Welcome to our 2nd new website!
It wasn’t too long into the early days of developing ‘Through the Grape Van’ that Seb and I were faced with a dilemma experienced by the majority of start ups of the 21st century: what do we do about our website?
By good fortune, through his job at the Cambridge Wine Merchant, Seb had developed a solid network with wine loving members of the Cambridge community, including the dynamic husband and wife masterminds behind Clarity CB1, a design and photography company. Early believers in what Seb and I were trying to do with Through the Grape Van, they generously offered to capture amazing photos of us and the van and build the company website (so long as meetings took place over some of our favourite bottle(s) of wine. Enter Delphine, CB1’s talented French web developer, who took some of Russ’ stunning photos and whipped up a beautiful site on very short notice and just in time for The Grape Van’s soft launch party in April 2018.
We spent our first trading summer taking on all the events we were invited to participate in. This was an attempt to build up market presence and experience. Some were big, some were small, and we soon realised that there was a real risk of coming away after working long hours having lost money if we weren’t strategic. It was an important learning curve to figure out what our niche is, what arrangements could be profitable to our fledgling business, and which were money pits (big festivals with high pitch fees and many other competing traders, for example) but more on this in our next blog!
Over this period our energies were so focused on driving Christafette around southern England and putting in long days at festivals that little time was left for office based work. The website was still the version that went live months earlier, it’s main focus was on the renovation process that turned a bright blue 1970 Renault Estafette into the sleek silver Christafette and the launch party from the springtime.
With little spare time on our hands we were extremely fortunate that my target orientated wife, Lauren, is never too far off the scene helping us to focus our energy into goals and tangible outputs. She helped us to re-examine the first iteration of the website; attractive and with lovely photos, but, as we hadn’t clearly stated our intentions or how our industry works to Clarity, that it may not have the required functionality or user journey in mind.
Ultimately we found that the process of strategic thinking around “what do we need our website to do for us as a business?” then turned into “who are we as a business? What’s our target market? What are our primary offerings? What is our mission statement?” Having to think about the best way to develop our new website so that it could really work for us as a young company forced us to sit down and think strategically about where we want to develop as a company moving forward.
It seems that for Seb and I, occasionally giving ourselves a distinct task with a clear deliverable (such as a website redevelopment) will help us into a more detail orientated way of thinking. Over the course of a few meetings (no wine this time) we settled on a new aesthetic for thegrapevan.co.uk, quite different from where it started off: clean, bright and much more consistent with our logo and Christafette (via the colour scheme, images and font).
We decided that the primary function of the site is to offer information and channels of communication for both of our two modes of trading: how to find us at events or when we’re set up for walk up business in a public space (by having addresses that automatically link to Google Maps for easy directions and, for ticketed events, supplying links where tickets can be purchased), and how to hire us for private events (by having an enquiry form that prompts potential clients for crucial pieces of information). We wanted to make it as easy and quick as possible for potential customers to find their way to the right part of the site in as few clicks as possible, especially for mobile phone users trying to figure out where we may be on any given evening. Secondary to this is a place to document and catalogue the van and events (in our gallery) and to create a home for our original content targeted to wine lovers (our blog).
So here we are! Welcome to our new website, as we’ve gotten to so far with an enormous thanks to the Clarity team and Lauren. We’d love your feedback and input – who knows – feedback on how we can improve our website may even help us imagine ways to improve our business.