February 4, 2014 |

It’s 2014 … where’s your Web site?

By Mandy Wolf Detwiler

Web screen shot menuMy father-in-law is difficult to please when it comes to dining out. He likes buffets, but my husband and I do not. (It cues up memories of the time I saw a kid pile loose corn on his plate, hold his hand over the veggie and dump the corn water back into the buffet pan. Shiver.) We’re always trying to find alternative restaurants that he might like to try.

That’s difficult to do when a restaurant doesn’t have a Web site. Not having a Web page at all is worse than one of my biggest pet peeves — having an outdated site. (If you’re still hawking awards won in 2008 and using a Flash intro, I’m going to assume you probably don’t put much thought into your restaurant either. That, or you’re too swamped with day-to-day operations to give your Web site much consideration.) If I can’t find you online, are you out of business? Having financial troubles? Simply don’t care?

One of my favorite restaurants here in town falls into the lack-of-Web-site category. When a group of girlfriends and I met for our annual dinner a few months ago, I was given the task of finding a place everyone would like. We texted around Web sites, menus and Facebook pages. Sadly, my favorite restaurant fell out of consideration because they don’t have a Web page and my friends couldn’t see the menus. Hello? It’s 2014.

What I did find for the restaurant were plenty of social media pages, including Yelp, TripAdvisor and UrbanSpoon. While having an online presence in social media is great (and here’s a primer to increase your visibility), consider this — do you want those pages to be a potential customer’s first impression of your business? If your Web page isn’t first in a Google search, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

If you’re saying to yourself “I don’t have the cash to drop on a Web site right now,” here’s an idea: Go to your local high school or college and talk to a web design instructor. Tell them you need a new site and discuss making it a class project, or even better — a competition. The winning student or group could get free pizza for a year and you get a new site. Make sure you have access to it once it’s complete and BOOM! Your web presence just increased exponentially. (Another idea? Give everyone in the class a t-shirt for participating and a coupon. Make them walking billboards for your business!) Check out this article from Man on the Street columnist Scott Wiener for a look at what customers want. Your best bet? Keep it simple.

What’s your #1 tip for maintaing your Web site? Let us know in the comments.