Yesterday, we rolled out our list of the five best Houston restaurant websites. Today is something different.
In scouring dozens of websites over the past week, we came to realize something. Restaurant websites in Houston are mostly terrible. This may be true of other industries as well, but it seemed particularly true of restaurants making it difficult to come up with what we considered the absolute worst.
To clear things up a bit, we set a few rules for ourselves. Any website that was just a single page of mostly text was eliminated from contention since it didn't really rise to the level of being a "website." Also, any template based websites generated through a Google or GoDaddy interface were not counted. For our money, restaurants really had to try and fail (sometimes miserably) to make this list.
After careful consideration, we offer you the five(ish) worst Houston restaurant websites.
5. Le Mistral
It's hard to believe a restaurant this nice can have a website that sucks this bad. At the top, just below the logo, is an annoying, spinning Flash slideshow that reverses course when you mouseover it. Font sizes are different on each page, and finding your way around is complicated since the links on every page except the front one are all the way at the bottom, forcing endless scrolling. The site doesn't even have its own domain name, instead residing on a server with only an IP address (like a street number only longer and more perfectly complicated). In short, it's a mess, which is a shame considering the glowing reviews it has received from many publications, including our own.
Like a crappy recipe, it should be back to the drawing board for your website, Le Mistral. Start by purchasing a domain name unless you think people can find you by remembering the IP address 126.96.36.199. Hint: they can't. Then, take that rotating Flash disaster out back and beat it to death with a shovel. We'll all be better for it.
District 7 Grill's website looks like a PowerPoint presentation thrown together by an accountant five minutes before a meeting. There are boxes with pictures and graphics strewn all over the page, and it's nearly impossible to figure out what the hell is going on. It took us a few minutes just to realize District 7 is promoting three separate restaurants on this one site. As if that weren't frustrating, some really cheesy music plays loudly in the background, and the only way to turn it off is to scroll down the page and locate the place to dear God MAKE IT STOP! This horrible excuse for a website certainly won't keep us from enjoying what are no doubt nice establishments, but someone needs to shake these folks and let them know their site is a travesty.
Listen D7G (can we call you that?), we're guessing someone who works for you thought they could put a good website together. They were wrong. Scrape that crazy stuff off the screen, erase that awful music, start over fresh and pretend it was all a bad dream.
Music is always the wrong answer on a website, but Mingalone's website is a particularly obnoxious offender because not only does it play some sort of quasi-Latin jazz-pop-dance song in the background as soon as the site is opened, but there is no way to turn it off. There is a different song on the bio page, like the iTunes shuffle you never should have created that is stuck on play so long you are forced to drown your iPod in the toilet. Then there's the cheesy "live kitchen view," which is really just an amateur video of the kitchen that auto plays with, like the music, no way to stop it.
Sometimes, you can be too clever. This is one of those times. You may like the music, but not everyone does, and if they can't turn it off, most likely, they will just turn you off. You may have great food and a nice atmosphere, Mingalone, but we were too distracted to notice thanks to the horrible music we couldn't shut off. Also, pro tip: don't say "live" if it is a recording. There's a difference.
This was a tough choice. Both of these were on a longer list of possible worst five's, but when we noticed how close they were to each other in abject awfulness and that they were both burger joints, it seemed appropriate to pair them together. It is also worth noting that both sites have striking similarities to early Geocities pages. We half expected to find a photo gallery of Teri Hatcher circa Lois and Clark. Instead, all we found were animated gifs of chickens and the Texas flag on the Little Bitty Burger Barn site and many, many Little Bigs logos down the side of their site.
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SHOW ME HOW
Guys, consider putting slightly more than 20 minutes into the design and organization of your respective sites. Little Bigs, you need look no further than your sister restaurant, Reef, which was on our short list for the five best. We know you guys are small burger places, but it doesn't mean your site needs to look like an email a crazy relative forwarded to us about how Obama is a Muslim and Swiffer kills dogs. But, if you want to throw in that Teri Hatcher gallery, we're cool with that.
In all our years of visiting websites, none has caused us to become physically ill until now. Cavatore's wretched website is like a vomit-covered, seizure-inducing machine -- and we're being polite. It is honestly difficult to imagine someone attempting to do something this hideous by accident. Every corner is crammed with insanity that falls somewhere between rejected Monty Python graphics and a 1970s Woolworth's tablecloth, and there are animated graphics that rock back and forth as if the designer created this site while traveling across the Atlantic Ocean on the Santa Maria. The truth is, it took quite a bit of effort to generate something this crazy and surprisingly complex, which makes it all the more confusing.
We think your safest bet, Cavatore, is to start over and this time try to imagine what a website that doesn't make you dizzy looks like. That's really all we can say about it right now because we need to take some aspirin for the headache and Dramamine for our motion sickness.