Some changes coming to wineanorak.com

A screengrab of the site from 2000 – see what it was like here

Soon, wineanorak will get a much-needed face-lift. It will be only the third update to the site design in 20 years, which is probably some sort of a record (not one that I should be proud of).

I made my first moves on the web in the mid-1990s. I started drinking wine seriously back in 1992, the year I started work after my PhD (which was awarded in 1993). The internet came along in 1996 (for me, at least) and immediately I did what lots of other people were doing – started a hobby website.

The internet was glacially slow then, based on dial-up domestic accounts, so you had to make pictures really small. My first hobby site was called ‘New World of Wine’. It was hand-coded with basic html.

Then I started a Geocities site, which I called wineanorak after someone suggested the title to me at a consumer tasting I was running. That was probably 1997. I moved to my own hosting and registered a domaine name in November 1999. There weren’t many other wine websites out there then. It was based on static html pages generated using a WYSIWYG editor (Microsoft FrontPage).

I began to get advertising (£30 per thousand impressions), which began to form a handy revenue stream. Then I got my first commissions to write for others in 2001.

Wineanorak was for quite a while a first page Google search result for ‘wine’, and generated a lot of traffic. That first-mover advantage really worked well.

Of course, things change and you have to adapt. The biggest change has been the advent of social media, and the shift of advertising to Google and Facebook, which makes the business model of a content-driven site with revenue from banner adverts rather questionable. Mine was only working because I do everything myself, and don’t have any bills for the site other than £20 a month for hosting.

My last significant update of wineanorak was in 2010. This is when I switched the blog – which is the longest running wineblog out there, dating back to 2001 – to WordPress, and gave the rest of the site a new design. But, because all the pages were static html, I couldn’t just retrofit the new theme to them. Hence you’ll see the old design in all the posts prior to 2010.

Times change, and these days no one uses static html for their websites. I’ve known for a while that the site needs a new look, but I’ve held out, in part because I didn’t see how I could get a new site without losing the historical legacy. I’m quite pleased that everything I’ve ever published on wineanorak is still accessible online, and I didn’t want to lose it.

My hand was forced, though, by two things. First, modern websites have to be mobile responsive. Second, if they aren’t on a secure server, they get penalized by Google.

The challenge? Keeping the old content, which means running two WordPress installs. It’s a somewhat technical issue, but I wanted a WordPress install for the main wineanorak site in the root directory (there are other work arounds, but this is what most people advise), plus I wanted to keep my blog (3300 posts over 10 years) running in a separate directory. No one I asked could tell me for sure whether this was possible. So I bought new hosting, migrated the site across, and I gave it a go. And the good news is, it seems to be working, with a little fiddling with htaccess files.

So someday soon, when I’m happy with it, I’ll switch across to the new, mobile-responsive site, on a secure server. And there will be some innovations, and perhaps a couple of new contributors (I’m working on this), and a fresh energy. The old content will still be there, for anyone who finds it useful. Right now, I’m thinking of creative, visually rich ways of telling stories about wine, with some audio content, too (a new direction for me). I’m not interest in copying what others have done. I’d much rather be a little ahead of the curve, even if it means I might take the wrong path from time to time. My readers are pretty good at telling me when I get it wrong. That’s who the site is for, after all.

2 comments to Some changes coming to wineanorak.com

  • Paul Metman

    Hi Jamie, if you allow me a little suggestion: please think about some posts about Portugal/Portuguese wines/Port! Once, you used to say that Portugal was your favourite winecountry but now it seems you’ve forgotten it exists. Wouldn’t Vintage Port 2017 be a nice re-entry!

  • Hugh

    One thing I love about your site (aside from the great content), is the fact that when on the train into work I can load it when I have signal and then read it when underground without crashing or trying to reload and timing out with no coverage. I suspect I am about to lose this feature.

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