Rebranding a Restaurant: A New Website
With branding set and a new logo finalized, the next step of this project for Illusion Bar • Grill • Café is the website redesign. The venue has had two websites in the past which performed perfectly fine with regards to displaying information, but I personally felt they did not bode well in neither setting a firm branding of the restaurant nor being an effective marketing tool for the client.
I took the time to look over many websites of restaurants and bars, even coming across articles on mistakes made in designing such websites, and moved forward in how I always felt a restaurant website should function. Today we'll go through what I came up with and my logic in the final piece.
The Look and Feel
Following along with the branding we determined, I wanted the new site to be warm, inviting, intimate, sleek, but down-to-Earth. Most bars I notice tend to either go overboard in the "contemporary" look, or they get more "rugged" and "raw" in imagery with distressed fonts and brick/stone textures.
I wanted an "in between" mode where llusion Bar • Grill • Café could stand as a nice, intimate spot for a date; a hangout for drinks and mingling; or even a spot to watch sports. The color scheme exemplifies this with the smooth gradients, but simpler sans-serif fonts that don't try to make the place look "too cool for you". The navigation and content I wanted to stand out the most, with the backdrop as secondary.
Rethinking the Home Page
I think when a consumer is going to visit a website of a restaurant, they want to see and know right away what this place is all about. It should not be a mystery, nor should it require multiple clicks to get the basics. I think it's an absolute waste when a user reaches the home page and is immediately clicking to go someplace else. The page should make a splash, but not be a splash page.
Of course the new logo will be dominant as the first thing you see, mainly for familiarity and to show "you found the right place". A jQuery-driven feature slideshow is a very smart addition to a website such as this. The owners can easily post events and news they want highlighted, but I went one step further and programmed this slideshow to display a photographic series of the venue in case there is nothing added. I've seen the mistake in the past where developers build a site such as this, but the owner will neglect it, and thus visitors will see either old information, or no information. I personally think that's a failure in such a website when this happens.
Below the main feature slideshow are probably what I think are the two most important pieces of information to show outside of news and events. Every bar and restaurant will have daily specials. Most will just post an entire list, but I wanted to make things easier for the consumer to scan over. So the specials are entered into the database by day of the week, then the scripting will only post what specials are applicable to that particular day. Already this has proven to work well since customers related to the owner how they saw a martini special hit them right off the bat and thus they came out.
The statement about illy Coffee is mainly about reaching out to the coffee aficionados, Europeans, and travelers who know the brand. Around the area you are mainly dealing with coffee competition from McDonald's, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and the occasional Caribou Coffee. Posting that the venue serves illy Coffee is like adding a mark of high class in the eyes of a coffee consumer, and it will paint a more sophisticated image of llusion Bar • Grill • Café.
The "What others are saying" is a wonderful way of utilizing the power of testimonials and especially to help dissuade potential customers from letting spread rumors be their decider. The copy are actual quotes taken from reviews posted on Yelp.com, thus giving them some credibility. Down the road I want to try a few small initiatives to get more of their loyal consumers to post reviews by offering rewards just for posting an honest review (even if it's a bad one).
The footer is one not many think too deeply about, but it's amazing how many of the complaints I've seen on restaurant websites speak highly of lost opportunities. Of course social media connections are vital for this new advertising, hence why the familiar icons are there. I also felt it's very important to have the address as TEXT (not an image, nor flash), and a clear link to Google Maps. The last thing you need are customers who are having trouble finding your venue.
The News/Events Page
News and events are the backbone of a bar or similar venue. It's not just people coming for food and drink, but often for live music, sports, contests, etc. Again, looking at the mistakes many have made on their own websites, I wanted the content to be clear, quickly scanable, and easy to navigate.
When a user lands on this page, they can scroll through the events on the page, or click on a day in the calendar. I removed the ability to go further than the current month on the calendar simply so the owner does not have to fill his page with months of events if he doesn't want to.
The reference images you see (Blackhawks and Bulls logos) serve multiple purposes. They give an easy reference to a visitor as to what this event is about, but they also will place nicely if one were to share an event on social media sites. Click on an event and you are given details. I did propose the idea even of placing that day's daily specials on the page when you click on an event (based on the date input), but the owner did not want this and would rather control what goes on an event listing.
When I go looking at most restaurant websites, I agree with many critics that the posting of menus as images or PDFs has to stop, especially now with mobile being so widespread. Let's even add in search engine optimization as another reason. I know it's easier to post a PDF or images, but you have to always think of the consumer and if they have the patience to deal with the added problems that occur.
I wanted to make things easier on the client, because I know he would not want to have to go through hell just to update his menu. I kept things a simple, clean slate where he could lay out the content as he saw fit (using a CMS I will get into at another time), and yet the customers can read over things, jump to sections, and not have a misery just seeing what the prices and offerings are like at Illusion Bar • Grill • Café.
Lastly, just like the home page, I felt it's important to have the day's specials on the side. Think of it like when a waiter hands you a menu, and you see that piece of paper with the day's specials. It's building the same experience here.
I'm not necessarily going to go through the rest simply because these sections are similar in layout and do not contain the more important pieces of information. The About page I wanted to be not only a nice clear statement of what Illusion Bar • Grill • Café is all about, but also to show directions and hours. The Private Parties section right now simply contains a message of how to inquire, but I'd like to get the owner to think bigger with possibly catering menus and photos of events to show how his venue could work out. The Contact page simply contains an email form and the address again.
The Photos section is a "coming soon", mainly because the owner and I are still working on how we want to handle this. I feel that if you're not regularly utilizing a section, then don't make it into a system where you would have to. Posting event photos is nice, but if you're going to post one gallery and then not touch this spot for a year, then it's a waste. I think ultimately we'll see just a gallery of photos of the venue for anyone to see. This is on hold though until some of the owner's remodeling plans are finished.
More to come?
Of course this project isn't finished yet. I'm sure some of you are wondering if a mobile counterpart is coming, and I say "yes". On top of that, you can see how plain many of the actual pages look, thus I need to get into Illusion Bar • Grill • Café more and take photos of the food, venue, anything else that comes to mind.
What do you think of the new site? Would you have done things differently?