Restaurant websites are notoriously bad. They are easy targets for ridicule — often developed on the cheap, featuring very user-unfriendly navigation, slow loading flash animation, PDF files for menus, and generally horribly outdated graphics and cheap clipart. Did I miss anything?

As we head toward the end of 2011 and the upcoming seasonal bump in business, it still amazes me that restaurant owners are leaving themselves vulnerable to quirky and cost conscious diners viewing their restaurants website. Those diners will ultimately decide whether to visit the establishment within 3 to 7 seconds of viewing the website. And, if the site is not accessible by mobile devices, they risk losing more potential business.

For designers and users, the emphasis is now on accessibility. Websites have to be easy to navigate for computer users as well as people on smartphones and tablets. This isn’t news to restaurateurs, who are as attached to their gadgets as the rest of us. Their websites just have to catch up.

What is people’s first impression of a restaurant these days? It’s usually their website. People make purchasing decisions based on that. A good restaurant website doesn’t just exist to communicate information, it’s a marketing tool that helps create an atmosphere where you are connecting with people on an emotional level. It helps drive their decision to go to that restaurant.

Then there’s a matter of money. Restaurants have tight budgets even at the best of times. Often, there is simply not the budget to create a great website, especially when many web development companies charge anywhere from $5,000 to $12,000. Then there are the “shortcut” websites like MenuPal, that charge restaurants to develop a cookie cutter website that is as bad as it is uninspiring. And buying into this poorly planned and badly executed program makes your restaurant look even worse.

So where do you need help? Do you have a budget of under $2,000 and don’t think an effective, professional web presence can be developed on that kind of budget? Are you funding a marketing tool that doesn’t work?

If you want to lighten up your day, visit “Never Said About Restaurant Websites” for a few giggles. And let us know what we can do to help make your establishment look awesome on the internet.

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