By Brian Casel, founder of Restaurant Engine
Most people turn to the Internet to find info about local restaurants. Unfortunately, many of them don't find what they're looking for.
Why? Because they're frustrated with experience of most restaurant websites.
Working with restaurants every day to improve their websites, we've seen some all-too-common frustrations visitors have. They include:
Frustration No. 1: Flash intros
Does your website have a intro animation that plays before visitors can "enter" your website? Guess what: Many visitors will "exit" rather than "enter."
These days, everybody is in a rush. And on the Internet, they're moving even faster. They want answers to the questions, and they want them now. They want to see your menu, find out when you're open and how to make a reservation.
One thing they don't want from your website is to sit and watch and be entertained. That comes later, when they're sitting in your dining room. That is, if they make it that far.
Frustration No. 2: Background music
Nobody likes background music on a website. Even if it's soothing and matches the style that plays inside your restaurant. You'd be wise to avoid this website no-no.
Why is having some background music so bad? Well, one reason is your visitor didn't explicitely ask for it. So right off the bat, it's an unwelcomed surprise that is off-putting — especially if their speakers had been set to high volume.
The result is your visitor is scrambling to find the "mute" button (if your website has one). Or perhaps an easier solution is to simply navigate away from your website and go elsewhere. Not good.
Frustration No. 3: No operating hours
Finding out if and when your restaurant is open is one of the most sought-after pieces of information on your restaurant's website. So it's a no-brainer and easy information to add.
We recommend showing your hours somewhere on your homepage so visitors find them right away. It's one less barrier they need to overcome before deciding to walk in your door.
Frustration No. 4: No mobile website
This is a biggie: Most people are on the go, using their smartphones and tablets to search for a place to eat. So it's a must that your restaurant's website is mobile optimized.
Visitors don't want to pinch and zoom to read your website. To avoid this, your website should adapt to fit all screen sizes and touch interfaces. Professional web designers achieve this with a technique known as "Responsive Web Design;" it's the most effective way to future-proof your website and ensure it's mobile-ready. (For more about mobile optimization, read 3 tips for creating an effective mobile website).
Frustration No. 5: PDF food menus
Sure, your restaurant's food menu may already be in PDF format. But this shouldn't be the only way your website visitors can see it.
PDFs require the user to download something to their computer. That's not something most people want to do, especially when they just want to quickly browse and maybe check prices. Not to mention, PDFs mean trouble for visitors on mobile devices with slow data-connections.
You're better off displaying your food menu right on your website and keeping it up-to-date. Your website solution should provide for this ability to manage and showcase your food menus, and make it easy for your visitors to click, browse, and even share their favorite food items on social media.
Every frustration that you eliminate from your restaurant's website removes a barrier that stops a visitor from becoming your customer.
Brian Casel is a professional web designer and founder of Restaurant Engine, a website design solution built for restaurants. In addition to consulting with restaurants on their website design, he also writes for several industry publications about web design strategy and web marketing for small businesses. Get more information at RestaurantEngine.com/Blog.