What we can learn from restaurant websites.

September 28, 2011
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

This comic about restaurant websites started me thinking about the way most websites are built. My experience over the past 5-6 years of building sites is that the motivation for a new site ranges from “our current site’s design is out date” to “it is difficult to use” or even “we need a website because we don’t have one.”

While all of these are excellent reasons to build a new website, they don’t lead to the best set of goals for the project, because they are internally focused on the business that the website represents (our client). And it’s really easy for us as website designers to fall into the trap of appeasing the client’s wants instead of guiding and advising a client as to what will best accomplish their business goals.

Restaurant Site Mistakes

As the comic pointed out, most visitors to a restaurant site want to see the menu, along with a few vital pieces of location info to assist in finding, parking, and contacting the restaurant during operating hours.

But it’s not enough to just have that information on the site. It needs to be easy to find, easy to interact with on varying devices, and up to date, among other things. Let’s face it, most restaurant websites are visited from a mobile device these days. A big mistake that a lot of restaurants make is showing a PDF menu, which is difficult at best on a smartphone. And worst of all, if the entire site is built in flash, then all of your iPhone visitors are left out in the cold.

Your Site Goals

Translate those same mistakes to your website and ask yourself questions about your audience:

  • What device(s) will my visitors be using?
  • What’s the first piece of information they want when visiting my site?
  • What are the next 2-3 most things they will be looking for?
  • How should the most important information be displayed to help with ease of access and use?
  • Are my mobile and desktop users different enough in their wants and interactions to warrant a dedicated mobile site?

These questions can help you establish goals for your website project that will make your site a success by providing the visitors what they want.

As Stephen Covey so famously stated: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” In the case of a website project, the main thing is summed up in the question “What will my site visitor want, and how can I give it to them in a way that is easy for them to use?”

If you get the answer to that question right, then your site does not have to win design awards or be built by the smartest programmer. It will be successful because it supports your business goals by helping your customers do business with you.

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