Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Visual Pollution on Websites

If I had one piece of advice to give restaurants, it would be this — please de-Flash your websites.

It seems these days that every upscale restaurant in Washington and other major cities uses Flash, the software created by Adobe to create animation and other sophisticated graphics. Speaking for myself, I could do without all of this visual popcorn, coming and going across the computer screen.

For example, it takes the websites at BLT Steak and Ardeo at least 10 seconds to fully load. Brasserie Beck's website also takes too long to fully load.

Among Washington, D.C. restaurants, based on my review so far, the worst offender of visual pollution and Flash-related delay is probably Kinkead ’s, which is a seafood restaurant in the West End. The site is slow to upload, and it’s not clear where one clicks to get to the links that really matter (menus, hours and directions).

I’m sure someone put a lot of effort into the silhouettes of fish that appear (and then disappear) on Kinkead’s home page, but I don’t visit restaurant websites to be entertained by someone who knows how to use Flash.

Other restaurants could take a lesson from Gerard’s Place, a French restaurant located downtown on 15th Street. Gerard’s website uploads quickly and all the essential links are right there. So does the site for Ristorante i Ricchi.

Agraria, a beef-focused restaurant in Georgetown, has a website that’s even more diner-friendly. Agraria’s website is attractive, yet it loads instantly and it provides a visitor with an easy-to-find link to menus. And the restaurant’s hours and phone number are right there. (Having said that, Agraria’s tiny 8-point type for its hours will make anyone squint.)

I’m a busy person. Like many people, I’m usually trying to make dining plans while I’m at the office — in between phone calls or meetings. I don’t have time to watch stylized type dance across my computer screen.

Leave the bells and whistles for the restaurant décor. Don’t give me a show. Give me information by making your websites quick and easy to use.

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