Use Restaurant Menu Psychology to Improve UX

We all know that restaurant menus are designed to make us order as much as possible. When you think about it, prospective customers want many of the same things from your website as they do from a restaurant menu, so in this post I will look at the way you can use the same tricks online.

How much choice is too much choice?

Brainiacs have discovered the optimum number of choices on a menu. 6, 6, 6 may be the number of the devil, but in fast food restaurants it is also the perfect number of starters, mains and desserts. In classier establishments the ratio is 7, 10, 7. We also fill our greedy faces eat more when there is a huge variety, such as at a buffet.

Social media sharing buttons are the hors d’oeuvres of your website. Rand Fishkin and Jeff Bullas have different opinions on the optimum number of buttons you can offer. Fishkin suggests that too many creates a paradox of choice, ironically making your visitor less inclined to click any of them. Bullas on the other hand insists that you should give visitors as many choices as possible. Personally, I am with the Fish King on this one. Websites that offer about 20 social sharing buttons, some of which you’ve never even heard of, come across as desperate. Stick with the big three – Google+, Facebook and Twitter, and perhaps one or two more based on your research.

The paradox of choice also applies if you have a wide variety of content on your site. Make your visitors’ lives easier by providing a search bar – poor search functionality raises stress levels!

Strategic layouts

Most marketing psychologists agree that we tend to scan menus in a Z-shaped pattern, starting from the top left (or top right – some debate on this). Guess what – the same is true of websites. The top left is the first place that visitors will look so use it to make a good impression with your logo, brand name and tagline (opposite your contact info on the top right). Of course you can interrupt the eye-journey with boxes, pictures, bolding and colour. But don’t clutter your page – aim for a clear, balanced layout and use negative space to direct the eye where you want it to go.

Relative pricing

Ever noticed how we tend to order the second cheapest bottle of wine? Restaurants use relative pricing on their menus to appeal to our inner cheapskate, strategically placing more expensive items next to the ones they actually want you to order. Another trick involves offering a ‘large’ portion simply to nudge you towards the ‘regular’ option next to it.

The same tactics can be used on your website. If you want to boost sales of your high-profit, low-cost products, position them next to your more expensive products and they will seem great value by comparison. And use checklists to ‘tick all the boxes’ (obviously all the boxes are ticked – you wrote the list!).

Of course, there are many more tricks in restaurant marketing, including use of ethnic descriptions, music and even colour, a subject on which I could happily ramble on for another post. But for now I must dash – I’m off to a buffet.