Think your business Website sucks? Submit the url for your company's Website here. I'll critique the design and offer tips on how to make it better.The Website: Republic Tequila
My rating: 4 stars out of 5
You know The Most Interesting Man In The World, who says he doesn't always drink beer? I would venture to guess that when he doesn't, he's drinking something like Republic Tequila. The Republic Tequila Website is cool. It's crisp and clean with some great color combinations that draw the visitors to join the party. It shows the company is unique and has character, which is exactly what the aim should be for every Website, whether you are selling shoes like Zappos or iPhone accessories like Zagg.
One of the things to note about alcohol Websites is that you must be 21 to enter in the United States and that all have an entrance page to verify if you are of legal age to enter the site or not. It hinders the initial entry to a Website, which I don't like, but rules are rules and it's there for a reason. Republic Tequila handles this well with just a yes or no question and doesn't require the visitor to jump through hoops to continue on to the Website. It's actually very inviting and makes you want to know what happens next after you click 'yes.'
The Republic Tequila Website incorporates some very important fundamentals that many Websites miss. The use of videos, image gallery, blog, recipes, learning and social media is spot on. The goal is to create an atmosphere, not just a commercial Website, that caters to a specific audience and conveys the brand. Immediately, I know I am part of the experience at Republic Tequila.
There are two issues that tend to stir up Web design folks: the use of Flash and a design based on dark colors. Republic Tequila shows you can do both and not only pull it off, but make it look great. I like that Republic Tequila didn't make the whole site about Flash. Everything on the left-side of the pages is HTML and everything on the right-side is Flash. This means they lose no search engine optimization and can add some great, interactive effects plus video.
What Could Be Better
Navigation: The text links on the left-side are stacked on top of each other and thus do not stand out on the site as well as they should because they are not underlined or bold. One way to fix this is to enlarge the text and add some padding around it so the links are not so close together. Right now, it's easy to click unintentionally on the wrong link. These links could also be on the top of the page as a horizontal navigation, where most readers are used to finding them.
Search engine optimization: I would like to see a sitemap added to the Website and the addition of Footer links at the bottom of the pages. Remember, when in doubt link to everything twice or more. Not all visitors are created equal, so you need to have more than one option to navigate the Website.
One problem I noticed was that when navigating to the blog and the gallery and then back to the main site, the URL drops the "www." This affects the SEO of the Website because search engines treat sites with "www" and without very differently. It is best to use one or the other but not both.
Some other things that could help Republic Tequila: Add more text on the very front page with the Yes or No question. Some Footer text on the bottom of this page describing the company would help search engine rank greatly with this layout. I would also add the phone numbers to the Contact Us page and add some type of email graphic or location map to spice this page up. Also, this may seem small but not keeping up with a copyright date doesn't look good. I use these to determine when the Website was last updated, whether it's true or not it looks like it was 2009 for Republic Tequila.
One of the great things the company has going for it is that the word 'Tequila' is in the name. This makes for great text links coming in for SEO. (Keep this is mind if you are starting a new Website or thinking about revamping your existing one. Names that include locations and keywords work well: i.e. Corpus Christi Home Inspection.)
Overall Republic Tequila's Website has a tasty twist of lime and a handsome shake of salt and it shows. A few small additions and the Website will be the life of the party as more people find it and give it a shot.
Nicholas Longo is the director of Web strategy at Rackspace Hosting where he helps small businesses harness the power of cloud computing and SaaS apps every day. Follow Nick on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.