Every industry seems to have a sort of common theme when it comes to the website design and development for the businesses within it. Somewhere along the line some industry leader set the tone, leaving admirers and competitors to follow suit. In some circumstances this phenomenon turns out well, in others it does not. When it comes to the food service industry, well, let’s just say there’s a good reason why we decided to focus our design, development, and SEO talents on developing website templates for restauranteurs. We’re here to help. But first, let’s identify six all too common restaurant website “personality” traits that need rectifying, in case your site is guilty of having one (or more?) of them.
Six Common Problems Found on Restaurant Websites That Your Own Online Establishment Needs to Avoid
1. Obnoxious Auto-Play Tunes
Visitors come to a restaurant website because they want quick information about a restaurant. They aren’t looking to dance from behind the screen of their desktop, laptop, or mobile device. Yet for some reason the restaurant industry is disproportionately obsessed with having a website that automatically plays music (with or without auto-play video) when a user lands on their homepage. The idea, one would assume, is to put the online patron in the atmosphere of the brick and mortar establishment. However this tends to backfire. Visitors are often searching online from their place of work, business, or some other public forum where they don’t want the latest Enya/Moby remix putting everyone else in the room on alert. You of course can include video backed by a soundtrack on your website, but only if it is user-inititiated. Otherwise let the visual and textual content do the talking.
2. Too Much Weight on Imagery
Don’t get us wrong, as an eatery you do indeed need to appeal to your online visitors’ sense of vision which incites the other senses of smell and taste to imagine how delectable your culinary offering is. However, too many restaurant websites have had their designer/developer load their home and subsequent pages full of photos that are transferred straight from their digital cameras into the content management system (CMS) without adjusting the size or “weight” of the images. This reduces the load time and even prevents many of the pictures from displaying at all on certain user browsers. Ensure that your designer/developer understands how to optimize your media for optimal loading or consider a template subscription that does it for you.
3. Visitors Can’t Find What They Are Looking For in 3 Seconds
Count slowly to three, as in “one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand”. That’s how much time you have to deliver the content your website’s visitors want to see. They are looking for your dining menu, location, and your hours of operation before they will even consider looking at anything else (about, photo gallery, events, press, etc…). If they cannot easily identify these items within a highly visible navigation menu within three seconds they become irritated and will either abandon your site for a competitor’s or simply start their experience with your restaurant with a bad taste in their mouth. Many restauranteurs get caught up in having a site design that puts visitors in a virtual version of their venue, neglecting to consider the intent of the online user – finding information, fast. Make sure that your site’s “bells and whistles” don’t get in the way of this quick and easy navigation. Deliver what online customers are looking for immediately and they will soon place their order for delivery or visit your establishment in person.
4. Too Little, or Too Much Text
Many restaurant websites are big on aesthetics yet neglect to provide much in the way of textual context for visitors and search engines (see also item #5 below). Remember that if you website has done the job of keeping visitors on the site after a few seconds of review, they will be ready to learn more. You can deliver this with a couple of well thought out sentences on the homepage and a strong string of succinct paragraphs on the about accompanied by a media/press section that addresses your accolades. You should not only prepare engaging text for prospective customers, you should do so for the wave of foodie bloggers and journalists that are preparing to write an article about your eatery. The more information you have readily available for them the less they have to embellish on their own. On the other side of the coin (as addressed in this item’s heading) you will want to avoid too much textual content which can lead to visitor exhaustion. A brief and well structured (with headings) page of content encourages reading whereas a long winded “thesis” encourages an increase in the bounce rate of your website.
5. It’s Not Optimized to be Found by Search Engines
Regardless the common critiques discussed above, there are indeed some amazing looking and functioning restaurant websites out there. The only reason people know about many of these sites though, is because they already know the restaurant’s brand from word-of-mouth and traditional offline marketing. The rest of them remain to be seen because regardless of all of the tremendous thought that has gone into their design, one key area was grossly neglected – search engine optimization (SEO). Few reputable designers and developers are also experts in SEO. Because of this restaurant sites are launched without a hope of being found on Google for the keywords restauranteurs hoped would land them on page one. If you are looking for an ROI on your website marketing maintenance then you will need to find an SEO plan that suits your needs.
6. It’s Not Mobile Friendly
Last but most certainly not least is mobile design, or lack thereof. Many restaurant websites look great on desktop but as soon as you try to open them up on a mobile device browser they display like an abstract Picasso, in the prepubescent early years. Instead of being treated to an easy to navigate menu allowing visitors to order for delivery or make a reservation they are left pinching the screen to read the Daily Specials that display font sizes more apt to eyes of picnic ants. Your recourse? You can either allocate a couple grand to convert your old website to responsive design OR secure a template subscription that is already optimized for all relevant mobile devices.
Stay tuned for more bite-sized bits of advice from The SEO Chefs next week and beyond.