When I’m choosing a restaurant to go to, I usually beeline for their online menu to see which dish I might order. Unfortunately, most restaurant websites I visit use PDFs instead of HTML for their online menus. Sure, PDF menus are easier to design since you can even use Microsoft Word, and if you don’t know HTML, they are cheaper than paying someone to do it. But PDF menus are quickly becoming obsolete, and even a hindrance to your business. Here are 3 big reasons why.
1. Not Mobile Optimized. More and more of your customers are accessing your site from mobile devices while on-the-go. Say they’re out and about and want to find the best nearby restaurant, and to help them decide, they look up menus in advance. If your menu is not mobile optimized, you might fail to attract these on-the-go customers. But don’t take my word for it. The stats speak for themselves:
- According to the Pew Research Center in June 2013, 56% of American adults now own a smartphone.
- 74% of consumers will wait 5 seconds for a web page to load on their mobile device before abandoning the site.
- 46% of consumers are unlikely to return to a mobile site if it didn’t work properly during their last visit.
- Restaurant website mobile visits are estimated at 40-60% of total traffic, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.
PDF menus can be large files, up to a hefty 10 mb. People with limited data plans may steer clear altogether. Since even smaller PDFs can take a long time to download, mobile visitors can quickly lose interest and search elsewhere. Also, PDF menus’ text is tiny on smartphone screens, forcing people through a frustrating obstacle course of zooming and navigating. Accessibility, especially when mobile is concerned, is crucial.
2. Bad Customer Experience. Sure, it’s easier and faster for you to create a PDF menu and put that on your website. But shouldn’t your customers come first? Why make them have to download something just to see what you serve? Visiting your site is probably potential customers’ first experience with you, and if that experience is frustrating, they might not come in at all. Especially if they’re on a mobile device, downloading a PDF may take a while, and they may search elsewhere before even viewing it.
3. Poor SEO. Search engines like Google can index text-based PDFs (but not image-based ones). But, according to Search Engine Journal, “PDF documents do not have the HTML tag structure which informs Google what it is about and helps to rank the content for target keywords. Thus PDF files confuse Google search engine that in turn prefers keywords and text-heavy documents over PDF ones.” So, say a potential client is searching online for the best Eggs Benedict in town. If your delicious Eggs Benedict are only mentioned in your PDF menu, they may never find you and instead go to a competitor.
As a caveat, there are a few reasons why your PDF online menu may not be a concern. First, if your clientele doesn’t tend to use smartphones, you’re probably safe for now. But keep in mind the trend is going more and more mobile for all demographic segments. Second, if what you serve is a commodity, like fast food, looking up your menu online to see what you serve is less necessary. Third, if your clients are mostly locals or regulars who are familiar with your restaurant already, you can get away with a PDF menu. Unless, of course, you’re hoping to attract new customers.
The most important thing is to look at patterns in your web traffic, using tools like Google Analytics. Is a significant portion coming from mobile devices? You need to ditch the PDF menu and optimize. Also, look at your bounce rate, or the percentage of customers who view only one webpage and leave. If the bounce rate for your main page is high, visitors aren’t digging in for more info, maybe because they can’t find what they’re looking for. Last, look at the average time visitors spend on your menu page. Browsing a menu takes at least several seconds, so if the time spent is very short, visitors are giving up.
We’d love to hear your thoughts – what do you think about PDF menus? If you’re ready to optimize your online menu and Kahunify your business, let’s start the conversation!