The “age gateway” comes of age

For years I’ve been preaching the importance of the “global gateway” — the elements that Web sites use to seamlessly direct Web users to their localized Web sites and content, such as this splash global gateway:

But there is a different type of gateway out there that is worth mentioning — a gateway unique to the Web sites of alcoholic beverages: the age gateway.

Here is the age gateway of Budweiser:

Budweiser age gateway

The age gateway has to be one of the most useless gateways ever devised — and certainly one of the most frustrating to use.

For starters, every beer maker seems to have its own take on how best to design the gateway. The gateways are usually Flash-based and typically difficult to use. What I end up doing is simply entering 01/01/1971 just to get through it as quickly as possible.

I would predict that the logs of Budweiser feature an inordinately high number of people born on the first day of the year.

But the reason why I’m mentioning the age gateway here is two-fold. In the case of Budweiser (and most competitive Web sites), the age gateway comes before the global gateway.

Once you get past the “virtual bouncer” and into the Budweiser site, in order to find your specific country or language Web site, you must do a bit of searching. Here is the buried link:

This link takes you to this page:

According to Budweiser, “great taste knows no boundaries.” But great global design apparently does run up against a few boundaries. For a non-English speaker, getting to this gateway is no trivial task.

What’s the lesson here?

Don’t place the age gateway before the global gateway.

Let the Web user find his or her localized Web site before you present your virtual bouncer. This is particularly important because dates are not presented in the same format in all countries. By directing the user to his or her local site first, you can then present your age gateway in the correct date format.

And, as my brother pointed out, different countries have different drinking ages — yet another reason to put the global gateway before the age gateway.

Now for the second point I wanted to make regarding age gateways.

Not long ago I came across a new product known as the Beertender. It’s a sort of mini-keg fridge designed specifically for Heineken.

Take a moment to visit and you’ll first encounter this splash global gateway:

It is not until you select a country that you arrive at an age gateway.To my knowledge, Heineken is the first company to place its global gateway ahead of the age gateway!

If you select the French site, you’ll arrive at a very simple yes/no age gateway:

But because American lawyers are not as freewheeling as the French in regards to underage drinking, here is the American age gateway:

Beertender age gateway

But even here you’ll find that Beertender makes significant usability improvements. Instead of asking the user to input dates, you simply select the dates displayed on the screen. It’s remarkably faster to get through.

So it’s nice to see Beertender not only put its global gateway ahead of its age gateway, but also support localized and user-friendly age gateways. I hope the other beer makers of the world take notice.

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