Sober Web Experts Can’t Focus On The Wine Spectator Home Page

by Crazy Egg Experts

Last updated on March 5th, 2018

We have mixed reviews on the online version of the classy magazine, Wine Spectator.

One thing is clear though, this website has a lot of information to communicate to its audience.  From wine ratings to classes to print and online subscriptions.

How well the website communicates this information is up to our Crazy Egg experts and you.  We would love to hear your thoughts on the design, usability and effectiveness of this website home page in the comments.

 Click on the image to enlarge:

Wine Spectator Website Review

Naomi NilesThis looks like a popular website with authority.

It could benefit greatly from re-organizing some of the information though and some white space. There is a lot of competing information that makes it difficult for the eye to be guided to the right places. I want to jump back and forth from the photo to the right-hand side, but I don’t know exactly where to look on the right hand side.

To start, I would suggest the following items for them:

1. Removing the search box above the news story (there’s already one and it’s not such an important feature to be taking up that important space on the page).

2. Better integrating the tagline “The New World Wine Experience” into the rest of the design. It stands out, but it doesn’t look like it fits into the rest of the design.

3. Consider if the area to talk to Dr. Vinny is important enough to compete with the main site navigation.

4. The daily wine pics and quick wine lists would be easier to scan if there were more differentiation. For example, the text color for the prices could be a different color than the rest. Also, they don’t look like links as they are and the date should be smaller as it’s not the most important piece of information since the word “daily” already implies that it’s “today”.

5. It’s good that the member sign-up form stands-out, but again, it doesn’t integrate well with the rest of the design. This, however, is something that should be tested.

6. The member login is taking a lot of space and competing with the sign-up form quite a lot. It might be a much better use of space to pull that into the same “member” call-to-action space above and put a simple link that says something like, “Member already? Sign-in” that takes you to a sign-in page. I notice that there’s another login link at the top of the site already as well.

7. The subscription options could be grouped together under one link in the top of the site. Instead of having 3 links to “Online Membership”, “Magazine Subscription” and “Digital Subscription”, there could be one simple link that says “Membership & Subscription Options” that goes to a full page detailing the different options and benefits of each.

8. Finally, I like the graphics on the right-hand side under the login form, but without a heading, it’s difficult to determine what they are. Are they labels or something similar?

All in all, I think this looks like a nice informational site and a few small alterations could help it keep the same usefulness for visitors and also help them find what they need more quickly and easily.
~ Naomi Niles, ShiftFWD


Brian Massey, Conversion ScientistI would expect this home page to perform well, with the primary value being the search for a wine rating in the sweet spot. The call to action is also in a good spot with high contrast. There are lots of choices in the nav bar, but this is probably preferable to a left subnav where the featured story lives. Featured stories are great for spontaneous wine enthusiasts.

I’d only change things on this page carefully, with a test. It should work well for Wine Spectator.

~Brian Massey, Conversion Sciences


Rich Page, AuthorUnconventional module layout. No benefits of using site are shown. Right hand of the page looks too much like banners. Seems too much emphasis on wine rating search box. Are the other search tools needed there too? Seems cluttered. Not immediately clear what the image on left is for – is it latest news?

~Rich Page, Rich Page: Website Optimizer


SanjThe whole website has a very “old” feel to it and looks like a site made from a template. It’s very “squarish” in lots of its sections and reads a little like a newspaper. There also seem to be too many navigational links, both horizontally and vertically.

~ Sanj Sahayam, Unique Imprints


Craig Wright

I get that this is a magazine site and they seem to do a good job of making, what I must assume is, desirable content above the fold, however the visual design really gets in the way.

Remove or at least soften the some of the clutter. The right side of the page has so much visual strength that it competes with all the other content. Type could use a bit of leading and perhaps remove some of the content on the page altogether.

~ Craig Wright, CMW Web


Sofia Wood, Shortie DesignsQuite simply, I don’t know what this site is about. There are too many elements that don’t work together well, confusing the senses and painting a vague picture. The membership signup completely rebels against the colour palette and there is too much copy. Focusing on their key goals, reducing the amount of copy and removing some of the elements on the page would help to improve how this site functions for a visitor.

~Sofia Woods, Shortie Designs


Angela Jones, Design By Ange.laWine Spectator could use a design refresh!

The giant call out “You’re not a member yet?” creates some hierarchy issues and is poorly designed, e.g. colors, drop shadow, web 2.0-ishness – all elements that aren’t consistent with the rest of the site design.

The purple box “the new world wine experience” in the header seems a little out of place. Not sure if that’s their tagline or an ad of some sort.

Overall, the design elements like these two aren’t cohesive with the overall design and my eye is not sure where to land.
~ Angela Jones, Freelance Designer


Robin Cannon, Shiny Toy RobotsThere’s a misconception of the importance of “above the fold”. Its significance is massively over estimated. Most evidence suggests that people have absolutely no problem scrolling around a home page. Given the multiple device sizes and resolutions, “above the fold” is different on every device anyway.

Wine Spectator has fallen into the trap of focusing too much on “above the fold”. They’ve tried to fit too much information into too small a space. The homepage lacks focus. There are too many navigation options and additional links, and no clear call to action. They need to simplify, perhaps focus on the “Find a Wine” as a great first teaser for new visitors, and not worry about trying to cram everything into such a small space.
~ Robin Cannon,
Viggle, Inc


Jessica Shailes, Fluid Web WorksWine is my drink of choice if I’m indulging in alcohol and it wouldn’t be difficult to get my interest with anything to do with wine. Despite that, this website fails to hit the spot for me. I am not emotionally drawn into it and I’ve got a fair idea why;

The page is far too busy with competing elements of the same size. There is no clear distinction in hierarchy, and I find it difficult to know where my eye is supposed to be drawn.

I am not entirely sure what the purpose of the site is or if it’s targeting someone like me, it would take further research to figure that one out. However, I’m also not very sure which link to follow to find that information out. I am not sure from this first page what the benefit of the website is to me or why I should want to be a member.

It’s also lacking any really enticing visuals. It’s not too difficult to get some really gorgeous looking pictures associated with wine, to set off those emotions connected to wine and get a wine lover salivating. The picture from the Harvest Report is related to wine, but perhaps doesn’t convey the purpose of the site well enough for me.

I’d be interested to know what the website owner’s goals are with this site, to suggest how they may meet those goals better.

~ Jessica Shailes, 
Fluid Web Works


Joseph Kalinowski, Content Marketing InstituteI really like Wine Spectator’s layout. Very easy to scan plus the use of white and burgundy/red colors is a nice subtle tip ‘o the hat to wine and wine connoisseurs! I really like how their membership call-to-action stands out on the sidebar as well (in yellow).

Only two minor things that I notice: First, the find a wine rating color (green) seems to get lost a bit on the page. I like it’s placement below the nave, but perhaps a different font color may help it stand out. Second, I think the header may be a little crowded to the right of the logo. The font for Log In, Online Memberships, etc. may be a little large for that area.

~ Joseph Kalinowski, Content Marketing Institute


Wine Spectator is doing a good job of drawing attention to “FIND A WINE RATING” and “You’re not a member yet?” From what I can tell, the top two actions they want people to take are searching for wine ratings and signing up to be a member. If this is the case, then the page is prioritized well and draws attention to the right actions.

However, I’m not sure what they’re doing with the sub menu in the header or what the point is of “THE NEW WORLD WINE EXPERIENCE.” With the sub menu, there’s got to be a better way to list those items without making it look like the banner/header is cluttered. I would recommend for the sub menu to be listed horizontally above the main banner in order to avoid clutter. For “THE NEW WORLD WIN EXPERIENCE,” I would change it to include some type of call to action. As a user, I’m unsure what they want me to do until the banner includes an action to take. It could be as simple as, “Click here to learn more,” but a call to action needs to be added.
~ Joseph Putnam,
5 North Marketing


Stephanie HamiltonThe homepage for Wine Spectator is presented in a format typical of many magazine websites. With that said I think the website should focus on a couple aspects they want the visitor to be engaged in.

Right now nothing jumps out and commands my attention.  Perhaps the Find a Wine Rating search field could take up more screen real estate while omitting the text to the right of it.

Additionally, the speech bubble call out doesn’t fit with the style of the site. The website should develop a more refine visual design in addition to establishing a clear hierarchy of content for maximum success.

Give us your review of The Wine Spectator home page in the comments section.



Get updates on new articles, webinars and other opportunities:


Comment Policy

Please join the conversation! We like long and thoughtful communication.
Abrupt comments and gibberish will not be approved. Please, only use your real name, not your business name or keywords. We rarely allow links in your comment.
Finally, please use your favorite personal social media profile for the website field.


Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. July 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Great headline.

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      July 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm

      Ha ha… Thanks Demian!

  2. Gregg Anderson says:
    July 4, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Way too much going on. For these types of clients, I ask they give me a two page brief. Anything they can’t fit in a two page brief doesn’t make it on the home page.

    Name of the brand/company:

    Current situation (company, marketplace) in one paragraph:

    Key strategic objective in one sentence:

    Key business objectives (related to sales, products, etc.) 2-3 bullets

    Brand attributes…set of words to describe brand and brand attributes.
    • •

    Key competitors (3-4):
    • •

    Mandatory creative elements (logo, tagline, etc.):

    Key target customer(s) …core customer, 2-3 others. What do we want target customers to do?

  3. Brian Massey says:
    July 4, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Why is conversion testing important? Well, get 12 experts in a room and you’ll not find a great deal of agreement on what is right and wrong with a web page.However, had we all been given access to analytics, we would have come to some more common conclusions. Measure and test.

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      July 4, 2012 at 11:20 am

      Good point Brian!

    • Andrea vit says:
      July 4, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      I totally agree with you Brian: a usability tip without data could be just a personal opinion.

Show Me My Heatmap

Ah, @CrazyEgg I really do love you! So useful evaluating how users are interacting with all aspects of our redesign

Mike Halligan


What makes people leave your website?