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Restaurant Websites- Why?

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I know restaurant websites have been a topic here as they've been amidst any group of keen restaurant goers. And every time the topic comes up, two things are listed as hated features: music as default feature and overly busy flash design. What people want is information: contact info, up to date menus, and policies. And yet, many sites continue to opt for instant music that blares the moment you hit their page, and busy flash intros that most sensible people skip. I won't even begin to go into the busy design that hides rather than makes clear how to get the information we want.

Why? Can anyone tell me why restaurateurs continue to ignore the pleas of what seems to be a majority public?

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  1. Because they don't know any better, don't ask the majority public, and go with what the web designer suggests....who likes the cool, hip and jazzy flashy-flash and idiotic music, because it means more money for them in developing the site?

    19 Replies
    1. re: LindaWhit

      It's really going to start costing them money, now, too, as iPhones and iPads don't do Flash.

      1. re: kleine mocha

        Thank GOD! Perhaps they'll just go back to static HTML type websites.

        1. re: kleine mocha

          Good. Meanwhile, maybe the next Top Chef restaurant wars should involve a website component (they're each given a designer) and people decide on which restaurant to visit based on the first impressions from the site.

          Sure, it may not be tied to the food itself, but it would be worth having chefs/restaurateurs think about this side: how to make an impression before the people have even come to the door.

          1. re: Lizard

            Maybe as part of Restaurant Wars?

        2. re: LindaWhit

          I tend to think that it goes the other way, LindaWhit. I would bet that it wasn't the site designer that decided we needed to play "That's Amore" as soon as the site loaded, but rather the person paying them. I've never designed anything but personal sites myself, but I know of people who have worked with businesses, and the client requests can tend toward the ridiculous. Something along the lines of "ooh, it should have a picture of my cat leading the customer through the menu." Designers will do this (because they're getting paid), but I don't think they're that happy to.
          My guess is that restaurateurs feel like they should be getting the flashiest and coolest looking web site they can afford, and so they demand more than is appropriate. Me? I just want a phone number, a google map, and a menu. Do it all in HTML, for all I care.

          1. re: gilintx

            *heh* Didn't read through before posting. You are spot on! One needs only peruse the site Clients From Hell to get a hint of some of the ridiculous requests (and demands) we are subjected to now and again.

            1. re: gilintx

              >>>>""" and the client requests can tend toward the ridiculous. Something along the lines of "ooh, it should have a picture of my cat leading the customer through the menu.""""<<<<

              oh bless you gil in texas! i needed that belly laugh today!

            2. re: LindaWhit

              I must politely call BS or, at least, too much generalization. That's not to say there are not douchenozzles (most likely CL amateurs) who do this sort of thing, or at least used to do. Most of us, though, are keenly aware of what makes a good user experience and design toward that ideal.

              But some of us are not as good as others at saying "no" to a cliient.

              As a pro designer (specialization in fashion/entertainment/creatives), I have been part of quite a few tense conversations with clients about music, flash, all manner of heinous crimes against user-friendliness, search visibility, and good sense. They get so wrapped up in what they think their flashy image should be, they kind of forget most people just want to get information as quickly and efficiently as possible. Now that our studio is quite stable, we've actually fired clients rather than go through the hassle of arguing.

              1. re: mangetoutoc

                And now Apple has backed down from its "no-Flash" policy, so who knows what we will now be subjected to.

                1. re: kleine mocha

                  Well... kind of. Apple is still not including flash in its iPhone/iPad/iPod touch products. What they are doing is allowing Adobe's Flash to iPhone app program for creating standalone iPhone apps.

                2. re: mangetoutoc

                  Fine - then it goes both ways. Irritating clients who think all the flashy-flash, music, and inability to find a menu or contact info is a good thing, and irritating website designers who think the exact same thing.

                  Believe me, I've been at several companies who've had web designers try and push that crap on us.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    This isn't a restaurant site, but I wonder who is responsible for this?

                    http://yvettesbridalformal.com/

                    1. re: Sooeygun

                      Oh. My. God!!!! That one *has* to be a completely clueless client/bridal shop owner.

                      I find it hysterical that a pop-up was blocked that said "Additional plug-ins are required to display all the media on this page."

                      YA THINK??????????? :-D

                      And she's got Apple Pie recipes linked! LOL But at least we know Yvette's cares about us and wants us to be happy!

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        sooeygun,

                        i'm afraid to click on any of those things on that yvette site, fearing that it might take me to some porn site!

                        and is THAT yvette? and a wedding gown? guess she ain't a virgin? that's what the black swooshes all over the gown mean, right?

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          Did you catch the web designer? Dude-otep? With a pyramid logo?

                          1. re: PattiCakes

                            The entire site - designer and site itself - boggles the mind. ;-)

                        2. re: Sooeygun

                          It looks like an elementary school collage project online. Perhaps this is the new, high tech arts and crafts class for young kids? There is no other explanation.

                          1. re: Sooeygun

                            I see this thing as a tongue-in-cheek joke, done manic style. Kind of reminds me of a way over the edge and out of control art project I once turned in because I wanted to piss off the instructor.

                            1. re: Sooeygun

                              wow

                              I'm dizzy now

                      2. Friends and I emailed the webmaster of one of our fav restos about the problems we experienced enjoying the restos. website and he changed it quite a bit.

                        1. I just don't get it when a restaurant doesn't post it's hours on it's website.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: Withnail42

                            MC Slim JB's blog makes some great observations about restaurant websites:
                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/2010/05/...

                            I think once the site is up, many owners can't afford to change them.

                            It is a pity so many restaurants don't know how to get any kind of internet presence, like posting info on Chow.com, or even bother to update their free yellow pages listing.

                            1. re: GraydonCarter

                              I think that owners should then invest in a set up that allows them to go in and update the information. It's not that difficult. Plus, any restaurateur who has paid for an uneditable website has really wasted money-- one should be able to post new information.

                              As for the post, are you suggesting I read this? Is it about why restaurateurs do not listen to these requests? Or is it yet another discussion of the flaws-- a reason why I am so surprised that people continue to put up really crap websites.

                              1. re: Lizard

                                It's just a list of the top 10 sins with restaurants in a certain geographic area that are guilty of each.

                                The one I'll give them some latitude on is posting prices. If someone sees a lower price on the web than what the restaurant is charging, fur will fly. And restaurants have to change their prices all the time.

                                I started a thread on the same topic a while back - I call them website horrors.

                                1. re: 512window

                                  There was a very trendy, hip new restaurant in San Francisco that for many months after opening had a website that featured a picture of the outside of the restaurant -- and that was it. You couldn't click on anything (and believe me, I tried), there was no contact info, hours, menu, nothing!

                                  1. re: waldrons

                                    Sometimes biz owners lock in a domain name before someone else uses it or so no one else will have it or even to sell it to the highest bidder (some domains have marketing value)..unfortunate for us frustrated web surfers but a safe guard for some. Since it's free to cheap to own a domain name the practice is common.

                                    1. re: waldrons

                                      That's pretty common with newer restaurants. There was one in my area that just had the picture, but the restaurant was in the process of making the site and in the interim it just posted the menus/hours for the week on its Facebook wall instead.

                                      1. re: queencru

                                        Excellent point queencru, Facebook has made a dramatic shift in website usage for many business owners large & small. Cause marketing campaigns are highly successful on FB, coupons and specials easy to self-post and your FB friends list (& Twitter account) can successfully and quickly attract a continuing following websites alone may not.

                                      2. re: waldrons

                                        It took forever for Eastern Standard in Boston, a hugely popular, fairly hip place, to get their site up. At least a year. There are other sites where I can't find the freaking address to save my life. The first page should have general info like address, phone #, hours but that seldom happens. I hate when prices aren't listed, need to know what I'm getting myself into. And yes, immediate music is a pain esp. when you're at work trying to do these things discreetly.

                                      3. re: 512window

                                        That's my blog piece, and while I use Boston-area restaurants to illustrate my points, the sins are global.

                                        Also, while restaurants change their prices all the time, I don't think that's an excuse not to do it: many, many fine-dining restaurants still manage to post their prices on their websites. A simple disclaimer of "prices subject to change" is enough for legal coverage; the point is to give prospective customers a sense of typical meal costs before they show up.

                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          I've certainly found many examples of the sins you site on restaurant websites throughout the world.

                                          I do appreciate it when they list prices. It sounds like these websites are rarely updated for the most part, the true prices may start differing from the web prices substantially. I'd be upset if there was a $10 difference.

                                2. It's not limited to restaurants...a fair amount of my job involves reviewing auto dealer websites. JEEBUS...there's a nightmare. Web-enabled plaid pants...

                                  Not sure how to convince small businesses that the Internet ain't going away and people use it as unconsciously as breathing.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: coney with everything

                                    "...a fair amount of my job involves reviewing auto dealer websites. JEEBUS...there's a nightmare. Web-enabled plaid pants..."

                                    ~~~~~~~~
                                    LOL cwe! Thanks, I really needed that laugh this morning!

                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      i think that's a terrific name for a punk band: "web-enabled plaid pants"!

                                      good one, coney!

                                  2. I frequently go to drug company websites and other doctor's websites for my job and one of the hardest things to find is the fricking phone # to get in contact.
                                    Most people look things up on the net for phone, fax, address and directions. Those should be right on the first page. I also don't want fancy flash pages, music, and 'skip this to enter the website'. Treat us as if we were first graders and make the site accessible and easy to navigate.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: smartie

                                      yep, the KISS principle is needed!

                                    2. This is only slightly off-topic. I was thinking today what a hassle it is and I don't know why I put my actual birthdate in those distiller's websites, when it would be so much easier to pretend my birthdate is January 1. I'm just slow I guess.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: GraydonCarter

                                        I'm just lucky to have been born on 1-1-11. It's very convenient on these sites.

                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          you are remarkably spry for your age, MC!

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Just wait until January 2, 2011... then they'll catch you and ban you forever.

                                            1. re: GraydonCarter

                                              I feel a new birthday coming on: it's 2-2-22!

                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                      2. I think a restaurant web site should be like a well-written resume: all substance and no flash.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                          +! RECOMMENDED :-)

                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                            Having received many resumes in the last few weeks, I can say that a lot of resume writers aren't following that rule either.

                                            1. re: Sooeygun

                                              That's a shame...It's one of the first things I learned when making my way into the adult working world. Less is better: fancy fonts, dingbats and embellished paper is a no-no, especially when transmitting a resume via an electronic method; you never know how it will show up on the other end.

                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                We once received a resume in the mail that included a pack of gum in the envelope. We called the man just to hear the story behind his unique approach....he's been working for us for 20 yrs. And, always has gum in his pocket. Fantastic employee. Can't always judge a book by its cover.

                                          2. Unless their website is not worth visiting in the first place and will ruin a good review.. or if they have any concerns for crashing from too much site traffic. One of the soup shops around here has lost servers due to high traffic volume stemming from "too much local press" from time to time.

                                            1. So it's not only chowhounds that feel this way about restaurant websites. (Caution humor ahead)

                                              http://theoatmeal.com/comics/restaura...

                                              I'm hoping Flash goes away too, it's so y2k ;)

                                              1. See also: http://neversaidaboutrestaurantwebsit...

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: jlafler

                                                  LOL! Love the comments. One of my favorites was

                                                  "I love the sexy background music. That way people think I’m on a porn site, when little do they know I’m checking out tapas.”

                                                  1. re: jlafler

                                                    A reference to this site kicked off a more serious article on the deficiencies of restaurant Web sites in the Boston Globe this week: http://www.boston.com/ae/food/restaur...

                                                  2. Maybe their web designers are mostly young folks who want to show off all the bells and whistles they have figured out how to use and are used to sensory bombardment?

                                                    1. this auto-downloading .pdf thing is apparently not is not just my issue: http://neversaidaboutrestaurantwebsit...

                                                      i don't recall the local place that just did it, but it is VERY annoying.

                                                      ~~~~
                                                      i looked it up; it is liberty tavern in arlington, virginia
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7359...

                                                      1. As much as I hate music, flash pages that don't allow you to find the phone number, and downloadable menus, I think I found an even worst restaurant website sin. Try a website where the multi-page menu opens in a slideshow that changes pages every 5 seconds and provides no way to stop the pages from switching.

                                                        1. I was just thinking about how in the old days, the guy who sold a new business his telephone service and yellow pages listing was a great aid to the immigrant entreprenuer, helping them with everything from correctly spelling the name of the restaurant to writing the ad. These days a business telephone listing is all it takes to find your way onto the internet, and yet few new restauranteurs think about it: often the cuisine is miscategorized, the address wrong, even the spelling of the name incorrect.