Comprehensive design of a local restaurant chain.
The Lodge is a family run business that started in the neighborhood of Mukilteo, WA in 2010. With the success of the first location, it quickly expanded and now includes seven locations within the greater Seattle area. Although all locations operate within the brand of The Lodge each location is specific to the neighborhood it resides in, morphing to the local people and nuances of the environment. This is a family run operation that is looking for a web presence that will reflect the quality of the product and service it provides.
The Lodge is a brand that I have designed and built. Over the past five years my roles has included architectural design, permitting, project management, graphic design, logo design, furniture design, and more.
Within this case study, my role included the research and redesign the website for The Lodge. The emphasis was on responsive web design, branding, customer journey mapping, and strategic thinking. The goals included:
- To create a reliable source of information for both new customers and repeat customers that reflects the quality and atmosphere that the customer can expect when they walk through the doors of any location.
- To balance the family run feel of the company with its neighborhood ties to the scale of the brand as a single brand, The Lodge.
- To drive sales and better position the company for potential buyers.
Find the full project brief HERE.
The research phase included first hand interviews with both the business owners and the customers exploring what they were looking for in a restaurant's website, what frustrations they usually encounter, and an account of their typical experience.
From the research, I found four types of customers that The Lodge was targeting, with the end goal to be to sell the company as a whole. Looking back, I would also add the business owners + operators as a target user for this site, although they might not reference the site often, the success of it directly reflects them.
Here is a look at the personas of the customers and their pains, gains, and aspirations.
To dive deeper into the needs of each user group, I created empathy maps. Below is the empathy map of a potential buyer and how they would benefit from the redesign of the website based on the environment they find themselves in.
The next step was to form a POV statement to synthesize the research findings and clarify the insights that were discovered. The user needs a website with clear and engaging visual design that portrays the essence of The Lodge: class, neighborhood integrity, quality service and great food because people develop first impressions on how a site looks and extend those judgements beyond the visual design and into the quality of the business as a whole, ultimately affecting the bottom line.
This principle on the impact of first impressions was carried throughout the design. The goal was to create a web presence that was not just beautiful and engaging, but one that followed through with the substance and information needed by the users, reflecting the quality that customers experienced when they were guests in the physical space.
Research pointed to specific features that users were looking for and that they wanted a simple, efficient, delightful experience. To organize the information and prioritize the needs and wants of the customers, I built a feature matrix.
The feature matrix was a great tool to understand the overall function of the site on a high level. I then took this information, keeping in mind the priority of functions, and created a content site map that displays the how each feature would relate to other within the context of a website.
The content site map is simple and straightforward. It does not stray far from the typical patterns of small business websites. It does not bring any new or complicated concepts to the table. And that is exactly the point. In this case, the goal is to highlight the business itself and the service that it provides, the role of the website is to be invisible and striking at the same time. In order to have the least friction, I went with a pattern that is well known to most users so they wouldn't have to discover or learn new paths or navigational routes, they could simply and easily enjoy the images and information.
The visual design of the overall brand, including the logo, physical space, and any marketing material has been developed over the past five years. Below is a style tile, refining the existing visual style into a modern, relevant, digital [form]. The aim was to instill the feeling of warmth, class, quality, craft, family values, and rustic Pacific NW materials.
A dark background was chosen to highlight the light and glow within the images, creating a warmth to the site. It also gives off the feeling of class and luxury. Although this isn't a fine dining experience, it is a step up from a typical sports bar and it is important to the owners to make that distinction.
The visual style of the images was chosen to portray warmth and feature the hearty, fresh food and beer. One way to instill the feeling of craft and family values of the business was to highlight the unique heavy timber architectural details in the furniture design, bar tops, and hand stacked stone fireplaces, all of which were milled and constructed by hand, on site.
The font found in the logo is a serif font that not only ties into the brand recognition, but also conveys reliability and stability. It is used sparingly and is paired with a simple sans serif font that says clean, modern, and relevant.
Below is the homepage combining the structure of the wireframes and the elements from the visual style tile. The homepage is design to draw the user in with large, graphic images of the product and atmosphere. It features calls to action in the top menu bar and reinforces brand recognition with the use of the antlers and company name.
One of the toughest challenges with this project was finding the balance between representing each individual location and its uniqueness with the company as a whole. Although they all share the same name, brand, menu, and values, each one is specific to the neighborhood it resides. To solve this, I chose to highlight a feature that is consistent yet distinct in each location: the bar top. Each bar top ranges from 50-80' and is crafted of a single solid slab of a different type of wood. The image below for example shows the bar in West Seattle, 65' of solid black walnut.
Each location page also includes pertinent contact info, hours of operation, a link to social media, and a quick note with some fun facts.
The menu page will be the page that attracts the most traffic. Although I have been talking about the brand and feelings and atmosphere, the real reason every one is here is for the food and for the drinks.
The menu page features large high quality food images, top menu for clear navigation, and a selection of popular menu items listed. The choices was made to have a link to the full menu instead of listing out each item with the restaurant operators in mind. The turn over in menu items is often, and in this case, functionality won. It will be much easier for the restaurant to keep up with the maintenance, ultimately leading to a better experience for the customer as well.
It was important that the site was responsive as most users would be finding information on the go, such as location hours, needs for reservations, directions, and menu options. The site is fully responsive to fit the needs of different screen sizes.
This was a study on the impact of visual design and the impact of a frictionless structure. The next step will be to track the sites success through usability tests, iterate as needed, and compare the sales of new customers and repeat customers. Ultimately, the goal of The Lodge is to earn and retain customers, increase sales, and lead a successful business so that they will be able to sell.