The folks at Morgan Ridge Vineyards in Gold Hill wanted a website that was warm and welcoming, one that was user-friendly and easy to update. That's exactly what they got after Catawba College students enrolled in Dr. Pamela Thompson's fall semester e-commerce class finished their work.
The students in Thompson's class tackled the project as a group assignment while they were learning about the latest web technologies. Their work, www.morganridgevineyards.com, launched in February to rave visitor reviews and satisfied clients.
Kim Love,Events and winery manager at Morgan Ridge Vineyards, shared her pride in the class' work. "I was very impressed with the level of maturity that this class had, the initiative they took, the pride they took in the work they produced, and the strength they had as they worked together. A lot of them did extensive studies on their own – learning about the different varietals."
The result, Love noted, is a website where hits and visitor traffic can be tracked and content can easily be changed. "I've heard wonderful remarks from our previous guests and from our new guests," she said. "We rely on our website to communicate what we have going on at the vineyard and being able to update that quickly and efficiently was most important to us."
"I came in [to this class] as a complete beginner, not knowing anything about website design, Photoshop or anything," explained Savannah Tomlinson, a junior from Long Island, N.Y., majoring in business administration with a concentration in marketing. Her part of the class assignment was related to graphics used on the website and the creation of the privateEvents pages.
"The event pictures were provided to us by Morgan Ridge, but all of the other graphics used on the website we made using Photoshop. It was so real world and so hands-on. You were actually designing a website and working with a business, and not many people get to do that before they're out in the work world."
Senior Christian Klimczyk of Linthicum, Md., worked on the calendar ofEvents for the site. He found the content management system they used for the site, Contao, "very easy for the end-user to enter." He was also responsible for creating registration forms the site uses for different days' themedEvents. These forms have a security feature to prevent spam from clogging up Morgan Ridge Vineyards' inbox.
"We first had to talk to the people at Morgan Ridge and find out what they wanted on the website – what they expected. The final product is a good representation of their business and the features and details they wanted to include. I learned a lot more about design and I learned how to tailor technology to a business instead of making it a big technology project that a business doesn't understand," Klimczyk said.
Professor Thompson said one of her goals for the class was "to give students an experience that makes them feel comfortable with web technologies that they will face in actual work." To that end, her students worked with the latest languages and applications related to website design including PHP, HTML5, Adobe's Photoshop and Dreamweaver, MySQL and Contao, the open-source content management system.
While other students in the class, Professor Thompson and the folks at Morgan Ridge took the photographs seen on the site, Junior Zach Burkhart of Lexington configured and loaded the photo gallery module for these.
"I learned a lot and I actually enjoyed myself. It was a lot of work, but Dr. Thompson told us it would be and it was rather tedious work, but it was rewarding to see something come together like this," Burkhart said.
Twenty-year-old Laurel Powell of Mooresville worked on the wine pages for the site, including the descriptions of the different wines. This was something she found particularly challenging, she quipped, noting her age, "because I don't actually drink wine."
"I had to be careful that the descriptions of the wines I wrote reflected a Morgan Ridge Vineyards wine and not a generic wine description. I spent a lot of time picking the best words to use in the descriptions."
Powell also took photos that are used on the site, photo-editing some so they seemed "warm and inviting."
Reflecting on what she learned, Powell continued, "We spent a lot of time creating a user interface that wasn't just good for us, but good for the person(s) who were receiving it. I learned a lot about what the experience of working with a client would be and the details that would be involved in filling their requests. One of the more interesting things I learned was making changes on the back end and seeing what they would look like on the front end.
Looking back on the project and the fruits of her class' labors, Professor Thompson is pleased. "Problems with live projects can mimic problems in the real world and they present teaching moments for students," she said. "I am very grateful that Morgan Ridge Vineyards was willing to give us the opportunity."
Morgan Ridge Vineyards, a seven-acre boutique vineyard on a 33-acre site, is owned by Tommy and Amie Baudoin. The couple started the vineyard in 2000 and planted the vines there in 2004, according to Love. Morgan Ridge just won the 2012 Wine Growers of Excellence Award, given at the N.C. Winegrowers Association Conference.
Morgan Ridge produces 13 different wines, 10 from grapes grown on the property. Their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon won a gold medal at the Mid-Atlantic Southeastern Wine Competition, held at the Dixie Classic Fair (one of only three golds for Cabernet Sauvignon out of hundreds of entries). This same Cabernet Sauvignon won a double gold at the N.C. State Fair. Also at the N.C. State Fair, their Syrah won a double gold, their Merlot won a gold, and their Chambourcin won a silver.
For more details or to plan a visit to the property or a wine tasting there, visit www.morganridgevineyards.com.
Morgan Ridge Vineyards
Business & Economics