One of the main reasons I founded Loudoun Digital back in 2014 was to help local businesses here in Loudoun County that might not have the budget and resources to maintain a great website. Since then, we've helped business owners all over Loudoun County up their website game. But still I can't help notice some of my favorite companies have lousy websites.
I'm gonna make this an ongoing series and call out examples as I find them. I mean no offense to the subjects of my critique OR even the individual(s) who built the site. I'm really just trying to identify some best practices for website design. If your company ends up on my list, please know that you wouldn't be here if I didn't already consider your business one of my favorites.
Monk's has the best barbeque in Loudoun County, period. My favorite meal would include pulled pork, their unique vinegar slaw and a generous helping of Monk's beans. Slathered with sauce and stirred together on a single plate, it's the Fourth of July in your mouth. Now if I were going to be critical, I might mention that I wish they wouldn't ruin the cornbread by squirting custard in it, and frankly their barbeque sauces aren't particularly special or distinctive. But you officially can't find a better BBQ spot in 100 miles. Also, don't miss the pastrami brisket, smoked wings and other goodness all over the menu.
But any time I want to order takeout, I end up on their website, which really leaves a lot to be desired. I am noting that this site was built by Wicked Design, one of the best website design companies in Loudoun. The owner Dave is a former colleague of mine at AOL. He's a great guy and a very talented designer. Unfortunately I think this site doesn't represent his best work.
What's Wrong with the Site?
The home page features a big video loop. The video includes several scenes, including a rustic view of a wood pile, a cozy fireplace burning, the bartender pouring whiskey and meat being sliced. It looks to me as though the video is meant to be contained within the dark brown background area in the center of the page. However, it isn't constrained and stretches across the whole page. The sequences are a little jumpy and disorienting and I think perhaps the unexpected width of the video is distorting the scene where meat is being sliced, making it a bit garish and unappetizing.
A well designed site footer can save even a bad design. If you include key information like hours, telephone number, address and links to key site sections, users can usually find their way around. My primary objection to the footer on this site is that the text is small and there's poor color contrast with the wood background making it hard to read.
More About the Menu
The menu is broken down into three categories:
Bulk Meats & Sides
I still get a little confused by these categories. It seems like they could just include bulk pricing alongside all items on the menu and make it a single list. But worse yet, when I click on "Restaurant Menu", the page header reads "Smoked BBQ Menu Items". There are desserts and sides on this page too. This needs some relabeling and/or reorganization.
Monk's is a great place for cocktails and craft beer! It's a popular spot on weekends and you're likely to run into friends and neighbors every time you go.
Maybe I'm just nitpicking here, but I think it's kind of lame when a restaurant just takes a picture of their printed menu and uploads it to the website. These drinks could be featured much more efficiently, even including a photo.
Ugly Mobile Menu
The dropdown website menu that appears on the mobile view of the website is pretty antiquated. This looks like something from an AOL Chat Room circa 1995. Given that the designer also designed AOL Super Buddies, maybe that's no coincidence ;)
Problems with the Catering Page
This page is really clunky. I'm expecting to see some pricing information, but that's nowhere to be found. It looks like my only option is to fill out this big long form. Also, there's a critical link going to the wrong page here. This stuff really needs to be tested and reviewed by more than one person.
Overall Look & Feel
The boxy design, the dizzying home page video, the broken links and unintuitive navigation make this site hard to use. I don't like looking at it and frankly I'd probably order takeout more often if it worked a little better.
What Else is Missing?
Besides what's wrong what's on the website, I'd also like to call to your attention what's not on the website but should be:
I would happily provide my email address and/or sign up for text alerts from Monk's. I'd love to get a monthly email telling me about the seasonal BBQ that's being offered, along with a list of seasonal brews. When there's are special menu items or special events, text me that information! Every business should always be trying to build their customer database.
More Pictures Please
I would highly recommend adding more photos of the restaurant. Show the great outdoor seating options! Show the beautiful bar! Show the outside of the building so that I'll recognize it when I'm trying to find it for the first time.
Use video to introduce the likable proprietors of this family owned business. Shoot video of food prep, grilling and smoking. Let's see what the place looks like when there's live music being played!
I know they sell t-shirts. They should also be selling sauces. Along with gift cards, I ought to be able to buy anything they have to sell from the website.
Reviews, Awards & Testimonials
I admit, Monk's has a great enough reputation just by word of mouth. But if it was my place, I'd also want to include customer testimonials and awards won by the restaurant.
Pictures of Team Members
Help me get on a first name basis with the owners, managers, bartenders and wait staff.
The business's address in the website footer should be clickable and link to Google Maps. This is extremely useful to mobile users.
As I discussed in my recent blog post, If You're Satisfied with Your Website, You Probably Aren't Expecting Enough, your website isn't just an online brochure or menu. Your website should be your #1 salesperson, a tool to make buying from your business easier, your marketing platform and so much more. You MUST view and experience your website the way your customers do. Here at Loudoun Digital, we help great local businesses like Monk's get more from their website. Contact us if we can help you!
Nominate Another Great Local Business with a Crappy Website
Can you think of another great company in Loudoun that has a disappointing website? Send your nomination to email@example.com If we choose your nomination, we'll send you a $25 Starbucks Gift Card.