|How do Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson, Michel Bettane, James Suckling, Steven Spurrier and others rate Bordeaux 2010?||Bordoverview helps you find your Bordeaux 2010 futures from all major Médoc, Graves, Saint-Emilion and Pomerol châteaux.|
Over a three-month period David Bolomey and I designed and redesigned most of the key features of Bordoverview. We have resolved all major usability errors in the original design of the Bordeaux overviews. And we have added some very powerful database features. Some of the technical features I will most certainly explain in one of my upcoming books on PHP and MySQL (currently only available in Dutch). In this article, I will outline the new features which are important for Bordoverview users.
If you have used Bordoverview before, Bordoverview 2.0 may take some getting used to. After using the new Bordeaux overviews for a few minutes, you will however notice the redesign offers some improved features and a lot of new features.
Sorting the data columns used to be a key feature for finding information in the Bordeaux overviews. Sorting does however have severe limitations, mainly because sorting is not the same as searching for data and ultimately finding information. The most important improvement in Bordoverview 2.0 are the new hyperlinks in the overviews. Each hyperlink allows you to select a different data view. We did not change the data; we merely changed the way it is accessed. This small change strongly improves findability. Bordoverview 1.0 was a sortable spreadsheet, Bordoverview 2.0 is an interactive database.
What I liked most about Bordoverview, is the very rich database. All the data was right there, but it was not used to its full potential. The second major improvement are the filters we have included. For example, you can now click Margaux or Pauillac to filter out all wines of a given appellation; clicking a class like 1st GCC will display all wines with the same classification. For comparing prices, we have added a filter that also displays wines with comparable prices and quickly calculates the price differences.
The very rich Bordoverview database most probably contains a lot of wine data and ratings which are not interesting for many users. Therefore we have included an easy-to-use Preferences switchboard for displaying and hiding columns in all overviews. Hiding columns will also improve readability and increase browsing speed on most computers.
Bordoverview used to consist of two separate tables per vintage, and thus six separate tables for 2004, 2005 and 2006. Comparing vintages was therefore a cumbersome task, which would have become an even greater problem as the number of vintages increases (2007, 2008, and so on). We have solved this problem by adding an All vintages option, which simply displays all vintages since 2004.
The previous version of Bordoverview was designed using fixed font sizes. In many browsers the overviews were displayed in a small serif font like Times New Roman, which was hard to read. In Bordoverview 2.0 we have applied fully scalable sans-serif screen fonts, so you can now change your text display preferences through your browser setup.
For a trip to your local wine seller or a visit to the Bordeaux area, it is now much easier to print any of the overviews. Simply press the shortcut key Ctrl+P or click the Print button located at the top of the browser window. Please note setting the page orientation of your browser to Landscape printing is advisable.
As with any redesign project, some of our initial designs and concepts ended up in the dreaded Recycle Bin. Sometimes these were the toughest choices. Perhaps we will one day have another look at our Recycle Bin and recycle some ideas in Bordoverview 3.0 or Bordoverview 4.0. Perhaps not.
David Bolomey is, of course, a wine expert, whereas I am an usability expert. Even though I prefer Dutch and German beer, I do enjoy an occasional bottle of fine wine. To novice wine drinkers and wine buyers like me, the Bordeaux ratings are somewhat overwhelming, an information overload. The basic usability problem is: which of the wine critics is most interesting for a single user? Should I turn to American tasters like Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator magazine? Or perhaps to French experts like Bettane & Dessauve or La Revue du Vin de France?
In one of our designs, we tried to solve this problem by calculating an average of all ratings. We soon dropped the idea, for several reasons. The major flaw of an average is it only represents the average taste, not an individual taste. An average literally eliminates all minor and major differences between wine tasters and even between wines from the equation. Furthermore, calculating a reliable average requires a full dataset, but many wines are not rated by all wine critics.
We did not remove the PHP source code for this “Best of Bordeaux” overview, so it now is a kind of easter egg, an intentional hidden feature. The “quick and dirty” comparison is still available at http://www.bordoverview.com/?q=best-of-bordeaux.
One of the things we did not change, is the visual design of the Web pages and overviews. This was done on purpose. In the “look and feel” formula for visual design, the feel of the overviews and the site navigation has already been changed immensely. Also changing the look would have made Bordoverview virtually unrecognizable, possibly scaring of existing users.
In many ways, a database-driven application will never become better than its database. The Bordoverview database still has some flaws and unfortunately we cannot fix them all. For example, the Grapes column contains the grapes planted at an estate, not the grapes used for the creation of a single wine. It is almost impossible to add the grapes used for all wines to the database. And because displaying the general estate grapes with each separate wine might be confusing, we decided to switch off the Grapes column in the default view. You may however turn this column back on using the Preferences page.
Bordoverview is all about search. Searching for the right Bordeaux at the right price used to be and still is the key focus of the overviews. A rule of thumb in usability states keyword searches should be facilitated by including a general search textbox, preferably in the upper right corner of the main site navigation on all Web pages. However, we decided not to include a text search feature.
In many ways redesigning an existing site is quite different from designing a new site. Two major differences are it is already clear who are using the site and how the site is being used. Bordoverview users never complained about a missing search feature. And adding a missing feature does not make sense if it is not really missed.
Furthermore, thanks to the new point-and-click navigation through the Bordoverview database, adding a text search makes even less sense. Simply clicking an overview hyperlink is much easier than typing awkward French names.