How to Design a Mouth-Watering Restaurant Website
As a web designer, I love getting a restaurant as a client. They usually don’t have the biggest budgets, but the project often makes up for it by being a great test of my creativity and user experience prowess. For better or for worse, restaurateurs often have a pretty good idea of what they want, as the website will often (and should) compliment the ambiance and style of the restaurant itself. But there are still many ways you as a web designer can make the project a success, and help your client not only develop a thriving web presence, but actually drive customer traffic away from the computer and into the restaurant.
So what should you think about including in your next restaurant website? Lets find out!
Build on a Content Management System
Restaurant sites used to have a bad habit of linking to pdf menus rather than including them right on the site. This interrupted the user experience, as site visitors would actually have to download a printable copy of the menu and open it up using whatever pdf software they were running. This was mainly a work-around so that restaurant owners could easily update their menu without having to update the site itself. Before content-managed websites, they would have to either re-hire the designer to make those changes, or learn to do it themselves, which was no easy task. Of course, these days we have a better, more elegant solution at our disposal in the form of WordPress, Drupal, or any of the other readily-available content management systems.
If you build the website on one of these platforms, you can easily teach your client how to go in and make menu changes whenever they want to. In the same way, they can add special events, live music dates, happy hours, or anything else that might bring in more customers.
Use High Quality Custom Photographs
One of the main reasons people check out a restaurant’s website is to see what they will be experiencing in the restaurant itself. They want to see not only photos of the food offered, but of the decor and ambiance of the space itself.
You might consider taking the photos yourself as a way of earning more money on the job, but only take on this task if you know the ins and outs of interior and food photography. Otherwise, outsource the job to someone who does. And remember, if you are the one in charge of hiring and coordinating a photographer, you are more than entitled to mark up the photographer’s rate. After all, you are taking on more responsibility by being in charge of that, and you should be paid for the extra work.
The number one priority of any website is to make it as easy on the end user as possible. They should be able to quickly and intuitively find what’s important to them. For some, it may be to peruse the menu. For another, it might be to see the location on a map. Many will probably want to see photos. All of these sections should be clearly labeled and in a prominent location so they will not be easily missed.
One of the most powerful sales tool at a small business owner’s disposal is a way to email customers with special deals and promotions. For this reason, you would be wise to include an email capture field right on the homepage. I would recommend taking this one step further, and ask your client if they would like to offer customers a special deal for signing up for email newsletters. It could be a free dessert or appetizer, anything that will entice customers to actually give up their email addresses. This will serve to get customers in the door, and your client will be able to market to them via email as long as they stay subscribed.
Link to Reviews
Other than a restaurant’s own website, online reviews play the biggest part in getting customers in the door. For this reason, adding a clear link or button to the restaurant’s Yelp reviews can be a huge benefit (if the reviews are favorable of course.) In the case of a new restaurant that has no reviews yet, it would be wise to at least design a yelp button that can be activated and deactivated on the CMS platform’s admin area. That way, once a few reviews accumulate, your client will be able to click the button on, and link to the proper url.
You might even consider adding this link to the site’s primary navigation bar. Just remember to have the link open in a new tab, so that visitors can easily return to the site.
Keep it Social
We are living in one of the greatest periods for guerilla marketing in history, thanks in large part to social media. Always include social media buttons in an easy-to-see location. These buttons fall into two main categories: social follow and social share. As a general rule of thumb, you will want to concentrate on one over the other, and put those buttons in a more prominent position. Most of the general public don’t really understand the difference, so to include all of them side by side would only serve to confuse visitors. It is usually a good idea to ask your client which is more important to them: to get more followers to be able to market to, and let know about special events, or to be shared online.
Both are great marketing choices, but I tend to favor the sharing buttons. If enough people share a business online, it can get a lot of new faces in the door, and that’s what a restaurant’s website is really all about.
Featured Image by: Popcorn & Ross Gunter