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Your Website Should Speak with Accents

SIMPLIFY SEARCH: Your restaurant's website visitors seek information in different ways. Why not refine your site's layout to make it easier for everyone to use?

According to the National Restaurant Association's 2007 Restaurant Industry Forecast, "What's Next," seven in 10 full-service restaurants have their own website, up from 50 percent in 2000. That's a big jump for a quick seven years. If you notice the trend of patrons, they aren't looking to print or to the Yellow Pages anymore for listings and information. Rather, they look to the online world for help, employing online searches and even outright guessing that your restaurant has a website and plugging its name directly into Google.

The NRA research also tells us that 37 percent of adults have visited a restaurant's website and 35 percent now use the Internet to research restaurants they haven't patronized before. The Internet has become a major asset for restaurants, from websites to email marketing. So, if you own a restaurant website, here's what you may want to highlight on the main page for these new visitors.

Most restaurants' websites just don't emphasize what their visitors are seeking. Instead they have a dull top or left side navigation and a few pictures of food right in front. If you own a restaurant and someone walks through your door, what do you train your staff to do? I agree. Greet them and lead them to your experience.

The Internet is no different. When visitors land on your home page, your site needs to greet them and make it easy to lead them to where they need to go.

Knowing where they want to go most is what's important. Here is what I suggest: Study your site's statistics, such as unique visitors, page views, where they enter, where they exit, what pages get frequented the most and other vital facts about where your visitors go.

My most valuable tip to you is to emphasize the top three pages on your home page. The most-visited area, page or section you find your visitors are going to needs to be high-lighted as star burst– most likely, it will be your menu or locations/contact areas.

For example, when you study your website's stats and find out that the menu section gets the largest percentage of visits, you need to call to it so that it stands out from all the other links and navigation.

The rule is, the quicker people find information on your website, the longer they stay— and the longer they stay, the more propensity they have to buy. Why make your potential patron wait? What happens if they are trying to find out just where you are located and what hours you are open?

Additionally, look to each page to highlight the second and third most visited pages. That is, emphasize these links on each page or section of your site. You never know what people want next.

These highlights will be a continued reminder to your visitors that, not only are these pages the top two most visited on your site, but also that you know what they are looking for and make it easy to find.

Another short tip I'll add is that your website must have redundant ways to find pages. Don't just add one menu link at the top of your home page, add it everywhere—top navigation, bottom navigation and left navigation. Use buttons, text, graphics and other elements to accentuate one link or page. Because we don't know exactly when a visitor will want to look for a page, it's always a good idea to make things redundant, in many forms. We also don't know what type, color, font, size or shape is going to strike them when the iron is hot.

Remember, your hospitality online is just as important as it is offline. Be courteous to your site's visitors and show them a taste of the wonderful experience they can expect when they stop clicking and start eating at your restaurant.

Boris Bugarski is CEO and president, mUrgent Corp. Reach him at 877-2897250 or at [email protected]

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