Monday, April 4, 2011

An Open Letter to Restaurant Web Designers

Dear designers of restaurant websites,

I think you've been given some bad information. I'd like to take this opportunity to clear up some misunderstandings and hopefully get us all on the same page about what should be on your page.

There are basically four pieces of information that people want from a restaurant's website:

1. What food does the restaurant serve?
2. How much does that food cost?
3. When can I eat that food?
4. How can I contact/find the restaurant?

Think of these as the Four Questions of Restaurant Web Design. Just like the Four Questions in the Passover Seder, each one should have not only a clear answer, but also an explanation. For example, the contact information could include not just the phone number of the restaurant, but an indication that the phone number will not be answered before 5:00 PM. Pretty simple, right?

Sadly, someone seems to have told you that the four questions are actually:

1. Can I find something to animate on the website so that it will not load in many popular browsers?
2. Is the menu accessible only by downloading a .pdf file, with each meal a separate file?
3. Is the most prominent information simply a description of how nice the restaurant owner thinks it would be to eat there?
4. Does the website have an introductory screen with absolutely no information on it at all?

That same incorrect informant seems to have told you that the answers to these questions must be, simply, yes.

Let me reiterate; that information is wrong. People who want to eat food do not necessarily want to spend time watching a restaurant's name scroll by, or clicking through several highly decorated screens, then downloading and opening a document to see what food a restaurant serves. Some people, it is true, are interested in the name of a restaurant's chef, but even those people (who are a very small subsection of the category "people who eat food") only care about the chef's name if that chef has been on television.

Let's say it together: people who go to restaurants want to know about food. Restaurants exist to provide food in exchange for money. Everything that does not further this goal is incidental.

If you have any questions about what should go into the next restaurant website you design, please feel free to ask me, or to ask any one of the millions of other people who have gone to a restaurant some time in the last, say, forty-eight hours.


PS: If you are also working on academic course websites, I am happy to share with you my prepared talk, "1995 was a long time ago: fundamentals in organizing information on the internet." If you happen also to design websites for Presidential Libraries, we need to have a totally different conversation, one I like to call "An Introduction to Basic Concepts in Aesthetics (Remedial Level)."

1 comment:

Ian said...

Have you seen ?

I will say, though, that while I care about the menu much more than the chef's name (and usually have no idea whether he or she has been on TV), it is good to have his or her name up there somewhere—you might know what a chef's food/style/etc is like from one of their previous restaurants or reputation.