Restaurant websites

In my experience it’s a pretty rare thing to find a restaurant (or café/coffeehouse) website that is usable and makes it easy to find the information you would expect to find – menus (with prices!), opening hours, directions, reservation info, etc.

Visiting Never said about restaurant websites tells me that I’m not alone. Phew! On the site there are many quotes of things you’ll never (or extremely rarely) actually hear people say. Here are a couple of favourites:

I’m glad to see the ‘missing plugin’ error, because I needed to be reminded to re-install Flash after I removed it from my system.

I really do enjoy having to find that cool scroll-bar you built into your Flash website. I find the wheel on my mouse way too confusing, so a Flash scroll bar that doesn’t work with the mouse wheel is a breath of fresh air.

The site also offers some advice on How to make a less horrible restaurant website. I’d like to modify step 3 a little to make it even better. Currently it states the following:

Take a photo of your menu and post it as a blog post tagged “menu.” When your menu changes, take a picture of the most recent version and post it as a blog post tagged “menu.”

While posting a photo of a menu is definitely much better than having no menu at all or hiding the menu inside a Flash container, we can improve both usability and accessibility with just little bit of work. Here’s my suggestion:

If you have a Word, PDF or text document that contains your menu, copy the text from that document and paste it into a blog post tagged “menu”.

If you only have your menu on paper, consider typing it in manually. It’ll take a few minutes the first time you do it, but after that you only need to type any changes you make to the menu.

As a last resort, if typing in your menu simply is not an option, take a photo of your menu and post it as a blog post tagged “menu.” When your menu changes, take a photo of the most recent version and edit the blog post so that it shows the new photo instead.

Unless you go with the “last resort” option, your menu should now be accessible to most potential visitors to your restaurant, sighted or not. As a bonus, the menu will be easier for search engines to pick up and index.

For another take on restaurant websites, check out What I want from a restaurant website. Somewhat ironically, the content of that post consists of two images with much too short text alternatives to make sense to people who can’t see the images. Seems like a good use-case for longdesc to me.

Posted on March 29, 2011 in Usability, Accessibility