How do I redo a website design?
September 11, 2006 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Advice sought on redoing a resataurants websit....

Ok, a local restaurant is interested in redoing their website. Their current site is hosted via websitepros, which offers various business related services via their own web app/package.

Much of this package doesn't seem to be anything that a regular and cheaper hosting service wouldn't do. Am I wrong in thinking that this websitepros is very limiting, and does not allow much business growth nor customization?

I'd like to take them to someting more database driven, with customers able to comment on menu items and adding a contact form, mailing list, basically ways for the client to interact with potential customers via email and the web (the get a fair amount of out of town catering orders), that would allow me to do a design for them, but have them have complete (and easy!) access to controlling the various information on the site.

How do I convince them that this is good idea (which would involve them switching web services, moving domains, etc)

This restaurant is also very gungho about using the custom 1-800 number that comes with the package (though they currently do not use this feature). Are there any other such separate packages for doing this, i.e. something that would easily let you buy a 1-800-number for tracking?
posted by anonpeon to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The best restaurant websites for me are static HTML with email contact links. I don't want anything fancy - I want to see their menu, their prices, some photos of the place & their food, and an email address for feedback, questions, catering, etc. Maybe, maybe a list of reviews on external sites, but I probably won't read those.

A mailing list wouldn't be bad. Restaurants are such a minor part of most peoples' lives though, how much interactivity do you need?
posted by devilsbrigade at 4:36 PM on September 11, 2006

I agree with devilsbrigade. A website with that level of interactivity and user-generated content sounds like a lot of work for them without much return. Who's going to monitor the comments on the menu items to make sure they're not libellous or obscene? It'll either take up a distracting amount of time, or it'll become disused and make them look bad.

A contact form is a good idea, but what's going to be in the mailing list? Unless they regularly change the menu or have special promotions/events, I don't see the point.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:53 PM on September 11, 2006

Agree with above. Keep the website simple and for comments, provide links to Yelp or another restaurant reviews website. Feedback on individual menu items seems a bit over-the-top.

Frankly, if I saw a restaurant website with too many features requiring heavy maintenance, I'd start wondering if they were spending too much time and money on promotion and not enough on pay, ingredients, and cooking.
posted by junesix at 5:16 PM on September 11, 2006

Your ideas only make sense if that's the general direction of their business (Restaurant 2.0 or whatever). If it's just a normal restaurant, you'll just scare away customers, and I'd also guess most of the functionality would never get used.

About the only useful thing you could do is online reservations or online dish-of-the-day, and maybe some sort of news blog, but only if they're willing to maintain it.
posted by cillit bang at 5:27 PM on September 11, 2006

Agree with the above: keep it simple and low-maintenance so it's compatible with all browsers and hard to break. In general, I'm only going to check a restaurant's web page to find out when they're open, if they'll have food I can eat, and how I can make a reservation.

What I want from a restaurant website is clear info about:

Front page:
- A one-or-two sentence description of where they are and what they serve (Downtown Houston's finest authetic French cuisine, etc), so I know I've got the right place.
- Hours
- Phone number
- Directions (driving, walking, public transit)
- Info about parking and wheelchair accessibility of the building and the bathrooms
- Some photos that give me a sense of whether the place is the kind of place I'm looking for

Links to:
- Menu (esp. does it cater to any special dietary needs of my party like vegetarians, and how much does stuff cost)
- Takeout menu, if it's different
- Email contact form for reserving a room, planning a special event, etc. (Optional because these functions can be done by phone)
- Up-to-date calendar of bands that are playing or any other event that will influence my experience at the place that night
- Page for catering, if they do catering, with pictures from events they've done, maybe sample menus (high and low end), and contact info for the person who handles catering.

Under no circumstances should they allow these features to be overriden by any other goal. Never put the hours, phone number, and directions anywhere but the front page.

If they're excited to have a website, they could add: info about special promotions they're running, bios of their chefs if it's a fancy place, some history if it's an old building or they've been there a long time, some of their "philosophy of food", links to local events, whatever. This would not annoy me, provided it doesn't interfere with my getting the primary information.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:32 PM on September 11, 2006

Online reservations, yes! But make sure the client's on board, or you'll have pissed-off customers wondering why their online reservations aren't being honored.

Menu comments, no! Disaster waiting to happen. Service industry customers + internet anonymity = the worst of human nature.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:35 PM on September 11, 2006

Remember to spell check your copy and have someone proof read it.
posted by furtive at 5:35 PM on September 11, 2006

What furtive said. Spelling restaurant correctly is probably a good place to start. ;)

I agree with everyone else, but one other additional bit of advice I'd offer is to get them to list with sites that provide restaurant reviews, recommendations etc. in the area and provide a link back to their site. Link aggregates tend to group cuisines, location, and delivery/take-out/dine-in quite well, so if I find a restaurant on one of those sites that matches whatever criteria I'm interested at that time following a link to a menu, maybe a few pictures of the restaurant, or contact information makes it much more likely that I'll go.

Most of those sites are free to list with (or a very minimal cost) so do them a favour and point them at some of those sites in your area.
posted by purephase at 7:13 PM on September 11, 2006

If you really want to do some value-added stuff for the site, ACCURATE advice/information on parking/traffic/busy hours/need for reservation is great. Everything you'd ask a friend who went to the restaurant a lot.
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:35 PM on September 11, 2006

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