Three Intrusive Features That Restaurant Websites Need to Lose Immediately

The craptacularness of restaurant websites is a well-explored topic, including here on Clean Plate Charlie, where we've certainly voiced our displeasure with pervasive issues like impossible-to-find phone numbers, prices, and location info. Unfortunately, no matter how loudly food writers and frequent diners whine provide constructive criticism on the topic, little seems to change.

While more restaurants and bars are maintaining Facebook profiles -- an entirely different beast, with its own inherent set of failings -- websites remain the most widespread and (ostensibly) reliable way to learn about a restaurant you're planning to visit. Without an updated site, users may be forced to turn to Yelp, and no one wants that.

How can restaurants and their web teams address the "crappy website" problem? Forget the entirely valid but often repeated call for easy-to-find contact info and current menus: How about starting by not creating an intrusive user experience? After the jump, three things that restaurants should immediately drop from their websites.

3. Flash intros and pop-up animation

C'mon, guys. No one needs to see your restaurant's name flown in on a banner with butterflies and koala bears in a happy Flash parade that slows the page load time to such a degree that we flash back to memories of the dial-up days in our dorm rooms.

This changes from mild, mostly forgivable offense to rage-inducing sin the moment your webmaster or designer fails to include a "Skip Intro" button. Also unforgivable if I've failed to update my Flash player to whatever version is required by your site. Yes. I should stop hitting "Ignore for Now" on all of those software updates, but do you really want your site to be the one that reminds me of this fact? Particularly when your menu page still says "Easter 2009 Specials!"? 

2. The downloadable menu

You earn some goodwill points for including a menu. A thousand "thank you"s from diners everywhere for that. But a PDF? That I have to download? And it's effing huge? Maybe today's my lucky day and it also will contain a virus!

1. Automatically triggered background music

If the download folder that I forgot to clear out doesn't alert office staff to the fact that I've been spending my afternoons reading restaurant menus instead of filling out the new cover sheets for my TPS reports, that embedded automatic music player cranked to 11 should do the trick nicely.

The only thing more unpleasant than being assaulted with a stranger's choice of a pop/rock/mariachi/Enya/pan flute solo is the inevitability that the volume and/or "off" controls are nowhere to be found on the page. At least it provides a soundtrack (most likely clashing with whatever TV show I'm surreptitiously watching on Hulu during work hours) to accompany my futile search for your street address. 

What intrusive aspects of the typical restaurant website did we forget to snark about? Let us know in the comments.

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