According to Dictionary.com:
Medium: one of the means or channels of general communication, information, or entertainment in society, as newspapers, radio, or television.
Perhaps the most difficult task for any software as a service is to overcome the paradigms of the industry you’re serving. I’ll speak specific to the restaurant industry in this example, but it’s the same with any other ecommerce company… understanding what your customers are doing online vs. in your store, on your phone, or meeting with your staff will help you to best design the right interface to leverage the medium for more customers.
With the restaurant industry, perhaps the most difficult paradigm is that online ordering must mirror the options within the restaurant. It’s simply not true. It’s a different medium. Explaining this to restaurateurs can be a difficult engagement. They know their business better than anyone, but they don’t know it online.
Restaurants are a fascinating business… the cuisine, the uniforms of the staff, the design of the restaurant… every detail provides input to the overall experience. Take-out or delivery can not match the experience within a restaurant, but they could remind you of it. Online ordering really equals nothing more than food + convenience. The convenience of take-out or delivery, the convenience of eating in your own home, the convenience of credit card payment… even the convenience of not speaking with someone from the restaurant.
If a restaurant works to make their online presence as complex as their internal offerings, they may be impacting the very objective of why the user went online in the first place. Our Online Ordering clients range in size and cuisine, but most are casual dining establishments (not fast food, not 5-star). It’s becoming apparent that our happiest clients are the ones who offer the least options.
Putting up a dinner plate with 4 mandatory options, another 10 options, and even some substitutions may mirror the selections in the restaurant – but will your user stick around to figure that out? I think not. Rather – provide a selection of your best known plates, and see what happens next.
The Internet is a medium. With any medium, you must recognize the behavior behind using that medium. Recognizing that behavior and leveraging that medium will drive success.