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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why Are Restaurant Websites Gaudy and Unusable?

Posted By on Wed, Aug 10, 2011 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge The Alembic: Such good food, such a confusing website. Don't try this on an iPhone.
  • The Alembic: Such good food, such a confusing website. Don't try this on an iPhone.

​Grumbling about restaurant websites is as reliable a pastime as complaining about San Francisco's summer weather. What's up with the cheesy soundtrack? Why is the menu dated July 2007? Where are the hours? 

This week, Slate's Farhad Manjoo doesn't just mock Fleur de Lys's glamorible site, he tries to figure out just why "the rest of the Web long ago did away with auto-playing music, Flash buttons and menus, and elaborate intro pages, but restaurant sites seem stuck in 1999."

As one Web designer tells Manjoo, "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." Restaurant owners also tend to be older, and don't spend much time surfing the Web -- they're too busy. They're easily suckered into being sold Flash-y sites for $$$, and don't have the skills to update the menu in HMTL. (Two reasons why SFoodie, in particular, drops the smart phone and rushes to a desktop computer every time we need to look up a restaurant's info online.)

Manjoo ends the piece with a few examples of his favorite restaurant websites. Locally, we'd commend CommonwealthBoxing Room, and Cafe Des Amis for being three new-ish restaurants that get it: They're clearly organized; contain most of the important information on the front page; clearly link to Twitter, Facebook, and OpenTable; and convey, visually, a sense of the restaurant experience. 

And all without a soundtrack.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodieand like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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