*This is a guest article contributed by Jennifer Moline.
I have gripes with many different websites, whereas others are so user-friendly with their easy-to-navigate tabs and legible fonts. But by and large, while the ones I like include some sites where I pay bills as well as certain travel guides, an entire industry leaves me frustrated: restaurants and bars have lousy websites.
The other night I looked up a restaurant where I was meeting friends. I wanted to send them the address, but because it was coded as an image, I couldn’t copy and paste the location. In addition, the menu – while not made up of several PDFs like so many restaurant sites – was also an image, so I, yet again, could not copy and paste items to entice my friends. My biggest annoyance, though, was that the online menu listed a pizza that sounded right up my alley: butternut squash, sage and goat cheese. But upon my arrival, it turns out that’s a seasonal pizza, and it wasn’t available.
Having worked in print publishing for many years, I love the web for its flexibility. There is no reason restaurant and bar websites should not always be up to date. You can redesign a page, and if you don’t like it, you change it. Service industries can post sales and promotions on their websites and take them down when they’re complete. A restaurant or bar’s website should always list happy hours and other specials prominently on the homepage.
What it seems web designers are missing is that people look up restaurants and bars on their smartphones. They happen to be in a neighborhood and are searching for a nearby place to grab a bite to eat or have a cocktail. Sure, they might go to Yelp first to find out what’s close, but when they link to your site, they want sample menus, a phone number they can click on through their phone and an address they can copy and text to friends.
Here’s a checklist of what restaurant and bar websites should include:
1. Use web fonts if you’re concerned about losing styles. Many computers and smartphones can’t open your PDF menus.
2. K.I.S.S.: Keep it simple, stupid. Don’t clutter up your site with Flash animation and zany fonts. Make sure the homepage, at least, can be easily read on a smartphone.
3. Don’t save your address and phone number as an image – and be sure they’re prominently displayed. I agree with webcomic, The Oatmeal, that the address should link to an online map.
4. Have someone else look over the entire site. Typos make you look dumb and sloppy – not a reputation you want if you work with food.
5. Make sure your hours are also easy to understand. I was recently on a restaurant site that listed its lunch hours as 1:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. – huh?
6. Update your website regularly. Take down expired specials and archive old news.
Foodies and drinkers can be a fickle bunch. If your bar or restaurant has a website that is difficult to navigate, your audience will move on. Make it easy on potential customers so that they become paying customers.
Photo by Shutterstock.