The Unusable and Superficial World of Beer and Alcohol Websites

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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

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

JETT VODKA865

JETT VODKA6

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

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

Budweiser10

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:

ZIMA18

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

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

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?

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:

BACARDI31

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

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.

Corona41

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.

Michelob48

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.

Hennessy54

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?)

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

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

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.

Guinness74

Guinness75

Coors Light76

Coors Light77

Sleeman Breweries Ltd.78

Sleeman Breweries Ltd.79

Molson Canadian80

Molson Canadian81

Deschutes Brewery82

Deschutes Brewery83

SVEDKA84

SVEDKA85

JETT VODKA865

JETT VODKA87

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

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

  1. 1 http://www.corona.com/
  2. 2 http://www.corona.com/
  3. 3 http://www.christianiavodka.com/
  4. 4 http://www.christianiavodka.com/
  5. 5 http://www.drinkjett.com/
  6. 6 http://www.drinkjett.com/
  7. 7 http://www.labatt.com/
  8. 8 http://www.anheuser-busch.com/
  9. 9 http://www.budweiser.com/
  10. 10 http://www.budweiser.com/
  11. 11 http://www.samueladams.com/
  12. 12 http://www.samueladams.com
  13. 13 http://www.samueladams.com
  14. 14 http://www.remy.com/
  15. 15 http://www.remy.com/
  16. 16 http://www.getinteresting.com/
  17. 17 http://www.zima.com/
  18. 18 http://www.zima.com
  19. 19 http://www.busch.com/
  20. 20 http://www.busch.com/
  21. 21 http://www.busch.com/
  22. 22 http://www.worldsofdiscoveryblog.com/
  23. 23 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/11/27/designing-websites-for-kids-trends-and-best-practices/
  24. 24 http://www.seagramsginlive.com/
  25. 25 http://www.seagramsginlive.com/
  26. 26 http://www.finlandia.com/
  27. 27 http://www.absolut.com/
  28. 28 http://www.threeolives.com/
  29. 29 http://www.threeolives.com/
  30. 30 http://www.bacardi.com/
  31. 31 http://www.bacardi.com/
  32. 32 http://www.zyrvodka.com/
  33. 33 http://www.zyrvodka.com/
  34. 34 http://www.bombaysapphire.com/
  35. 35 http://www.bombaysapphire.com/
  36. 36 http://www.mountgay.com/
  37. 37 http://www.mountgay.com/
  38. 38 http://www.jamesonwhiskey.com/
  39. 39 http://www.jamesonwhiskey.com/
  40. 40 http://www.corona.com/
  41. 41 http://www.corona.com/
  42. 42 http://www.budlight.com/
  43. 43 http://www.budlight.com/
  44. 44 http://www.bluemoonbrewingcompany.com/
  45. 45 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auld_Lang_Syne
  46. 46 http://www.bluemoonbrewingcompany.com/
  47. 47 http://www.michelob.com/
  48. 48 http://www.michelob.com/
  49. 49 http://www.skyy.com/
  50. 50 http://www.skyy.com/
  51. 51 http://www.russianstandardvodka.com/
  52. 52 http://www.russianstandardvodka.com/
  53. 53 http://www.hennessy.com/
  54. 54 http://www.hennessy.com/
  55. 55 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mystery_meat_navigation
  56. 56 http://www.sanmiguelbeer.com.ph/
  57. 57 http://www.sanmiguelbeer.com.ph/
  58. 58 http://widmer.com/
  59. 59 http://widmer.com/
  60. 60 http://www.malibu-rum.com/
  61. 61 http://www.malibu-rum.com/
  62. 62 http://www.mountgay.com/
  63. 63 http://www.mountgay.com/
  64. 64 http://millerlite.com/
  65. 65 http://millerlite.com/
  66. 66 http://www.martell.com/
  67. 67 http://www.martell.com/
  68. 68 http://www.beefeatergin.com/
  69. 69 http://www.beefeatergin.com/
  70. 70 http://4copas.com/
  71. 71 http://4copas.com/
  72. 72 http://www.jackdaniels.com/
  73. 73 http://www.jackdaniels.com/
  74. 74 http://www.guinness.com/
  75. 75 http://www.guinness.com/
  76. 76 http://www.coorslight.ca/
  77. 77 http://www.coorslight.ca/
  78. 78 http://www.sleeman.com/
  79. 79 http://www.sleeman.com/
  80. 80 http://www.molsoncanadian.ca/
  81. 81 http://www.molsoncanadian.ca/
  82. 82 http://www.deschutesbrewery.com/
  83. 83 http://www.deschutesbrewery.com/
  84. 84 http://www.svedka.com/
  85. 85 http://www.svedka.com/
  86. 86 http://www.drinkjett.com/
  87. 87 http://www.drinkjett.com/
  88. 88 http://www.mikeshard.com/
  89. 89 http://www.mikeshard.com/
  90. 90 http://www.aviationgin.com/
  91. 91 http://www.aviationgin.com/
  92. 92 http://www.silveroak.com/
  93. 93 http://www.silveroak.com/
  94. 94 http://www.ste-michelle.com/
  95. 95 http://www.ste-michelle.com/
  96. 96 http://www.rombauer.com/
  97. 97 http://www.rombauer.com/
  98. 98 http://www.eljimador.com/
  99. 99 http://www.eljimador.com/
  100. 100 http://www.cuervo.com/
  101. 101 http://www.cuervo.com/
  102. 102 http://www.1800tequila.com/
  103. 103 http://www.1800tequila.com/
  104. 104 http://www.bushmills.com/
  105. 105 http://www.bushmills.com/
  106. 106 http://www.tullamoredew.com/
  107. 107 http://www.tullamoredew.com/
  108. 108 http://www.admiralnelsonsrum.com/
  109. 109 http://www.admiralnelsonsrum.com/
  110. 110 http://www.captainmorgan.com/
  111. 111 http://www.captainmorgan.com/

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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.

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  1. 1

    that Molson Canadian site was terrible, unusable for everyone except canadians.
    it requires you to insert a postal code.

    after 5 minutes of trying to enter i gave up :((

    0
  2. 152

    EXCELLENT brand builder and a great advertisement that speaks to their young, affluent target market of club-scene types. If you get motion sickness from that site, your probably not in the target market, so sorry grandpa, your opinion is irrelevant.

    0
  3. 303

    Great article, you should also check the 2600vodka, it’s super clean and realy nice looking site done completely in XHTML/CSS – http://www.26000vodka.com/

    0
  4. 454

    I cannot agree more with this article. I was just talking to my buddy about this.

    I actually made my own beer website with wordpress. Drinking one new beer a day for a year.

    http://365beers.wordpress.com/

    Let me know what you guys think of the design!

    0
  5. 605

    Really, really, really bad article in so many ways. I thought we took jakob nielsen out the back and shot him years ago – it is mind boggling to still see morons still campaigning against flash.

    The web is not text – get over it. It is an amazing place full of life in all forms – get used to it. Flash is a fantastic medium and makes the web a much more enjoyable place to be – if everything were text I would be reading this on a kindle.

    Further genuine full screen only became available in the last three years – oops. Outisde of that it was a hack.

    when ever I read stupid blogs like this I can not help but think of the fact that most companies before TV believed it was a novelty and would not last – most of them no longer exist.

    Campaigning against flash is the last vestige of incompetent old men who cant code, cant design and have no idea.

    Finally the purpose of gathering this information is for demographics on a scale you sir, have no idea about –

    You should take this blog down – it is for html coders and only serves to embarrass you.

    0
  6. 756

    Well..if your goal was to create A LOT of fuss about website design and get a bunch of comments to your article..CONGRATULATIONS, YOU DID IT! Anyway, I do agree that age/country verification – in spite of being a legal requirement – is, at least for not-so-innocent people over 10 (this being a decreasing age these days), a waste of time, as anyone can lie about this. I also agree that some parts of a website DON’T NEED to be made with Flash. But, then again, why not? Flash Player is installed in most computers, anyway…and maybe some people don’t like Javascript…but we could be talking about this forever. What I don’t agree is the “Mistery Meat” part of your article. I do like websites where the clickable parts are not immediatly visible to the user – that’s a consequence of IMMAGINATION AND CREATIVITY from the developer/designer and it helps creating a not-so-grey-and-standard Web. If everyone was making “standard websites”, with standard menus, etc, there wouldn’t be any of those interesting/funny websites and web applications – I guess you can say that the Web 2.0 concept wouldn’t exist either. So…as Dev said on his comment “the web is not [just] text – get over it”. Peace

    0
    • 907

      Where is it a legal requirement? My research says it’s not (in most markets).

      Just everybody following along like sheep because somebody did it first. There ARE voluntary codes of practice and corporate ethics/policies that insist on age verification – but they are completely pointless in my view.

      However we continue to build client sites with age verification because clients want it – mainly because they don’t have the time or courage to buck the trend or face down corporate/head office mandarins.

      Sad.

      0
  7. 1058

    age verification… besides getting information such as which region your IP is located, the website’s market research system now has the age of the visiting individual… providing of course if the said visitor is indeed telling the truth which is found by yet another market research system that finds the percentage of who is telling the truth.

    so, just for a few numbers… 10 people visit the site, of the 10 there are 3 underage and 2 are them are male (beer just for argument sake) so to grab more lady drinkers, they decide to develop a “corona” type drink called bud light with lime and promote it using fun loving smart-sexy covered 20-something girlies… you know just to break into another market. :)

    seriously people, you really needed to ask?

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  8. 1209

    There isn’t a legal requirement for age verification, however there is an industry requirement established by DISCUS (Distilled Spirits Council of the US). DISCUS has created a code of responsible practices, and the relevant section states:

    “Age affirmation mechanisms, utilizing month, day and year, should be employed for DISCUS member- controlled beverage alcohol advertising and marketing websites. They also should contain a reminder of the legal purchase age.” From http://www.discus.org/responsibility/code.asp

    In light of this, I would love to see this article updated to show a proposed best practice that has great usability AND is DISCUS compliant.

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  9. 1360

    Most of them were visually appealing (more so as still image thumbnails on your site) and all of them had something that made me ask “how the hell did they do that?” but that doesn’t excuse the fact that none of the ones I visited offered the user anything of any real value to warrant all of the noise, ruckus or ………………..waiting.

    Alcohol companies have truckloads of cash…..this compilation certainly illustrates that money doesn’t buy good taste.

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  10. 1511

    Good article- I’ve had to visit the web sites of 187 microbreweries (and that’s just getting started) for a project I’m doing. By far the worst is the dreaded all flash site, which seems to be extremely pervasive. The age verification is very irritating too, however it seems much more prevalent on us sites than Canadian (like 99% to 75%), and as you mentioned, on many sites it’s very hard to figure out how to enter your birth date.
    I’ve also noticed several sites are noting but several jpegs (in one case the entire site was a single jpeg).

    The sites I’ve been looking at are all microbreweries (very small businesses) but they seem to be copying the big companies as closely as possible.

    This was a spot on article. I think a good web designer could make a killing redesigning microbrewery web sites!

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  11. 1662

    If anyone’s still following comments on this article here’s a great example of good age verification and a nicely interactive site with NO flash.

    http://donq.com/

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  12. 1813

    Great article but linked pictures are missing – pls. repair it, thanks!

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  13. 1964

    fixed! sorry for this

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  14. 2115

    Awesome article! Building a site now and these will come in handy :)

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  15. 2266

    “…very beautifully-designed but nightmarishly-unusable…”
    When related to the web, this is an oxymoron. Surprised to see this written in a smashing article!

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  16. 2417

    I found this article because I was interested in other people’s opinions about the unneccesary age verification screen.

    I’m working on an alcohol related website, and I have noticed that it is a very fad driven industry. What one brewery does, another brewery wants to follow. It’s hard to get the client to allow creative freedom on the designer’s part because they want their site to look like “that one,” and they really like the sound the site makes when you load a new page, so they want that effect too.

    I couldn’t agree more with this article. Here’s to businesses in the alcohol industry maturing in their individuality.

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  17. 2568

    In the UK, age verification screens aren’t a legal requirement per se but guided by industry best practice, see: http://www.portmangroup.org.uk/?pid=30&level=3 .

    While, it is obvious that the best practice solution is as feeble as any more simplistic versions in reality, IMO ,the author of this article really should update it to show examples of good ‘compliant’ design

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