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Cafes occupy an essential niche in the restaurant industry. Luckily, the corporate chain cafes on every corner aren’t your competition – other local cafes and coffee shops are. Even better, cafe customers are a demographic that is likely to go searching online for new spots to check out.
To seize the attention of these potential cafe customers, you need to infuse the ambiance of your cafe into your web presence. This may seem like a daunting task. Don’t worry - that’s exactly why we created this guide to help you create a cafe website that turns online visitors into real-life customers.
Your website is the virtual front door of your restaurant, and you want to make a good first impression. Here's what you need to know about managing your website.
Goals for your Cafe’s Website Design
The point of your cafe’s website is to show guests why they should come to your cafe, rather than the other one down the street. To do this, you need to ask yourself why you want a restaurant website and what goals you hope to achieve by establishing an online presence for your cafe.
Why you should build a Cafe Website
You may be an excellent businessperson or talented barista, but a website builder? Now, that may seem out of your comfort zone.
Have no fear - in this tech-savvy world, it is easier than ever to invest in a restaurant website without it becoming a burden on your time and energy. Taking this step will boost your cafe’s exposure by making an impression on coffee-loving consumers. Your website will be the main touchpoint for customers to discover your menu, hours, and more. This means, with an impressive and functional website, you can turn a stranger into a potential customer without them having to even pass by your shop.
To get your website started, you need to have a clear plan and vision. This guide will help take the guesswork and anxiety out of the planning process!
Cafe Website Goals Checklist
As you read this guide, begin planning the specifics of your cafe’s website. Keep in mind that the main goal of your website is to drive more people to your business. So, you need to think carefully about the profit potential of every detail on your website.
How do you do this? While you take notes, use these questions to help plan out your cafe’s website:
What do you want your cafe’s website to achieve?
Where will you host your cafe’s website?
What is the design of your cafe’s website?
How will your website fit into your marketing strategy?
When should you launch your cafe’s website?
Who is going to maintain your cafe’s website?
Cafe Website Content Strategy
You may be asking - what is a content strategy? First off, “content” refers to all the stuff that goes on your cafe’s website. Your content strategy, then, is how you will present this information to customers through your website as well as social media pages.
When it comes to the content for your website, you’ll most likely want to focus on communicating necessary info, like hours, menus, and specials. These details are the most important to your customers when deciding whether or not to visit your cafe. Additionally, you should consider implementing a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy, which will enable your content reach your customers on the web (we'll get into more detail about SEO strategy later in this guide.)
Pages and Content
There are a few standard pages for cafe websites, and some that are optional depending on your business model:
A homepage that attracts users and acts as a map for them to explore content.
An “About” page with hours, contact information, and important operations info
Your cafe’s menus (PDF menus are increasingly popular, made easily accessible through a QR code scanner on a smartphone.)
Order forms for take-out or catering
Special or seasonal offerings
An online store
Deciding how to arrange your site pages and where to place your content is a crucial part of your content strategy. This is where the basics of User Experience design (UX design) come in handy. A smart UX design makes it easy for customers to explore your site and find important information they need. Lots of times, all of a cafe’s information is available on the landing page. It all depends on your UX design approach, something we will dive into more shortly.
You will also need to consider the mobile functionality of your website. Now more than ever, people are using their smartphones to access web pages, more so than their computers. This means you need to make sure your website is very mobile compatible to keep the interest of prospective customers.
Voice and Messaging
Content strategy also focuses on maintaining your cafe’s brand identity. Your content acts as a messenger for your business across all of your communication platforms. As you structure your content strategy for your website, consider your vision of your cafe and how your content will reflect that vision.
Start by thinking about the voice of your business. Is it of a friendly barista or a matter-of-fact business owner? Does your branding appeal to your customers’ emotions with chic and colorful design? Or is the design minimal with a major focus on quality and craft? Asking yourself these kinds of questions will guide you to develop your website content’s tone and brand message so that it is consistent and will resonate with potential customers.
Content Strategy Research
As your business expands, or if you’re (re)building websites for a well-established company, you might invest in some research. Content strategy is largely a creative process, but that creativity can be guided by data. The best content strategies are the result of research (such as focus groups and surveys) that reveal how to best target, manage, and distribute your content.
Creating an email marketing strategy for your restaurant can help you build lifelong relationships with your diners. Here’s how to use email for restaurants.
Design your Cafe’s Website
UX Research and Functionality
There are lots of different kinds of content out there. But, the only way content can be useful is if it’s accessible. UX design and UX research can help you do just that.
Human-centered design is the model behind UX design – or design that works to ensure that the greatest possible number of people have access to your content. It’s a fancy term that you can apply to your cafe website to make sure it works for your customers.
When you design your website, don’t think about how you or your designer would navigate your site - think about how a user with little knowledge or experience about your business would approach the site. Reframing your thought process this way will help you to design a site that is intuitive for the general consumer public.
One perfect example of a human-centered design element is access to online ordering systems. A smart design move would be to add a link to your online ordering platform on each page of your website. This way, customers don’t have to search to make an order - they can start one anywhere on your site with just one click.
Color Scheme and Typography
Colors set the tone and mood for your brand. Your website’s color scheme should match your cafe’s, evoking the sensory experience a user would have if they entered your place (without the smell of coffee, of course!) A good way to do this is by taking note of your cafe’s paint colors and trying to find digital colors that are a close match.
The font and size of text on your website are another design element that deserves special consideration. It’s always best to go for fonts and text sizes that are easy to read, especially on mobile devices. Typically, sans serif fonts – those without “flags” on the ends of letters – are easier to read digitally. Also, be sure that the text on digital menus is large enough to read on a smartphone, as users are more likely to access your menus via mobile devices.
Images do a lot of the marketing legwork on websites. They give a snapshot of your cafe’s experience to your customers. Above all, they make your website more attractive and boost performance on search engines when optimized.
When planning out images for your site, make sure to use a high-definition camera to snap photos of your cafe and products, placing those photos strategically on your website to capture visitors’ attention. You can also consider hiring a professional photographer if you’re not confident in your skills. No matter what, try not to opt for stock images. These are generic and will not resonate with users like an original photo will.
Marketing with your Cafe’s Website
Your website is a marketing tool like any other. To make your website as effective as it can be, you need to think critically about how you will get the most traffic to your site. This is what will make all your website work worth it.
There are two simple ways your website acts as a marketing tool for your business. First, its existence on the internet means that customers can access information about your cafe from anywhere. Secondly, your website can bring new visitors to your cafe by appearing in relevant searches. For your website to perform both these functions, your website has to be accessible across the internet, mainly through search engines and social media.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of practices that allow search engines to “read” your content and increase the chance they show your content to customers who search for it. SEO is a valuable tool for cafes looking to expand their customer base, especially locally.
That said, the main goal of your website’s SEO strategy should be to attract local customers to your cafe. You want to be sure that when someone searches the name of your business, or any keywords relevant to it, your cafe is on the first page of results. This can only be achieved by following the best SEO practices on your website.
This comprehensive SEO for beginners guide from Search Engine Journal is an excellent guide for those new to SEO. It has just what you need to learn the SEO basics (such as keyword research and on-page SEO) so that you can boost your website’s searchability and success.
Social Media Strategy
The best websites make their social media links easy to find, prompting users’ curiosity to explore your cafe’s other content mediums. Conversely, social media platforms also present an opportunity to drive more traffic to your website. You can post exciting photos or videos with relevant website links in the caption, which will incline users to visit your site to discover more.
Consider consistently adding, for example, a link to your website in your posts on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram about updates to your menus or hours. Users won’t always click through, but the accessibility increases the chance that your page will get a hit, a new customer will engage, and, eventually, all of this marketing work will bring new business.
Hosting and Publishing your Cafe’s Website
A web “host” is the physical space where your website’s information lives on the internet. While, in theory, you could host your website, it is much simpler, more secure, and much more reliable to use a hosting service like GoDaddy or Bluehost. These services allow you to purchase a domain, which is essentially the online address for your website. This will hopefully be your cafe’s name, as long as the domain name isn’t taken already. Web builders will usually let you buy a domain name and connect you to hosts as part of their services.
Choosing a Domain
Selecting a domain can be tricky. Many .com addresses are no longer available and it can be risky to choose a newer domain, such as .online or .live for example. Those domains generally see less traffic. If you can’t get the name of your cafe, try adding the initials of your city or state. For example, if your cafe is called ‘Hideaway Cafe’ and is located in Los Angeles, you can search for the domain HideawayCafeLA.com.
Web Builder Platforms
Web builder platforms are services that make it easy to design your website. Choosing the right web builder is important - each web builder has its benefits, but you need to find the one that offers the full range of services you need for your website. Some web-building companies deliver full-service website solutions - from design to publication – while others will require more legwork.
12 Cool and Classy Cafe Websites:
Need some inspiration for your cafe website? Here are a few unique and well-built sites to inspire you in your website-building process.
Building a website for your cafe may seem like an overwhelming task. But, with this guide, we’re sure you’ll knock it out of the park.
Related Cafe Related Resources
Learn how a better online ordering system can help you grow your restaurant.