An (amateur) wine maker’s journey through app development

Slightly ashamed to admit it, White Zinfandel was my early wine of choice. Sweet and fruity, it appealed to my inexperienced palate. But when my mom questioned my tastes and admonished me to “grow up” to Chardonnay, my love affair with wine began. As I joined wine clubs and traveled, my curiosity about wine making grew. My husband, Bill, was also curious and after some research gave me wine making equipment and supplies for Christmas. Skeptical and intimidated, we started our first Chardonnay/Semillon blend and 4 months later we had tasty wine! We dove into the world of note taking, readings and additives without looking back.

Start your fermenting story, one ingredient at a time

Both technologists, we looked for a digital product that could support our new devotion. Not finding it, we used spreadsheets, photos, calendaring and social media to share our experience with friends and family. On summer evenings drinking wine on our back patio, we dreamed of an app that could pull this all together.

Our love of wine and technology birthed EnoFile, our home wine making app.

Sipping white zinfandel near Half Moon Bay

The vision

Our vision was grand — this app would help current winemakers and support the wine making community, but could it also remove the wine making intimidation factor? We love this hobby! If curious oenophiles have the right tools, would they try it themselves? Could an app grow the community?

Early on, we used our Facebook wine making community to see what others used when they made wine at home. But like many entrepreneurs, our own knowledge helped plan our product. I was aware of building for yourself pitfalls. My technology experience had taught me; to plan a successful product, you need to get outside yourself.

Our app brings some unique features to the wine making experience. Besides notes and photos for wine making steps, it brings a professional touch to the home winery. The app generates tasting notes and creates attractive brochures for each batch of wine completed. Later, we will support community sharing through recipes and reviews of homemade wine. An integrated store will provide easy ordering of supplies and equipment.

Did we get it right?

This question would gnaw at us and users would have the answers. As development progressed, we contacted our old colleague, Mariana Almeida, to help lead user research.

Collaboratively, we developed a research strategy to answer our questions:

  • Did our note-taking flow fit users’ needs? Would an app change their approach?
  • Any big usability issues with the overall design?
  • Do they write tasting notes now? Would they want to?
  • How do they purchase supplies? Would they purchase from the app?

The users

After many meetings and planning, our usability week arrived. I approached the sessions with some trepidation. It’s hard to put your baby out for strangers to critique. Fortunately, our wine makers were genuine, charming people with great enthusiasm for this hobby.

We uncovered small fixes to the user interface, but users validated our approach. We also got some unexpected insights from this qualitative study:

  • Wine makers aren’t always comfortable tasting and describing wine. They appreciate the tasting notes that create a wine description with easy selections.
I love the . . .[sliders] to indicate type of wine. I think this would help me verbalize the taste. — Lisa N.
  • Our batch brochure was a big hit! Meant for printing and sharing with friends, the tasting sheet includes the winery branding, tasting notes and final readings taken on the wine. A simple feature, it offers value and may create stickiness for the app.
Terrific. . . Not to be pretentious, but this makes the wine look good. It’s a feel good thing. I’d keep it with my written notes. — Ellen M.
  • Wine makers described a rich, local community that helped them make and drink the wine: harvesting grapes, sharing recipes, attending competitions, and tasting wine together of course. This aligns beautifully with our business goals and it’s reassuring to learn about users.

This app offered something new and exciting to them. Our focus on taste and community was a differentiator for our product.

Come see our progress!

  • EnoFile is available — try it out and leave a review.
  • Tell your wine making friends about the app
  • Ask your beer making friends if it’s time to try wine making!

Advice for the Solo Entrepreneur:

Like a home renovation, our first release cost more and took longer than anticipated:

  • Even if you’re looking for lean development, get the right help by holding multiple interviews and checking references. Make agreements about progress and pay on delivery.
  • Choose technology wisely. We thought a single code base could create a web version, but we were wrong. Get clear on this in the beginning or plan on multiple channels of development.
  • Tap your network to find designers and user researchers.
  • Budget for user research to learn about users’ needs and to check product usability. Even if you use your own expertise, validate the approach with real users.
  • Prepare for multiple releases. Because of multi-device support, Android development takes longer than iOS development.
  • If you work with your spouse, make time for not talking about business. Take a break, put your feet up and have a glass of wine!

Now, we’re focusing on phase 2 of our build, and beginning promotions to the community. It’s been a great journey so far! And if things take longer than expected, rosé is making a comeback. And when I make the rosé, my mom loves it!

@Mariana Almeida contributed to this article

Stock photos purchased from Depositphotos.