10 Website Design Rules You Cannot Afford To Ignore

In today’s digital age we live and do business in, focusing on your local customers alone is an out-dated practice. You want to bring customers to your tables, regardless of their physical location. How can you extend your reach to these customers? A strong presence online. Although not everything in the digital landscape is under your control, your website is completely your domain.

Why are these rules so important? Check out the tidbits of data from the Discerning Diner report that surveyed nearly 1000 Canadians on their dining habits.

Here are the top 10 rules your website design should follow:

  1. Target your eater.

Building a successful website means understanding your demographic. You know who you’re in business for, so let’s break down your target customer to help you build the website experience they seek. These are a few questions you may want to ask yourself:

  • How old is your eater?
  • How much do they spend?
  • What do you want them to tell their friends/family/colleagues about you?
  • How long do they want to sit for?
  • What does your eater need to know before coming in? How/when are they getting that information?
  • What would prevent them from visiting?
  • Why are you better than everyone else?

If you’re able to answer these questions, cater the design and navigation of your website to this eater. Here are a few examples of restaurant websites whose target demographic is identified almost immediately. Can you guess their eater?

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Website rules

  1. Eating is not difficult; neither should be your website navigation. Make it easy.

The design of many of the best websites out there vary immensely, but one of the key success factors is the simple user experience. Some websites opt to having a navigation bar, and others have one static page with all their information. What you do isn’t important, but how easy you make information accessible is what sets you apart.

Website rules

website Rules

  1. One size does not fit all!

Your customers are no longer accessing your website through a desktop monitor. In fact, 75% of smartphone users access restaurant info on the go. With that being said, how can you make a website appear the same on every platform? Make it responsive. All your pages should respond to different sizes of devices, or else it becomes uber-difficult to navigate through your site. This also means stay away from PDF images and menus – they are not scalable!

See how this site responds beautifully to an iphone user:

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Website rules 5

  1. Add a reservation form onto your website.

26% of restaurant customers make a reservation (Discerning Diner, pg. 21)

If you take reservations, include a form that can be done online as well as the existing telephone reservations. Whether you handle reservations in-house or service it through OpenTable, make sure it is accessible on your site.

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  1. Help! I can’t find you.

Your diners want to know where you’re located to make sure it is an achievable distance. Don’t make them have to dig deep into your website to find your address. It should be accessible upon landing on your page. And please, provide a map if you can. A map easily pinpoints your location relative to larger geographical area. This makes it much easier to understand your location than just your street address. They shouldn’t have to open Google Maps for this one.

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  1. The hashtag #foodporn didn’t come from sexy words.

“54% of restaurant customers find information about a restaurant they’ve never been to before.” (Discerning Diner, pg. 21)

Your customers are looking for photos when making a decision on whether to eat at your restaurant or not. Nothing sells better than #foodporn. If you have an Instagram account, link it to your website and have your customers drool over the food they can be eating. Customers also want to get a vibe for your restaurant, so include images that will illustrate their dining experience.

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  1. Your menu is your bread winner.

“67% of restaurant customers review a restaurant’s menu” (Discerning Diner, pg 21)

If they’re interested in they type of cuisine you offer, the experience you can provide, they will want to see your menu. At this point, you just need to sell them on your food and value.

“30% of restaurant customers search out nutritional information about menu items” (Discerning Diner, pg. 21)

They’re looking for menu items, prices, and to pick out restaurants that don’t accommodate dietary restrictions they may have. This is where we remind you – identify your eater. Your menu was made for your eater, so ensure this is a winner, at least for your target demographic.

QUICK TIPMake sure your menu is built onto your web pages, because a PDF is neither scalable, nor responsive on any platform. This way your customers aren’t squinting and zooming into your menu just to read a price.

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Website rules11

  1. Add website maintenance to your job descriptions.

A website’s lifespan is 3-5 years, making it imperative to build a site that you can maintain. Most website hosts like GoDaddy have easy website builders that allow you to make quick changes whenever you need to. You shouldn’t have to spend extra bucks on website maintenance when you’ve got the resources to do so.

QUICK TIP – Add online brand maintenance to future job descriptions. Your staff are your primary brand ambassadors who also understand your target eater best.

  1. Promote your extended services on your website.

As restaurateurs, you are catering more and more to the needs of your demographic, as well as the demand for your service. Some restaurants provide take-out and delivery options, while others use popular mobile apps (UberEats, Foodora) to serve their menu outside their physical location. While this is great news for your revenue line, you want to make sure you communicate that on your website and direct them to the order button.

  1. Nothing warms the heart like a good story.

It’s not just the food you make that entices your customers, especially growing demographics like the Millennials and Generation Z. They seek more personal connections with where they eat, which can be leveraged through a good story on your website. Every business starts somewhere, so tell your story – the good old fashioned way.

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Website rules12

Now that sums it up! If you follow these 10 simple rules, you’re bringing in the right customers to your tables.

If you’re building it for everyone, it’s good for no one.

Author

Manager, Membership Marketing Restaurants Canada @ArabiSiva