Nov 19 2012

Blue Acorn Launches Southern Brewing & Winemaking

Southern Brewing & Winemaking

Brewing at home has become a more and more popular pastime for Americans during the past decade. It was only a few months ago that President Barack Obama released his personal beer recipes. The Commander in Chief’s weekend hobby is the first time in US history that alcohol had been manufactured in the White House. According to brewers who have tried his signature honey porter, the President has a real knack for the craft.

So if one was inclined to brew their own beer or make their own wine, where does one find the tools and ingredients? It’s certainly not a regular item you can find in a grocery store.

Southern Brewing and Winemaking eCommerce Design

Southern Brewing & Winemaking, based in Tampa, FL, provides homebrewers and winemakers anything and everything they need to pursue their craft. Until a few weeks ago, the only way to experience Southern Brewing & Winemaking was to head down to Tampa and walk through their store. As of this week, however, customers can now go online and find everything they need in just a few clicks. That being said, a good user experience takes more than getting customers to the checkout page quickly. Blue Acorn and Southern Brewing & Winemaking have gone to great lengths to keep visitors engaged beyond the linear shopping experience.

While there is more than just one Magento store where you can buy such supplies, none of them boast a shopping experience as delightful as Southern Brewing & Winemaking. They wanted to create a standout eCommerce site for their industry, and – having viewed the competition – they accomplished exactly that. The final design is aesthetically pleasing, the navigation is intuitive, the guides and videos are useful, and best of all, the site is just plain fun to shop.

Blue Acorn customized Magento’s product pages to include a slew of useful features, including social integrations, Facebook comments, cross-sells, and a solution for grain bill orders. To further give customers the in store experience, Blue Acorn included a feature that allows staff comments – including videos – to be included on every product.

three images from dribble SBW

Brewing and winemaking is a tight-knit community of people who love to share information and ideas. To serve this community, Blue Acorn created brewing and winemaking guides to help new hobbyists learn about the craft and ultimately find the products they need to get started. In addition to the guides, Blue Acorn created landing pages with recipes, staff picks, videos, and product highlights. These pages are another way to engage visitors and help them find the right product and the right information. They also made it easy to access the brewing communities through their own blog, Facebook, Twitter, and their YouTube channel by devoting a dropdown menu on the main navigation bar.

Blue Acorn’s Creative Director, Victor Bejar, designed the site to reflect the brewing traditions of the 16th and 17th century. Even the font comes straight from from the Late Renaissance by way of the very late typographer, Dr. John Fell. The background is a tribute to the old wooden casks originally used to brew beer in those times and the old parchment upon which the original abbey recipes were inscribed. Bejar even went more old school by applying the golden ratio as described in the works of 16th century mathematician, Johannes Kepler.

Speaking on the challenges of the design, Bejar said, “What I wanted to capture is the feeling of a very old tradition. The challenge was finding balance between usability and those iconic images. We carefully used texture on buttons and borders to convey usability and blend the features into the aesthetics. Creating flexible patterns, like the paper, which bends to the will of the page without seeming like a pattern, was a challenge. Our UI team was able to find the balance and create a site without seams.”

If you want to learn more about Blue Acorn’s Design process, or if you have a question about design at all, you can tweet our Creative Director directly at @VictorBejar and/or visit Blue Acorn’s Dribbble page.

The highly-stylized design, which is no small feat on Magento, is supported with our best-in-class Magento development capabilities. Through strict adherence to best practices for Magento and CSS, we were able to create a faster site for visitors without cutting corners or putting the site at a higher risk for bugs.

close up of product page

Blue Acorn’s keyword research helped Southern Brewing & Winemaking name the different landing pages and the resulting URL structure for them. Without the keyword research, the customization would have terrible affect on SEO because they were all improperly named for SEO.

As mentioned earlier, Blue Acorn came up with a solution for grain bill orders, which is an order for a very specific combination of grains and other ingredients needed to produce the wort. For an eCommerce site, it’s more than a custom product. It’s a unique combination of several other products that already exist in the site’s Magento catalog. The convenience of this custom solution carries over to the cart as well, where instead of seeing a list of fractions of a product in the cart, a customer sees a single grain bill for his or her signature brew.

On the backend, Southern Brewing & Winemaking’s new site features a custom integration with Fishbowl, an inventory management solution for QuickBooks users that connects Quickbooks and Magento. With this new tool, we were able to seamlessly tie Southern Brewing & Winemaking’s familiar accounting software with their new site. It was a new request for us, and our developers appreciated the challenge.

The site is so easy to use, even the busiest of brewers can get in, find what they want, and checkout with ease. By keeping things simple and efficient, there’s no reason why every brewer and winemaker shouldn’t shop there. Maybe even the President himself will begin shopping at Southern Brewing & Winemaking. Right now, the possibilities seem endless. You can check out the site yourself, or just watch our video demonstration below.

Just as Southern Brewing & Winemaking went to great lengths to give their customers the best experience possible, we strive to do the same for ours, and we’re happy to report that both of us succeeded. Kelly FensterMacher, Co-Owner of Southern Brewing & Winemaking, had this to say about her company’s experience with Blue Acorn:

“The Blue Acorn team is very professional and knowledgeable, but they are also incredibly personable, even down to the most technical folks on the team. Working on this project with them has actually been fun! But most importantly, their project management is top notch. We always felt confident that the project was moving forward at a good speed without compromising the quality or details. We’d recommend Blue Acorn to anyone developing an eCommerce site, but especially to those who want to impart a personal experience to customers who visit their website. Blue Acorn is masterful at creating a website that is an individualized expression of your company, both in functionality and personality.”

Matthew Rickerby

Head of Marketing

Matt began his career in ecommerce at Blue Acorn over five years ago. His areas of expertise include persona development, account-based marketing, and content marketing. He has co-written speaking sessions for Bronto Summit, DIG South, GIANT, and Revolve, and received multiple awards for videography, blogging, and copywriting.

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