Is your cafe or restaurant's website serving its purpose?

It almost seems like a trend now amongst business owners to jazz up their cafe or restaurant websites with music, floating and animated backgrounds, chef and owner biographies, and extreme efforts to advertise other restaurants and cafes also owned.  In an effort to create the same ambiance and hospitable experience the owner does in their cafe or restaurant I believe they’ve missed the mark on why people are looking for their business online.

I think a cafe and restaurant website should answer a simple question and answer it quickly and neatly.  Why have people chosen to find my website online, rather than call me and ask the questions.  The answer to me seems simple and I speak from personal experience.  I chose to find a business online because it should be quick to find the address, the phone number and the menu.

If your website takes a long time to load flash animations and music, and doesn’t make it blatantly obvious where to click for a menu, map or contact details, your website is perhaps not serving it’s primary purpose.  Chef bios, the promotion of other venues and new business initiatives are the things on your site that should be secondary for those looking to learn more about your business and those happy to click more than twice on your site for the information they need.

The simplification of your website will not only create greater functionality but also present well on mobile devices.  If at least twenty percent of the visitors to your website are using mobile devices and they cannot view your website properly that makes your expensive flashy website only eighty percent effective.  As we’ve seen over the last few years the cost of downloading data on our mobile devices has decreased dramatically and will continue to decrease, which will see mobile user numbers increase in years to come and the amount of desktops and laptops decrease.  As business owners we cannot afford any part of our marketing to be so inefficient. 

Flash websites are dated, along with fancy buttons and animated backgrounds that require secondary applications to be installed or given authority to run.  Ten years ago this was a staple as designers were working hard to push design elements and the internet’s capabilities to the limit.   Leading websites are all about less clutter.  You only need to look towards Facebook’s homepage as evidence to that.  Facebook’s focus is signing up new people and that is entirely what their homepage focuses on in the simplest manner possible.

When visiting your web designer be aware that the flashier the website the more expensive it will be, and in a paradoxical manner, the less functional it will be.  This may not serve your purpose.  Look towards the proliferation of new simple sites like Urbanspoon and Menupages which are feeding from the shortcomings of restaurant and cafe websites for inspiration.   Know clearly what functionality you require from your website prior to communications with a web designer.