It’s been nearly two weeks since our last post and we are not proud of it! Even though there are a few of us on this blog, it just happens that sometimes life gets in the way and we’re all busy with with work, travelling or working while travelling. The good news is, we’re all back and will hopefully continue to pump out more great content for you to read. To kick things off, today’s post will be a little bit different, it’s still about food but more about restaurant websites and what makes a good one and a bad one.
Part of what I do at work is to analyse the usability and user experience of web experiences. This involves conducting in-depth usability analysis on not just the aesthetics of a website or user interface, but also the process and flow on how a particular function is performed or how information is retrieved and displayed. Or in normal speak – I look at websites and figure out how to make them work good.
I’ve seen my fair share of good and bad restaurant websites, and I’m sure you have as well. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to find out information about a restaurant, whether it be the address or tonight’s menu only to find it hidden away deep in the menu or in a forced PDF download. I’m perplexed at just how frustrating it is to use restaurant websites.
So it got me thinking, what constitutes a good restaurant website? What are the key things it needs to do? What information should it display? Should a restaurant even care? As long as the food is good who cares? I don’t have time to work on a fancy website, I have great food to make!
Regardless of what the answers are to those questions, I still believe that a good website can be key to a potential customer’s decision-making process. Who knows, it could be the little changes you make to your restaurant website that might turn you from zero to hero on a Friday night when a group of people are looking for a place to wine and dine.
Common restaurant website pain points
I’ve come up with a list of common pain points I’ve noticed on a sample of restaurant websites.
Lack of mobile web compatibility
The biggest culprits are flash-based or image heavy designs. Whilst using Flash may be a win on the eyes, you are alienating a significant amount of phone users (iPhone). Whether you love or hate Stephen Jobs, iPhones count for 25% of the market share, just behind Android on 26% and that’s not even taking into account the number of people on the iPad. While Flash does work on other mobile platforms such as Android and Windows Mobile, loading a Flash animation or movie which is not optimised for a mobile device will be time consuming to load especially on slow 3G networks.
Avoid barriers which contribute to a possible poor customer experience. It’s time to use HTML5, CSS3, jQuery the latest trends in web design to provide content rich web experiences which are platform independent, in other words working on all devices and browsers.
Poor placement of key restaurant information
I’ve lost track at the number of times where I need to click-through multiple website sections and then having to scan through a another section just to find out basic restaurant information. Information such as contact numbers, opening hours and menus shouldn’t require an easter egg hunt to be found.
Outdated menus and the PDF menu
As a potential diner, the menu on a restaurant website is in my top two requirements for a good user experience. I’ve noticed a few times that the menu listed is a ‘Sample’ menu, which is fine as menu’s change on a regular basis in some restaurants. However it’s a bit of poor form if it’s Summer and you are still displaying the Winter menu on the website.
Also, while PDF menus can be easier to generate and print off, they’re an additional click and download between your food and your customers. It doesn’t hurt to provide a nicely formatted menu which people can quickly scan through on the website.
Update: Fair comment from Robert Candelori regarding the costs and difficulty of updating a menu on the website. With this in mind, you can get around these difficulties by having your website built around a web content management system. Examples include WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and Cushy. The advantage? You can update static content yourself and much more.
The nice to have’s on a good restaurant website
Provide critical information up front
As a consumer I expect the following information to be displayed on the front page of the website:
- Opening days and hours
- Contact numbers
- Email address
- Location of the restaurant with a link to Google Maps
- Links to the restaurant menu, both on the website and to a printable PDF.
Provide all the most common search information upfront, don’t make the user search for the information. The more steps it takes for a user to find information, the more likely they are to give up and leave the website
Be one step ahead
Anticipate what other information people would like to see, it saves them from phoning up and potentially not getting through to your restaurant because your front of house is busy.
- Menu: Specify which dishes are Vegetarian friendly or might contain ingredients which relate to common allergies. Provide a last updated date, it’s always nice to know that what is shown on a website is what is served at the restaurant. Also when linking the PDF menu, make a note that is a PDF file and have the file size in brackets. State upfront the formation of the menu, if it’s in PDF put (PDF and file size) in brackets. Have all your bases covered, have a simple HTML menu as well.
- Location: Provide a link to Google Maps, also provide parking advice and instructions if parking might be an issue in the area. Public transport information would also be a nice to have.
- Social media: Getting involved in Social Media is not for everyone, but there is no doubt that it has its advantages. Having a Facebook Page or Twitter account to facilitate two-way communication is a great way of interacting with existing and potential customers. It can also be used to drive traffic and attention to a restaurant website.
- Branding: Be consistent with branding. If using a particular font or logo for your branding use it on your website. Allow the customer to make a connection between your site and the restaurant signage. Put a picture of the entrance of your restaurant on the site, make it easier to find.
Be useful and convenient
Remove things from the front page which don’t add value or distract the experience. As mentioned previously I goto a restaurant website usually for a few things; opening hours/location/contact number/menu. Having a video on the front page or music playing in the background is distracting and consumes unnecessary space on the front page.
Less is more
It all comes down to providing only the most critical information on the front page and then having a structured information hierarchy to direct users to other parts of the site. Things like a restaurant blog and restaurant history should have their own sections on the site and not take up space on the front page, first impressions count.
I’m not an expert
These are just general observations of mine and what I think would make a great restaurant website. It’s all about making information easily accessible, everyone just seems so ‘busy’ these days and we want information right away, if not “yesterday”.
Quite happy to see what you guys think about this topic, leave a comment with your thoughts. Also, what restaurant websites have you seen lately which provide a good user experience?
Good website designs
- Perama – http://perama.com.au
- Barley’s – http://www.barleysgville.com/food-menu
I also think this comic by The Oatmeal sums up the context of my post: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/restaurant_website