyone who can’t read Chinese characters to try their hand at one of China’s many such websites. Flash intros, intrusive sound and video, and, quite frankly, chaos… is the norm.

    This is the address for Snow Beer – the world’s largest selling beer in terms of volume… enjoy:

  26. 53

    Nice article! And so true..
    But there are also some really beautiful “alcohol websites” out there.
    My personal favorite: by resn!

    • 54


      Nothing personal, but that site is horrible! It has many of the problems I mentioned, and even a few new ones, making me wish I’d seen it earlier so I could have included it!

      • 55

        Jewen Soyterkijns

        December 7, 2009 12:58 pm

        Louis, you are an absolute dunce. That site has been featured in many showcases and touted as a visual experience. A complete design success and a wide audiance reached.

        It even has a flashless back-up site in sync with the main site. You don’t understand modern media.

      • 56

        Totally agree!! You are not a dunce as the previous reply stated (I think that bloke is struck with the same disease as the alcohol industry), you are right! I had to pass a quiz, enter my DOB and country, and work out where to click (I finally figured it out — the bottle) and all the while the entire interface was moving around on me, like one of those spam javascript emails my mates used to send me (you know, “click here” to close the window but the button moves when the mouse goes over it).

      • 57

        Haha Louis I completely agree with you.

        I didn’t even get to see the whole site, I looked at the loading bar for 10 seconds then left (latest Google studies show that you now have 2 seconds to load your site, or over half of your visitors will leave.)

        As far as Flash agencies go, resn are pretty close to the top of the list. But you almost have to feel sorry for these agencies – as far as technical skills go they’re at the top of their game and doing some insanely cool stuff with Flash. It’s just unfortunate that it’s not 2001 any more.

        As a web designer, I can appreciate some of the insanely cool Flash stuff they do. Brand marketers and managers love the way it makes their brand look. But neither of us are regular customers. Rarely is anything on these sites related to helping users complete the tasks that they came to the website to do, or enticing them to complete a task that will actually make the company money.

      • 58

        Brandon S. Adkins

        December 8, 2009 1:55 am

        That site has a good aesthetic / design / color scheme to it, but I agree with Louis.

        Just picking a country was terrible! It took forEVER to scroll down to ‘United States’, as there was no way to make the scroll faster, even with the mouse down quite far.

        A site can be visually appealing and still an unusable mess. Some of the worst looking sites may be the most usable. Usability and aesthetic/visual pleasure are not the same thing. Many sites only have one of the two.

      • 59

        Louis, nothing personal – but really? you rate this site – – as a “in line with modern web design and development standards and best practices.”

        Right, so using tables for aesthetic reasons, missing meta data, pointless flash, horrid type and image compression – the and crowning achievement:

        Well, It’s enough to discredit you right there. The 26000 vodka site has a stunning flash version, aimed squarely at the target audience, beautiful type and caters for those who want a barebones version (albeit with a very clean modern layout) in the form of straight html + css.
        I agree with Jewen wholeheartedly.

        A lot of your comments seem to suffer from the “market survey of one” approach where you have imposed your own likes and dislikes as rationale. Earlier you even dismiss a comment about usability because, and I quote: “I didn’t find the horizontal scrolling problematic at all.”

        Well maybe you didn’t. Doesn’t mean it’s a good practice.

        I will leave with some constructive criticism, because it is very clear you put a lot of time and effort into this article.

        – Too many examples. The article is a sprawling mess of screenshots and contradictory statements
        – Post the good and the bad together for easy comparison of your points. When scrolling through the page you have no idea if a screengrab is a thumbs up or down
        – Leave the pet peeves at the door. According to your intro, you don’t touch alcohol, and therefore you are not part of the target audience (I understand you build websites which makes you qualified to a technical opinion, but the fact is you are NOT the target audience on this one. Remember that)

      • 60

        Whoops, seems I kicked off a discussion I didn’t intend to.
        Louis, I think you cannot approach a website simply in terms of measurable usability and conventions. Well, even those factors are hardly measurable but more subjective impressions.
        Speaking of .. In my opinion this site is not only beautifully designed but has also some interesting concepts concerning interacivity.
        I totally agree with you, that usability is a very important factor in web design. But you mustn’t forget to question, of whom the target audience consist of and if the site is appropriate for the target audience.

        Sometimes a not perfectly usable but way more playful approach is exactly the right way to go for a certain site.

      • 61

        @ Jorge Broadband,

        Try 2000, it sounds Y2K cuter .

        Then again, it’s more constructive when you list your intentions rather than “Your points would hold more weight if i were trying to read a news article, or purchase a new keyboard.” That’s what I meant with constructive criticism. Those are comments and put nothing on the table to create a synthesis of the discussion.

        Now, adding to your comment of the author being biased. How do you know. What do you offer in a way of deconstructing a website from a web user experience point of view.

        In your description of what an alcohol website should be, you are adding qualifiers to the experience without describing how to create that experience. The brand “should be aspirational and emotive”. It is vodka and they should mention why their vodka is unique, or different from the other ones.

        Your comment is the one that lacks weight when it comes to “delivering meaningful content”. This website has vodka secrets and I challenge you to find the total of vodka secrets on this website in an easy and straight forward way.

        Try to find out how many there are and how to get to them. If you like vodka and you are part of the “target audience” then you want to know more about the process, conservation and develop a taste for it. The vodka secrets in this page are great but you can’t get to them easily, instead you have to figure it out how to get to them in a very disorganized way. They did try to cater to that target audience and failed. They tried to speak the connoisseur language and failed at delivering it.

        Again, I challenge you to try it and when you do this you’ll find out: “why they didn’t add this on the menu “.

        This website lacks in information architecture, which would have solved a lot of problems of the navigation. The fact that the “back” button is respected is not nearly enough. That is a must and not something that they added so that the user would have a better experience. It is this kind of web usability , design and development that creates so many websites that “look” and try to “appear” modern but fail in the main point: to attract people to their business.

        Did you figure out how to get all the vodka secrets which are a great content but frustrating to get at?.

        That whole “target audience” has different degrees of success depending on the medium is delivered. Which is why there is more analysis on how to deliver content on a website because if you translate from print to web it fails.

        about your last comment, the article does mention good practices. Which makes your comment bias from the start in “defending” the website with no constructive feedback.

    • 62

      The replies from Jorge Broadband and Jewen Soyterkijns seemed to be coming from 1999, where everything built on Flash by Advertising Agencies was considered the best web experience. I believe that if you set your feelings for all Flash and advertising agencies with a reputation but a terrible website ( RESN ) then you might be able to learn something new.

      Take a look at that site of 26000 vodka.

      What is the first thing that takes place after quite an awkward navigation to enter the date of birth?.

      A question that you have to answer, and if you don’t answer it right during the first try you you get the “wrong” feedback. When you enter the right answer on a second try and displays “correct” you have to answer another one , because you didn’t get the first one right at the first time.

      So , fine.. they are using modern technology but the development and the design of the “reward” system is completely backwards and the audience instead of focusing on how modern this website is tends to think: “Why do I have to do this again?”. It has the appearance of a modern website but it doesn’t function like one. I encourage you to read books about User Experience and Information Architecture. It’s not a one man’s fight against all things Flash, there is a school of thought on developing this kinds of sites.

      Also, research a bit what “constructive criticism” really means because a semantic analysis of your posts renders “points of view” , “comments” in plain English. You are commenting on what the author should do without backing up why , and with no references or pointing to a direction that would make the author think: “I should look into this”.

      If you truly think of yourselves as perceptive beings of modern trends you would be able to see that “design and development follows function”.

      • 63

        1999, cute.

        Your points would hold more weight if i were trying to read a news article, or purchase a new keyboard.

        Lets take the very first entry page. Don’t like flash? go to the html version. That wasn’t hard was it…

        As to your point about the question, colour me ignorant – but it makes no sense. The question doesn’t require you to make a correct choice – im not sure what you are talking about having to answer 2 in a row. Each section displays a question once, and only once.

        There are a couple of problems with reviewing sites in the way the author has. Let me explain why:
        – the author has an agenda. In this case it is “find something to like or dislike”. Why is this a problem? let’s say i go to website x to buy a new keyboard. When i go there i have a direct purpose, and that is “find the keyboards page” or if i come direct from google to that page “find a keyboard i like”. My goal is not to find something to like or dislike about the design/technology. This happens as a by product of the goal. When i go with intent to buy a keyboard, i want nothing to get in the way of that goal.
        When i go to an alcohol site (alcohol being something people generally consume in downtime) 90% of the time i am not goal driven to buy. The brand should be aspirational, and emotive – especially in the case of a vodka that is trying to position itself as top shelf.
        – If you want to get straight to business (contact info in a hurry) you have an html site at the very start. Im not sure what the problem is! The flash version doesnt want to be the html website – and nor should it. I would hesitate to say this site is more about positioning that truly trying to deliver meaningful content.
        – target audience, again. This isn’t, remember that. Horses for Courses as the saying goes…

        Some points you have conveniently missed:
        – Back button is respected. How many flash sites do you see that utilize that simple concept?
        – this also allows bookmarking to a direct space in the website
        – the age validation can be bypassed using remember me

        Your comment about my constructive criticism:
        By saying there are too many examples, am I not just saying there should be less?
        By pointing out that the good and bad should be posted together because the page is so long it is hard to determine which screen is good or bad, am i not offering a a direction?

      • 64

        @ Jorge Broadband,

        Try 2000, it sounds Y2K cuter .

        Then again, it’s more constructive when you list your intentions rather than “Your points would hold more weight if i were trying to read a news article, or purchase a new keyboard.” That’s what I meant with constructive criticism. Those are comments and put nothing on the table to create a synthesis of the discussion.

        Now, adding to your comment of the author being biased. How do you know. What do you offer in a way of deconstructing a website from a web user experience point of view.

        In your description of what an alcohol website should be, you are adding qualifiers to the experience without describing how to create that experience. The brand “should be aspirational and emotive”. It is vodka and they should mention why their vodka is unique, or different from the other ones.

        Your comment is the one that lacks weight when it comes to “delivering meaningful content”. This website has vodka secrets and I challenge you to find the total of vodka secrets on this website in an easy and straight forward way.

        Try to find out how many there are and how to get to them. If you like vodka and you are part of the “target audience” then you want to know more about the process, conservation and develop a taste for it. The vodka secrets in this page are great but you can’t get to them easily, instead you have to figure it out how to get to them in a very disorganized way. They did try to cater to that target audience and failed. They tried to speak the connoisseur language and failed at delivering it.

        Again, I challenge you to try it and when you do this you’ll find out: “why they didn’t add this on the menu “.

        This website lacks in information architecture, which would have solved a lot of problems of the navigation. The fact that the “back” button is respected is not nearly enough. That is a must and not something that they added so that the user would have a better experience. It is this kind of web usability , design and development that creates so many websites that “look” and try to “appear” modern but fail in the main point: to attract people to their business.

        Did you figure out how to get all the vodka secrets which are a great content but frustrating to get at?.

        That whole “target audience” has different degrees of success depending on the medium is delivered. Which is why there is more analysis on how to deliver content on a website because if you translate from print to web it fails.

        about your last comment, the article does mention good practices. Which makes your comment bias from the start in “defending” the website with no constructive feedback.

  27. 65

    Regarding the Age Verification screen:

    Don’t they ask for the country because different countries have different legal drink ages and some brands might have a different site for different countries (language) ?

    • 66

      Thanks Lea for posting your reply. It appears that Mr. Lazaris didn’t do enough research as many of these “Country” verifications are in fact present because a website, such as Bacardi, is in over 20 different languages. I’m a little surprised at Smashing Magazine for posting this article without doing their due diligence to see if all the facts stated were in fact correct. Additionally many of these sites have HTML versions for SEO / Accessibility.

      • 67


        I’m aware that some sites were in different languages. Like I said in the article, nothing is stopping anyone from entering a fake birth date, so the best solution is to have a simple screen that asks the user if they are of legal drinking age in their country of residence. It simplifies the process. Also, can you show me some alcohol websites that have an HTML version? Besides the fact that having a second version is old-school and terrible for site maintenance, I don’t remember seeing that option on any of the sites.

        But thank you for your thoughts.

  28. 68

    A great read. It’s nice to see some examples of things done wrong once in a while as a contrast. I think you did a good job linking your criticisms back to the positive techniques and recommendations often found on Smashing. Thanks!

  29. 69

    I personally respect SM team and writers who make excellent — and long, what is rare now — articles about many sides of web development and comfortable user experience in general. But I want to disagree with some of claims author made in his work.
    Vertical menu, why it is named as outdated? Who decides? Why several designs are outdated also? I think any site can perfectly have a look that was in fashion one, two, four years ago, and it’s not even because certain alcohol manufacturer want to make an emphasis on product’s long life. These sites don’t look like teenagers personal pages, so why aren’t they “OK” for modern world and get lower marks during test? If somebody says: “Be modern, make horizontal menu. No place for all of them? List is too long? Something’s wrong with your menu, shorten it.”, here’s the pattern way of thought framed by opinions of famous web developers which are trusted in too much.
    “Best sites” for me looks like containing a couple of dozens of web sites, 70% of which seem like one another. A bottle, 2-4 images from exclusive photostock, short horizontal menu and artifically aged pieces of paper stick out of screen’s edge. If it’s creativity, then a narrow one.
    Apart of that, article is great as usual and a pleasure to read!

    • 70
    • 71

      Opinions vary, Evgeniy, but I strongly feel that a vertical navigation bar weakens a site for a number of reasons that I’ll probably save for a future article. :)

      • 72

        Jewen Soyterkijns

        December 7, 2009 1:33 pm

        Dear Louis. This has nothing to do with opinion. Count the number of links in that vertical menu. Now tell me with a straight face you want a horizontal menu with 12+ items, because that is more usable or modern.

      • 73

        @Jewen Soyterkijns, tell me with a straight face that this particular main navigation needs 12+ items.

        Why on earth are “Previous Events” and “Events” seperate items in the main site navigation? Or “Locations” and “Featured Spots”?

        This navigation should have been drastically cut back in the planning and wireframing stage (which, let’s face it, never took place in the graphic design department of whatever “full service” agency is responsible for this)

      • 74

        Leonardo Baptista Lopes

        December 8, 2009 5:02 am

        I’ll be looking forward to seeing this article, since I agree with the above user in both thinking this article is very good, and disagreeing with the vertical navigation being “outdated”.

    • 75

      Scrolling down to find navigational targets is just plain wrong. Vertical is fine, if the links are kept to a minimum so the user doesn’t have to scroll to find where they need to go.

    • 76

      Vertical menu is fine. Just look at Facebook! It just shouldnt be your main way of navigation, especially if it has 12 items in the list.

  30. 77

    Don’t forget the ever influencing client critiques. You can have a good argument for a more simplistic design, larger type, less flash, etc., but sometimes the client just insists on doing it their way. Maybe they’ve been fixated on the design that struck them eight years ago, or maybe they see their competitors housing poor design on their sites and think that that’s the current standard. Either way, this was a great article. Thanks for the post!

  31. 78

    Have you tried the Heineken website? It would be nice to have your comments on the brazilian website.

    I’m from Brazil, and we have a lot of different beer websites around here. If you are interested try some of this ones:

    Congratulations for the article!

  32. 79

    Speaking of Alcohol websites,
    You could be a little more positive by showing some good examples like this one:

    • 80


      That site is very creative and interesting, but a terrible user experience. It has almost all the weaknesses I discussed in the article.

      • 81

        A horrible user experience? Please define, as I truly enjoyed the havanamojito site, finding it so much more than a flashy, inaccessible commercial. I actually found it “authentic”, if you can imagine that. I guess I must equate a vivid, cinematic simulation of a Havana nightclub with plain old bad web design. I do agree that much of the flash stuff is way overused and the inevitable age verification screen should be short and sweet. But one really gets the sense reading your article that you don’t like what you’re writing about at all, begrudgingly throwing in a few “positive” examples at the end just to provide some semblance of balance, which is nigh impossible after the lambasting at length already done.

        And with all due respect to SM, who assigns someone to write about alcohol websites who “can’t stand alcohol in any form”? That’s like asking Ann Coulter to write about the merits of the Democratic Party. Sorry, but this feels like a grudge piece, “moany” as someone else mentioned. And speaking of UX, it’s fair misery trying to navigate around this page once you’ve begun a post, trying to find the various references one wishes to cite.

        Louis, I imagine someone else has already made this suggestion — I’m certainly not going to try to navigate around to try to find it — but overall it sounds like you need a drink, or whatever it takes to loosen you up a bit. Cheers.

      • 82

        Relax, Steve. I’m writing about websites, not about alcohol. There’s a big difference there. And, maybe I didn’t make this clear enough, so I apologize, but in the first few paragraphs I said that I embarked on this project in order to showcase alcohol websites in a positive way.

        The end result was honest and objective because I had no intention of writing anything negative. But it’s only my opinion. I think people need to look at this as a positive way to encourage discussion on these issues, and stop viewing this as if I’m personally attacking these designers.

        A post that encourages 200+ comments is a good thing, regardless of what it says. Don’t you agree?

    • 83

      Christopher Anderton

      December 7, 2009 7:45 pm

      1. A flash intro that maked my CPU run wild (yes, i have a pretty new computer with 6 GBS of RAM)
      2. Enter a bloody birthdate (why? Can the flashsite detect that i’m lying when i say i was born 1901?) If must have this, do it like this: “To enter, you must be of legal age in the country you live in” Buttons: Enter – Exit
      3. Enter the coolest thing around, 2003. Pixel fonts in small, not resizeable sizes.
      4. Music, while nice nice soundtrack, but i took a while to find the tiny pixel speaker that sits in it’s tiny glory on the right bottom. I shut it off.
      5. Now it’s time for recipies. I clicked recipie for one Mojito. Enter a link to a PDF. Nothing wrong with that. But the download button should inform the user what type of file (and size) you are linking to. The same thing apply to the iPhone game. One click and iTunes is bumping in my dock. Inform the user.
      6. Navigation. While at the “Goodies” section. You cannot use your browser back and foward buttons. Instead we have a tiny pixel type in the top right corner that says “BACK TO THE WALL” and has a “universal” close symbol next to the text.

      Most of theese things are quite easy to fix. I was clicking the link to the the main company site. And there we could talk about big fail. It crashed my browser 2 times, took over my mouse pointer, and the stealed a rather huge amount of the CPU cycles.

      “And with all due respect to SM, who assigns someone to write about alcohol websites who “can’t stand alcohol in any form”? That’s like asking Ann Coulter to write about the merits of the Democratic Party.”

      It does not take away the fact that most of these sites are terrible in user interaction design. Or is your point that you need a drink to endure all this flash and bad user interaction design extravaganza? ;)

      • 84


        From your description, I feel like I was visiting a different site. I’m on a two year old laptop on wifi, and had no bandwith or over-cycling troubles. Yes, the age verification thing is a pain in the neck, but apparently, reading other comments from folks who have actually worked on these things, it’s something that has to be there. Other than that, I found the site effortless and enjoyable — what can I say? It felt more richly cinematic than shallow and flashy, not a lot of goo-ga’s popping up pointlessly. I did not spend more than a few minutes on the site, just to get past the doorman and watch the demonstration on mixing a mojito. That was enough — I left satisfied with the UX there.

        I’m apparently in the minority here in finding Louis’ commentary more than over-critical. And I really can’t tell you where he draws the line between good and bad. I’ve read many critical articles on this site (heck, I’ve bought the book), but by this article’s end I don’t even care if the majority of the sites are rancid — they have to provide a more edifying UX than reading the rant here about them.

  33. 85

    I always assume the “age verification” was more for collecting age-range data for marketing. But once again what’s the point when you can lie

    • 86

      Yes, that was my initial thought. By using this “login” method, they have useful data about the target audience that they are reaching. Even if some of the the data entered is fake, they should be able to extract something useful out of it.

      • 87

        I have never entered my correct age on these sites. I just click something close to it. Being precise takes too much effort.

    • 88

      I’ve always assumed this too. With a product like alcohol I imagine that knowing your target audience would be incredibly important. Now, having many countries requiring that only persons of legal drinking age visit the site, you suddenly have a government enforced marketing survey for your site – best of both worlds.

      As a bonus, because most alcohol sites have this verification it is a marketing survey that is accepted by the community as a whole.

  34. 89

    Evgeniy, the first thing on my mind was the comment about a vertical menu being outdated. So everybody should use horizontal navigation, really every site on the web? Why don’t we all use 1 template for all the sites in the world?

  35. 90
  36. 91

    Great article, Louis. There are some great sites showcased above, I especially like the el Jimador Tequila website. That age verification form on alcohol websites is incredibly annoying though, especially when most people start drinking much younger than 18 (UK), and it’s not hard to make up a DOB!

  37. 92

    Aw, you left out the most interesting man in the world.

  38. 93

    Excellent review, we learn a lot about accessibility and what we should or should not do as webdesigners. Thanks.

  39. 94

    You are spot on with your analysis!! I work in the wine and spirit industry and it seems that most websites are made useless and certainely do not encourage me to stay and look further that the landing page. Thank you again for such a good article.

  40. 95

    Not usable? Off course, because they are all drunk! Nice article, thanks.

  41. 96

    To be fair to the breweries, especially in the UK there is a lot of bad press if they are not seen to be acting responsibly.

    Given the different legal drinking ages between countries (21 in the US, 18 in the UK for example) I think it is perfectly acceptable for them to have a country/age check prior to page entry. It may be annoying, but I think it is necessary.

    Although I guess “Please confirm you are of legal drinking age in your country” would fit the bill.

  42. 97


  43. 98

    Thanks for this great analysis. It made me realize that I never ever went to an alcohol related website. It’s everyday you learn something new about yourself ;-)

  44. 99

    I was going to say check out The Macallan’s site, but they recently updated it and added way too much flash. It used to be much classier.
    I then proceeded to look at a few of my other favourite scotch’s sites only to discover that one of them actually has a looping animation of water. Seriously? Is this the late 90’s?

  45. 100

    I’ve always found that of liquor sites about the dates being useless. Most often, just in spite, I just tab through and select the first item in the list, I end up with a date such ad 1900 jan 01.
    At first I did it because I was ‘testing’ their site.
    I’m hoping the statistics make it back to the top of the chain and see that 109 year old people still drink!
    I can just hear them say “Amazing! 109 eh? How many hits on the site again?” :)
    I like these sites for their entertainment and creativity, but I also agree on the functionality being so poor.

    cheers to micro breweries

  46. 101

    Quit hating on Flash dude; jQuery animation is gash in comparison

    • 102

      A couple of the sites I included in the “good” list were Flash sites. I have no problem with Flash, but if you can do something just as nice in jQuery, don’t use Flash.

      • 103

        Or don’t do it at all. Crazy jQuery animation effects are getting just as irritating as Flash.

      • 104

        I agree that Flash is often used unnecessarily and that JavaScript should be used instead in many circumstances, but I think that developers who know very little about intelligently optimised Flash/Flex development, argue far too quickly for the use of JavaScript libraries instead of swf output.

        Although the use of js with html can improve SEO, it very often in de facto usage doesn’t improve accessibility in any real way, and the http load requests can take far longer to perform than well developed flash animations/effects, whereby the pre-installed Flash player takes away the need to download and parse entire base classes/functions.

        Louis, you say you don’t have a problem with Flash sites, but your article clearly shows that you do. Also, Ben, comments like “jQuery animation effects are getting just as irritating as Flash” don’t really help the debate at all. Sure, bad animations can be annoying, but creating interfaces with reactive movement and depth often deeply enrich not only the aesthetic experience, but usability as well.

        One more thing, not related to Flash at all – I was completely confused by this crtitcism in the article: “The Miller Lite website is too small for modern screen resolutions.” I have no idea why you have a problem with this? I had a look at the site, and it wasn’t hard to read in any way, nor was it restrictively narrow, so I’m completely stumped by this. A lot of the sites you listed as “good” were too big for 1024 screens (like Aviation Gin), which a large majority of users around the world still have – especially entry level laptop users.

        On a positive note, I fully agreed with all you said about the age verification and intro pages, as well as auto playing videos and sounds.

        I’m probably not going to get a response, but clarification on the Miller Lite comment would be great, as I am really struggling to understand that criticism.

      • 105

        @Alex M, let me explain what I meant there.

        What I am saying is that bad animations – that is, those animation effects that are really pointless and even detrimental to the user experience – are bad regardless of the technology used to create them.

        There seems to be this idea lately with the Smashing Mag crowd that if you recreate some fancy Flash effect using JavaScript, it’s automatically OK.

        It’s not, and in many cases you would be better off just using Flash rather than rebuilding a clunky, cheap-feeling JS version.

        That said, I feel that animation effects, whether Flash OR JS, are still way too overused on websites created by big ad agencies, like those featured in this article.

        They are purely self-indulgent features that are there to please the client, the agency and the designer – basically everyone except the customer that actually has to use the site.

  47. 106

    I have to agree with Maik… He is right. You may think you know that you can design a better website… hell you probably could. The problem is not with the designers. Its with Marketing and mainly THE CLIENT. The Beer or Alcohol company. I work in this type of industry and I know exactly how this game works. Its very sad. Corporate America at it’s best or worst in this case.

    The Company lets say Schmoo Beer comes to your agency and says I want you to create a website for me. This all goes through marketing first…”The sales person”. Then marketing comes to you the designer and says, “Here is what they want.” Design around these guidelines.

    So you do and you come up with something you think is pretty fantastic. Marketing shows the client. The client is not happy and they make a few changes. To make a long story short this goes on for quite some time and goes through all the CEO’s at Schmoo’s hands. And of course they all ad what they think looks best because they are the “Real Designers” right? Before you know it your site which once looked great has been chopped up into an ugly cheap looking mark up that you would be ashamed to put out.

    But that is why the agency pays you so much. So you bite your tongue and let your company sell a website that is mediocre looking at best if not just down right disgusting.

    Like I said its a sad thing. But it is also sad that a Freelancer who knows no better will always look at something and say they could do better. But it happens everywhere and not just in the alcohol industry.

    This is why you should probably bite your tongue when knocking on the designer of a website. He may not have had a choice. Just because you say you could do better doesn’t make you a better web designer. It just makes you fortunate that you are free from corporate hands.

    • 107

      nightmare clients are all around. I hate doing websites that i don’t want to include in my portfolio… is there a disclaimer we can add, “This site looked good before the client took over. love -designer “?

      • 108

        I’d recommend googling for The Oatmeal’s article “How A Web Design Goes Straight To Hell”… would be entertaining if it wasn’t so accurate.

    • 109

      Christopher Anderton

      December 7, 2009 7:52 pm

      You are right. However, i don’t understand why you have that site listed in your folio, if you did not think the result where any good (because of the client) (i rather list the client name instead of the site).

      If you list the site, then you are fully responsible for that site, even if the client wants animated cats that sing christmas carols.

  48. 110

    I never understood why brewery websites would ask for your age since at least in the USA it’s not required by any law. What exactly is this age check preventing? Nobody is getting virtually drunk, and its not like these same breweries go to great lengths to protect under-age users from viewing their tv commercials or billboards?

  49. 111

    Most stupid article so far , Gratz!

  50. 112

    Great article ! Keep them comin`!


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