SaveTable.com is a website that allows Alaskans to quickly make reservations at restaurants, and find specific diners and cuisines.
The first thing I notice about the site is the design. There is a distinct lack of contrast in the colors and tones used on the page. I’m immediately drawn, instinctively, to the top left of the site. I see a knife and a fork, which leads me to believe this site is about dining. The subheading reads: Alaska’s Restaurant Menu Guide. Bingo, I’ve surmised the intent of the site within seconds.
My first impression of the site is that the color scheme is very monotone. It’s a little too simple for my taste. I’m guessing the focus is the nice big search button, but after that, there are a lot of links that aren’t easily separated by the eye.
As I browse SaveTable for the first time I am pleased to see a descriptive blurb under the main logo telling me just what this site is here to accomplish. The same simple and concise description is located in the title of the web page. Great start! As I scroll down the page I am left wandering. The white space and unpolished elements on the page and throwing me for a loop and give me a feeling that the design aspect of this page may have been an after thought. The home page is your first impression on a user, make it a good one!
The front page of SaveTable.com seems to put strong emphasis on a large search bar, one of the first elements I see on the page because of its size and position. I assume pretty quickly that this is a site to search for restaurants in Alaska.
What Confuses Us
I’m pretty surprised at the resulting page. I immediately see the exact same search bar as the previous page, but expanded. It looks like it’s waiting for input from me…but it isn’t. I find the culprit: no results.
About 2/3rds of the way down the page is a frownie face. Uh oh, I feel like I did something wrong. There is a message next to it that says: “Nothing? Try searching for food!” This doesn’t explain much. Did the site only search in Big Lake for pizza? It can’t find a single pizzeria in this whole city? Maybe Big Lake isn’t that big. I’m scratching my head, but I still want to see where the link takes me, so I click.
There is a login button at the top of the site, but I have no idea why. When you click it, it takes you to a log in screen, but I see no way to sign up and no advantage of signing up.
The site links at the bottom are not centered. They are aligned right, which is incredibly off putting to anyone who also hates crooked picture frames.
The hodgepodge of links on the home page seem to have been thrown as an after thought and do not add much value to the user experience. If you are interested in users using these links I would recommend making these sections easier to separate with the eye. Add more content possibly to make these links informational outside of just the title of the restaurant.
There currently is a drop down menu with a list of cities from Alaska, but it require you expand a menu, click a save button, then type in and submit a search. Actually, there are quite a few extra options both above and below the actual search field. When all the options are fully expanded (See image on right), things get a bit messy.
There is a “Default Location” dropdown, and a “Where” field. At least one of these could be removed (and as I stated before, a zip code/city field could be integrated as a second field in the search to enhance the users experience).
What We Like
I do want to point out that I did eventually make it to a restaurant profile. The profiles of individual restaurants are laid out in a very generic fashion, but that’s where the appeal is. There are no hidden surprises. Best of all, the accompanying menus on the site are exceptionally well laid-out and provide a familiar experience to that of looking over a menu “on location.”
When you go into a restaurant listing, you get a lot of really good information. You get locations, contact information, a link to make reservations, menus, reviews, a map, and coupons. I’m very impressed with the level of detail that you get about the restaurant.
Usable error messages lead to easy interpretation of problems.
I encountered an error of sorts on SaveTable when looking for a menu. I was browsing for sushi restaurants. There was no menu to be found but I was offered a supportive message. SaveTable presented me with a clear message that there was no menu. However, I could request one! This error was friendly in presentation and allowed the user to easily understand what the problem was.
Once SaveTable connects me with a restaurant that looks like it might be a match, the experience is carried out quite well. The typical things I would be looking for are all listed in a way that is easy to understand. There are even tabs that let me view viewer reviews, a full menu, coupons, and locations.
- Don’t waste the user’s time — Preempt 404 pages. If there are more than 1 or 2 404′s linked off of any page on your site, many users will give up. Especially if your 404 page is cryptic.
- Don’t over-emphasize a page-element — Search should not be the focus of every page. Even on the results page, I have to scroll a good page-length down to get to what I’m looking for.
- Separate your audience — Many people visiting savetable.com will be new users. Guide them. The front page is pretty simple, but that’s only helpful to returning users. If I own a restaurant, I don’t know where to add my business. This is a big opportunity that you’re presently missing
- Have latest update button take you to the listing
- Take out the coffee cup or make it do something
- Center the bottom site navigation
- Re-do the design to make it more balanced and appealing
- Distinguish the columns of links better
- Even out the columns of links
- Remove login button or clearly define it’s purpose
- Make the whole site line up correctly
- Develop the design: Expand on your design, minimize unneeded white space, and create a differentiation in sub sections when listing several groups of links such as on the home page.
- Restructure advanced search: Look into DogPile‘s advanced search options for insight. Your current advanced options are necessary to quickly find what you’re looking for but are not user friendly.
- Add more to Listings page: Develop a way to incorporate major categories to the listings page so that a user has another option to look for dining locations outside of search.
- Minimize pages on restaurant listings tabs:If a location does not have coupons listed, do not offer that tab on that restaurant. Leading users to view five pages or more of content less pages can lead to frustration.
- Explain the search by clearly labeling what should be searched for. Should a user search for a restaurant? a food? either? Explain the action you want the user to take.
- Enhance the search experience by ditching the “Where” and “Default Location” fields with a simple required Zip Code field. Restaurants outside of a users locale are probably useless, so in this case it makes sense to have a way to restrict the search.
- Remove the login link.
- It might be worth removing the Twitter updates, or repositioning it below the other links on the front page. Maybe run a A/B test to see if one way or the other results in more user activity.
- Explore other ideas for front page content that connects with users from multiple cities more effectively. Maybe list 1 popular restaurant from the 10 most popular cities?