The Professor and I recently got takeout Thai food from our favorite local restaurant, Sky Thai. And it turned into a case study in “what were they thinking?” that I just had to write about.
Takeaway #1: A good domain name gives you a lot of Google juice
I knew I had a paper menu somewhere (in fact I found it the next day, under a pile on my desk — clearly it is time for another Inspired Home Office Spa Day), but figured it would be faster to look up the restaurant on the web.
And it was. I typed in “Sky Thai” (with the quotes) and guess what came up as result #1? Yep, www.SkyThai.com. The next 9 results were for some place in Massachusetts that wasn’t named Sky Thai but had some kind of dish on their menu with that name in it. But I didn’t care about results #2 through #9 if #1 was the one I wanted. And I was kind of surprised, because this is a tiny little restaurant that’s not exactly in a thriving metro area. Just goes to show what the right domain name can do for you.
So far our takeout plans were going awesomely. Their menu was online and their phone number was in the header, so it was easy-peasy to call them up and place an order.
Takeaway #2: Don’t let your website be wrong
Except when we called them and tried to order the Fried Baby Shrimp appetizer, they told us they didn’t have it anymore. Not “we’re out of it,” but “oh, that’s not on the menu anymore.”
Except that it is. Right on the Appetizer page of their website.
Hmm. So they’re willing to print up new paper versions of the menu when it changes (we got a paper menu in our take-out bag, of course, and it was the updated version) but they can’t spend 10 minutes to update the website? Or pay their web person for extremely minor updates?
Sure, most of the online menu was still right…but all it takes is one wrong item (or price!) to get visitors skeptical.
Why throw away that Google juice so carelessly?
Takeaway #3: There is such a thing as good enough… and that’s all your site has to be
Not every website in the world needs to be a Web 2.0, social media-utilizing, user-generated-content repository of multimedia and ecommerce.
This restaurant is a perfect example. Sky Thai doesn’t need bells, whistles, or a flaming logo. Heck, they don’t even need a blog. Although I could certainly come up with creative ways they could use a blog to get more business, they don’t need one. They don’t need the ability to let people place an online order if they just give us the phone number.
On the face of it, there are plenty of terrible things about this site. The header is cheesy and fuzzy. The image of the owner, which shows up on every page, is broken. On every page. It’s not centered and the copyright date is 2004.
But none of this matters if all I want is the menu and a phone number. This website is just fine for that. It’s laid out clearly, in sections that make sense, with legible prices and descriptions. All you need for that is plain old boring text.
Except that it has items on it that they don’t serve anymore. So now I can’t trust it. (See Takeaway #2.)
Which is a shame, since they are #1 on Google for searchers who know the name of the restaurant and are ready to place an order.
Takeaway #4: Don’t let your website be the bastard stepchild, especially for an offline business
I looked over the paper menu, picked up a business card, and checked out the info stenciled on the door of the place when we went to pick up the takeout food. There was also a delivery SUV parked outside with Sky Thai and its phone number emblazoned on its side and rear window.
None of these places referred to the Sky Thai website. Nary a URL to be found.
OK, sure, maybe you don’t need it on the door of your restaurant because when people see that, they’re already there (though there doesn’t seem to be a downside to adding it anyway), but a business card? Or that menu that they stuff in every takeout bag, and probably leave in the mailboxes of hundreds of houses within a few blocks?
Why not just add the URL to all their printed material? It’s like they don’t want actual customers to know that the restaurant also has a website.
I can’t figure out why you would bother to build a website and then not link it up with your other, existing, marketing materials.
Takeaway #5: Remember the nudists
If you type www.skythai.com into your web browser, you’ll get the website I’ve been ranting about. But if you type skythai.com (with no www, which is known as a naked domain), you’ll get…a blank page.
As I explained in my blog post about naked domains, you should always make sure that both versions of your domain are usable. There are multiple simple tweaks to get it to work right. You don’t want people to type in the naked version, get a blank page or an error page, and assume you have no site or that your site is broken.
Because then they will go away and never give you money in exchange for Fried Baby Shrimp. Or anything else.
Now I’m hungry for some spicy, creamy, fragrant Tom Kha Gai. If only I didn’t have to dig out my paper menu to figure out if they still have it.