Here at robersonwine.com we spend a lot of time trying to make using our site as pleasingly straightforward as possible. But ours is not the only way. Across the Channel the French have turned the style-is-all website into a fine art. And the crème de la crème of these Masters of Flash are the Champagne houses. To visit the website of a Champagne producer is to enter a virtual world where any semblance of helpfulness or functionality has been mercilessly repressed in the name of that elusive continental quality: ‘flair’. You may go in thinking, ‘I’ll just check the alcohol content of the Brut Reserve for this brochure I’m making – shouldn’t be more than a minute’, but you will come out (usually many hours later) with the intense online experience that only a ‘luxury brand’ can provide seared into your brain forever.
If you’re an aspiring Champagne producer looking to build a website to compete with the best, you may be wondering where on earth to start. Well never fear, you’ve come to the right place. I have selflessly spent many hours studying the work of the webmasters of Champagne and have distilled their art down into five simple principles. Stick to these and you’ll be well on your way to harnessing the raw power of flair.
1. Flash – The Only Language Worth Understanding
In much the same way that French is obviously the world’s first language but also needs a committee to protect it from Anglicization, Flash is the best and only option for the flair-focused webmaster. Any mention of HTML 5 and the like should be stubbornly ignored. Remember that just because things move on, it doesn’t mean you can’t put a little fence around the old thing and pretend it’s not happening.
2. If it Works, Fix It
Flair is fun, and you’ll want to make sure your site is packed with little tricks to make the user experience more interesting. Thinking of starting with a five minute Flash intro (if you aren’t, you should be), then why not add a little ‘skip intro’ button that appears halfway through but doesn’t work? Or better yet, have it start the whole process again. Hilarious! Remember the golden rule: if it works, you’re probably not paying enough attention to style and your flair factor will suffer.
3. It’s Better with Music
While we’re at it, a word about music. Who doesn’t like music? No one, that’s who. As long as it’s loud and you can’t turn it off without ripping the plug socket out of the wall in desperation, it’s extra flair points, so go for it.
4. Absolutely No Children
Champagne websites are for adults only. This cannot be stressed enough. There is a real danger that, should a minor gain access, they will be driven insane by the confusing design and transformed into a violent alcoholic. Fortunately, anybody under the age of 18 who wants to waste the precious days of their youth trying to browse a website that looks as though it’s channelling Donald Trump in a beret is obviously too stupid to tick the box confirming that they are old enough to do so. But just to be on the safe side, it’s as well to make the age verification process as tiresome as possible, with separate drop-down boxes for each digit and a list of countries including things like ‘England’ filed under ‘U’.
5. The Customer is Always Wrong
People may think they are visiting your website to discover a certain piece of information, but what do they know? What they really want is to be taken on a journey, a virtual experience that embodies the luxury nature of your brand. Accordingly, don’t just stick in a menu with headings like ‘Our Wines’, ‘About Us’, and so on. Where’s the mystery in that? Instead, use words that don’t really mean anything, like ‘Essence’ or ‘Vague’. Whatever you do, you must make sure you hide all the links inside a giant image. There is nothing the user subconsciously craves more than the opportunity to move their mouse around a virtual Rococo palace, waiting for something to jump out that they can click on like a Whac-A-Mole, in the hope that one of them will somehow turn out to be what they were looking for (although of course you will have made sure it won’t be, in line with point 2 above).
Work on the French language, all Flash version of robersonwine.com has not yet commenced.