It’s Not All About The Looks : How To Tell If A Website Is Truly Useful

Pink Piggy BankImage by kenteegardin via Flickr

The small piggy bank is the first thing that catches the eye of any visitor to Salt Tasting Room’s website. Salt is a restaurant that focuses on simplicity. There is no avant garde art strewn on the walls, instead there is just a big schoolroom blackboard with the menu written out in chalk. Beyond pink piggy banks, and classroom nostalgia the site creates the atmosphere one would expect out of an upscale trendy restaurant.

As talked about in our Webinar, there is a difference between design and development. A website should be more than its surface. Without any function, it is just going to offer its visitors with something interesting to look at, till a few seconds later they close the tab, and go about their day – forgetting the site within seconds.

Salt Tasting Room does not do this. The site is designed to show the visitor, in only a few seconds, what to expect. There is a well lit picture of the restaurant, followed by a quick description of what makes it special. It also provides the user with a clear use. A visitor can scroll down to the menu, which is on the home page and shown in full. Alternatively you can make a reservation online or on the phone.

This type of site is a great example on how design is more than just looks. Beyond its modern-trendy feel, this site provides users with an actual function. The website does not spend its visitors time showing off, instead it provides them with a easy way to understand what food Salt Tasting Room serves, how to reserve a table, and what to expect.

On the other hand, One Restaurant shows what can go wrong when design trumps function. The initial appearance looks like any fancy dining place. Well manicured tables with all the places sets done perfectly, a backdrop of marbline doors immediately draws the visitors attention towards the menu buttons, but as the site loads the music starts. Music is unfortunately quite a common inclusion for many restaurant sites, and provides a great example of when too much importance is placed on design.

Most visitors are at work, school, at home with their own music on, multiple tabs open, have the TV on, or any of the million other possibilities. A website for a restaurant should show off food, not selection in music. Forcing a user to take pause and search for the “stop music” button, distracts from the point of the website.

The second major web-sin done by One Restaurant is their menu. This is the most important component of a website. Salt cleverly has it on their front page, allowing users to find it with with minimal effort. Unfortunately in this case, the menu is not part of the site, the visitor has to download the PDF version. The whole sites purpose is to get the user to download the PDF, but hides it under a layer of glitz which distracts form the purpose of the site.

Salt Tasting Room and One Restaurant operate in the same arenas, and therefore should have websites designed to serve a similar purpose. A website should have a clear function, and its design should coax visitors to use this function; something which Salt does a great job at. When design takes over from function it just serves to distract users encouraging them to navigate away from the site.


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