There’s a new restaurant opening up in DC. It sounds intriguing and like something I might want to write about, so I clicked over to the website to find out more. And that’s where I stopped. It’s no Jared Allen’s Sports Grill,* but… damn. All Flash, annoying music, terrible sound effects, and confusing navigation. So screw it.
I’m not going to name the place, because it’s just the latest example in a long line of bad restaurant websites and I don’t want to reward them with a link. But more generally, what is it about restaurants and bars that makes them so prone to unnavigable, unlinkable, incredibly annoying Flash designs? Do owners just not use the internet?
Flash websites may look good, but that’s all they do. And that lack of usefulness cuts down on a restaurant’s web presence. The page can take a long time to load. If a reviewer wants to write about his meal at a place, he can’t copy the text or even link to the menu. Search engines can’t pick up key phrases people may be looking for. Potential customers can’t even cut and paste the address into a map search to find out where it is. The only person who benefits is the designer, who collects a nice check and hands off a complicated but worthless relic that no one will ever visit more than once.
If I ever open a restaurant, I can’t promise you yet that it will have wonderful food, reasonable prices, or appealing decor. But I will promise you this: it will offer permanent links, text that you can copy and paste, and no annoying music.
For the comments, what restaurant sites do you hate? Who has a site that works? I nominate Rustico as an example of good design: lots of text, working links, and frequent updates, all while giving a good feel for the place’s look and tone. Throw in an RSS feed and event archives and they’re golden.
*The website’s broken now, sadly, which might actually be an improvement. It was a thing to behold.