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A café website is a type of "business website" typically used to help customers find a café and introduce them to the products and menu.  The function of the website is straight-forward, but the best coffee websites follow a set of best practices relating to design, U/X, and other disciplined that help them to get more exposure to potential customers looking for coffee shops and to of course actually sell coffee. In this post we'll outline the elements that actually make for a great café website (in case you ever think about designing your own coffee shop website).

Basic Restaurant Website Elements

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A café website is essentially a restaurant website and so the first thing to consider is that those elements and parts of a website that are essential to all restaurant businesses.

These include:

 

The menu.

 

First and foremost the website needs to include the coffee shop menu. Like most website considerations when determining how the cafe menu is presented you want to "think like a marketer", that is to say you want to put yourself if your customers shoes.

Customers looking at your menu online are trying to make a decision about what café to visit or order from, so they're likely going to be looking for the following information:

 

  1. Pricing. Make sure all your prices are available and easily read on all devices (mobile and desktop).
  2. Options for those with common allergies (for instance "gluten free" options clearly called out).
  3. Options for those with food preferences (for instance "vegan" options called out).

 

The location information.

 

The basic but important information like the name, address, contact information of the coffee place.

Customers mostly want to understand how close the café is and how much trouble it will be for them to get there.

With that in mind, when outlining the location a good café website will elaborate on how to get to the café and what you can do once you're there. 

For instance explaining that the café is accessible via public transportation and framing the details by explaining "how easy it is to get here" would make sense.

Outlining close-by landmarks and activities would also help. If the distance to the café is in any way a barrier for your potential customer, explaining that there are a number of nearby attractions, activities, shopping centers etc.. are all good to call out so customers understand why making the trip might be worthwhile.

Social Media Integration

Consistent with most types of restaurant websites, a coffee website especially lends itself to visuals and social media sharing. Integrating your café's social media accounts, as well as making it easy for customers to share your café website on theirs is increasingly critical to making a good café website. Instagram in particular seems to do very well when it comes to promoting your website and your coffee brand. The typical approach, whether promoting your in-person café or trying to drive online sales, is to  setup and then frequently update your café's Instagram account, posting pictures of the location, the coffee, the menu, and even the customers. The instagram account can then be integrated directly into the coffee shop website, so the posts appear on the homepage (or any other dedicated page of your choosing.)  

Coffee Product Photos and Visual Elements

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Many if not most people visiting the coffee website will not have been to your café before or perhaps never tried your coffee. The idea then is to give potential customers as much of a sense of your location or coffee as possible without them necessarily having to walk in or taste the coffee. The difficulty of this cannot be overstated. How do you communicate or understand the taste of coffee without actually tasting it? For this reason visual elements and photos need to be leveraged as much as possible. When it comes to product photos or photos of the coffee I recommend including as many of each "type" as possible. The types of photos and images would be:  

Photos of the coffee beans themselves.

  Include photos of the coffee beans after they're roasted (or even before). High resolution photos of coffee beans in bags, roasting equipment, or just a table and blank background. These photos should be accompanied with a description of the coffee beans, why you chose them or where you sourced them. You want to use a combination of images and words to provide the potential customer as much texture as possible.  

Photos of metaphors or symbols for the coffee.

  Coffee "looks" pretty boring, it's generally brown and solid and doesn't come in too many varieties of colors.  But coffee flavors are rich, complex, and surprisingly robust. The most common way to represent these flavors is to visualize them. So for instance if your coffee has a chocolatey profile, you'll include images of chocolate and associate that with the coffee. For a more fruity profile you might include images of berries. For sweeter coffee's with caramel finishes you'd do well to include images of caramel and so on..  

Images of the coffee in the cup, and ideally being enjoyed.

  The final piece is to show the actual coffee in its "final form". As previously mentioned coffee is hardly the most exciting visual. The intention of including images of the coffee being enjoyed is ore to focus either on the people and the emotion expressed by them while drinking the coffee. This gives you an opportunity to communicate more about the experience of drinking your coffee. For instance if you're offering some kind of specialty decaf coffee, you might include an image of someone drinking coffee at dusk, with a nearby desert. That, along with images of the coffee beans, symbols of the flavour profile etc.. would "tell the story" in visual terms of your coffee, without someone actually having to drink it first hand.

User Experience & Design

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User Experience (UX) is a specific discipline of website performance optimization that consists of a setup of technical and design principals intended to make any website as high performing functional as possible. For background checkout our more technical explanation of website design.

For the purposes of this article, we will outline some of the more essential principals of designing a "user friendly" coffee website that are critical to making a good café website.

 

Design for the customer

 

It can be quite exciting to build any website, and coffee websites are no different. You might be tempted to include imagery and design elements that appeal to you, or that represent your personal sensibilities. 

But good café websites are designed like good cafés. They put the customer first and design around their considerations.

That means, for instance, that you might be tempted to choose a minimal black and white color scheme. However, if the colors make it difficult for customers to understand how and where to find important information (like the button they need to click to make a purchase) then the color scheme simply needs to change.

 

Keep things clear and simple.

 

Again, it might be tempting to build a website that contains all kinds of functionality (a wizard to help you determine what kind of coffee to buy based on flavours and roast etc.. + a coffee subscription option + a bunch of difference volumes of coffee to buy + accessories and coffee cups etc..). Increased functionality is good, but everytime your use your website to offer something more you add a layer of complexity.

Your website can do as many things you you want it to, and offer as many services and products as you like. But keep in mind that when a visitor arrives on any given page, they want to know what they can do on the page and they want to know that information as soon as possible.

The website thus needs to be designed in a way where even with tons of options, the main option you want to the customer to take is the one that is most obviously called out. If you are mostly centered on selling coffee subscriptions than that is the option you'll want to make available on every page of your website, for instance.

 

Visuals should always have a purpose.

 

Every choice you make with respect to the design and visuals should serve a specific customer-centric purpose.

For instance, if you would like the top banner or sidebar of your about page to be blue you have to ask yourself "why"? 

Even this choice has implications with respect to the usability of your website. This is becase good websites will employ a deliberate "visual language" comprised of colors and layouts so that visitors to a page  understand where they are in relation to the broader website.

You will often see that a website homepage has a specific layout and perhaps one color in use that is not employed anywhere else on the website.

The choice of layout, colors, and fonts is critical to helping customers better understand how to use your website, and a good café website will make sure they make the experience better vs more confusing.