Slate is right, restaurant websites often do suck

"Why does it take 15 clicks through splash pages and photo galleries just to find this restaurant's phone number?"

Slate’s tech writer Farhad Manjoo asks a good question, “why are restaurant websites so horrifically bad?”

Here’s his take:

Over the last few weeks I’ve spent countless hours, now lost forever, plumbing the depths of restaurant Web hell. I also spoke to several industry experts about the reasons behind all these maliciously poorly designed pages. I heard several theories for why restaurant sites are so bad—that they can’t afford to pay for good designers, that they don’t understand what people want from a site, and that they don’t really care what’s on their site. But the best answer I found was this: Restaurant sites are the product of restaurant culture. These nightmarish websites were spawned by restaurateurs who mistakenly believe they can control the online world the same way they lord over a restaurant. “In restaurants, the expertise is in the kitchen and in hospitality in general,” says Eng San Kho, a partner at the New York design firm Love and War, which has created several unusually great restaurant sites (more on those in a bit). “People in restaurants have a sense that they want to create an entertainment experience online—that’s why disco music starts, that’s why Flash slideshows open. They think they can still play the host even here online.”

That’s as good as explanation as I can think of. Around here, I think that Jose Andres’ restaurants have fairly easy to use websites. (Oyamel‘s header looks fantastic.) I think 2Amys keeps it simple and relatively easy to use. Komi’s site is about as minimalist as can be.

But as the piece would indicate, some aren’t that good. The Source, for example, doesn’t seem to have its own URL, instead sitting as one small site amongst Wolfgang Puck enterprises’  massive site. The header on Againn’s site is impossible to notice for anyone over the age of 55. The site at Buck’s Fishing and Camping looks unfinished. For all I can tell, it is.

Have you had any bad experiences on local DC area restaurant websites? Conversely, are there any sites that you like a lot and that have the kind of content that makes you a repeat visitor?

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Categories: Commentary

3 Comments on “Slate is right, restaurant websites often do suck”

  1. Hugo
    August 17, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    http://www.birchandbarley.com/ Really cool design and easy to use.

  2. Chris
    September 8, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    One thing I’d add: it’s exceedingly rare to see restaurant sites with any sort of mobile presence. Even ones I’d consider good or great (e.g., Birch and Barley’s site that Hugo linked above) are typically Flash- or Javascript-heavy and very difficult or impossible to use on a mobile device, save perhaps a tablet.

    At least a couple times a month I find myself making dinner plans on-the-fly, and it’s frustrating when you want to check out an unfamiliar restaurant’s menus, etc and are totally unable…then you’re stuck trying to muddle through UrbanSpoon or Yelp to see if a place is worth trying.

    Maybe in a few years we’ll be at the point where all our phones run Flash — or whatever Flash’s successor will be, fingers crossed on that — flawlessly, and touchscreens will allow for more pinpoint “clicking,” but for now, I’m surprised that the vast bulk of restaurants don’t even take it into consideration. Just set up a mobile version with menus, hours, contact info. Easy.

  3. February 15, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    Chris is right. If you have an iPad or iPhone there is no way you are going to a flash web site. Many restaurants have flash web sites because they were sold on the hype. It’s disco on every page. How much business is lost because of that?

    Keep it simple. I just want the address, menu, phone number, and business hours for the most part and want it fast.

    Moderator-please delete previous comment because my name posted wrong-thanks.

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