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Cellar Tracker Update

 

THE NEW DESIGN AND LOOKING FORWARD TO 2011

Permit me a not so brief ramble on the future of the site, the redesign, the rebrand etc.

One year ago I unveiled a video sneak preview of a top to bottom redesign of CellarTracker, and that was launched in BETA form on February 27th in parallel with the existing CellarTracker site. As part of the redesign I also unveiled a new brand, GrapeStories, to reflect the fact that more than 90% of CellarTracker visitors do NOT have cellars or consider themselves as wine collectors. The somewhat naïve intent was to carry forward the CellarTracker name specifically in reference to the cellar management features but to establish GrapeStories as a broader and more approachable brand.

Coming into the launch, I knew that user interface was an extremely subjective topic, and I fully expected that the new design would have some mistakes and rough edges. In fact, that is exactly why I chose to run the old and new sites in parallel while I addressed all of the feedback. That said, I have been amazed at the intensity of the reactions, both positive and negative. While the current CellarTracker site is not a pretty thing, it is brutally focused and streamlined for many tasks and offers a very dense display of so much information. There are tens of thousands of collectors who are DEEPLY attached to it. On the flipside, there are people who tell me all the time that CellarTracker quite literally hurts their eyes and gives them a headache to look at. My challenge is to figure out how to thread this needle so that the new site can ultimately please both camps. Over the past 10 months I have slowly and steadily been pouring thousands of tweaks, changes and additions into the new site with this goal. It’s not done yet, but it is getting a lot closer with each passing week. I also have a terrific smartphone-optimized version of the site to build as well.

However, even as I have been fleshing out the new site, I have often reflected upon the wisdom of the GrapeStories rebranding. Some of the strongest reactions were not based on the new design but rather were more visceral reactions to the brand with some people feeling like the new site was "not for them." Coincidentally about six weeks ago I was emailing with a customer over some support questions, and at the end of the interaction he stated that he was going to mention CellarTracker in his next book. That piqued my curiosity, so I Googled him only to find that he has his own Wikipedia page, has written multiple books about branding and in fact was the person who drove the launch of Diet Coke and New Coke. I explained my dilemma to him, and his immediate response made me realize I was making a mistake. "U cannot abandon cellar tracker … Ur equity and brand essence is in cellar tracker … it’s now a brand and not a descriptor." So here is a special thank you to Sergio and to everyone else out there who has offered their feedback on this topic!

And so even as the new site moves forward, the GrapeStories brand is no more. If you browse to www.grapestories.com you will end up on www.cellartracker.com/new instead. At the top of every page in CellarTracker is a link to toggle to the same page in the new site. At the bottom of every page in the new site is a CellarTracker Classic link to take you back. My hope is that by Q2-2011 the new site will be completely fleshed out. Once it reaches that point, I will push people harder to use the new site in advance of the ultimate transition, probably 3 months later.

Maybe it will take me all year, but I am quite confident that in 2011 the transition will be complete. I am also quite confident that, once the new site is really done, it will represent a huge step forward for the vast bulk of users. It will also offer me a much more extensible platform to take us all into the future. I deeply appreciate everyone’s patience and support throughout this process.

ANNUAL METRICS

People who used to work with me at Microsoft loved to make fun of the little slips of paper that I would carry around with various metrics on the projects I was living at the time. True to form, when I started CellarTracker I picked 3 metrics which I have tracked ever since. (Please note that in the past I have published cumulative figures, but for better clarity the numbers below just reflect what was recorded annually.)

2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010

Registered users
2,900
8,000
14,300
17,300
21,700
24,100
38,300

Wine reviews
14,000
53,000
150,000
231,000
308,000
395,000
519,000

Bottles tracked
350,000
1,150,000
2,600,000
3,125,000
3,920,000
4,360,000
6,100,000

Since its launch in 2004, registration has grown to 126,000 members. On a typical day, you are tracking (adding or removing) close to 20,000 bottles for a total of 21.6 million bottles. The database includes 980,000 wines from 70,000 producers, one of the largest in the world. The CellarTracker community has also emerged as an abundant source of wine reviews with more than 1,600 wines reviewed in a typical day for a total of 1,663,000 wine reviews, all written by you, real wine enthusiasts. Amateur reviews are not a replacement for those written by professional critics, but you are generating as many reviews in six days as Robert Parker publishes in an entire year. You have created the largest collection of wine reviews in the world, all freely available for the wine-loving community to enjoy. The site is one of the most heavily visited wine websites in the world with 25 million page views per month from several hundred thousand unique visitors.

 Cellar Tracker Update
FIGURE: Quantcast last 6 months of traffic

 Cellar Tracker Update
FIGURE: Annual community wine reviews

The bottom line is that with each new customer, CellarTracker gets more useful for everyone. All of this is a testament to the passion that wine inspires and power of community, core principles of CellarTracker from its inception.

VOLUNTARY PAYMENT UPDATE

As you probably know, CellarTracker is a free site with a "voluntary annual payment" model to unlock premium features (e.g. automatic cellar valuation and some professional scores). This is commonly referred to as a "freemium" business model, although CellarTracker goes further than other sites in merely suggesting the annual level of contribution based on cellar size. Right now these subscription payments comprise more than 80% of the revenue of CellarTracker with the balance coming from advertising and affiliate traffic. I last revised the payment suggestions four years ago, but I wanted to give you heads up that going forward I am tweaking this upward. That said, I want to be VERY clear about one thing: FREE means FREE. Any data that a user enters is always intended to be accessible to that user regardless of payment status. And these payment suggestions are exactly that, just suggestions. Some users choose to pay $10/year for premium support while others gladly pay upwards of $250/year. My goal is to build and maintain software that you will hopefully be using decades from now, and I am deeply appreciative for any support.

THANK YOU!

Finally and most importantly, I want to thank all of you for your participation, support, encouragement and suggestions. It is my honor and pleasure to serve you, and I am always so overjoyed to hear that CellarTracker helps so many people to get more pleasure out of wine.

Best wishes to a great 2011,
Eric LeVine
www.CellarTracker.com

One Response to “Cellar Tracker Update”

  1. Arthur Gnas says:

    We appreciate your posts and look forward to coming back

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