The wow factor in restaurant website design often comes down to photographs of food. Choosing the right way to generate the wow factor is critical to long-term success.

There are no shortcuts. Beautiful stock photos might look edgy, gorgeous or appealing, but there is nothing that replaces professional photographs of your actual food.

  • Colors and graphics can impress people, but it is important to not make a website page look busy or obscure the things that site visitors want to see.
  • Focusing on meeting the customer’s needs generates a better response than bells and whistles, so images do not have to be in the website visitors face.
  • Intuitive designs meet the customers’ needs in each area of the website and illustrate the content appropriately.
  • Investing too much into a generic wow factor focuses attention without considering website functionality may be counter-productive

Food photography and web design have certain rules for success. Creating a website that appears simple and appealing is one of the most difficult jobs to do well. Great photographs of food simplify design and tell a story without words. However, effective use of design requires integrating photos with the user interface, color scheme and best-selling menu items to generate a compelling narrative and sell that soup.

Placement and Integration

Engaging viewers instead of merely dazzling them takes planning. Thoughtful restaurant Web design leaves people feeling pleasant and satisfied but wanting more. You don’t want people on your website to look over your images as merely pretty pictures but as food they should try.

Most people don’t scroll on their first visit to a website, so keeping the most important information and photos above the fold is essential. It’s easy to use as many photos as needed, but place them where they’ll do the most good in other sections or optional galleries.

Integrating photos on a website includes making them appear in the best way on each type of computing device. Customers also enjoy sharing photos with friends through the social media, so Web design should allow easy sharing. Other examples of integrating illustrations, photos and content include:

  • Adjusting a site’s colors to display photos in the most complimentary way
  • Making it easy to view photo galleries, slideshows and videos and photos of special events
  • Creating an appearance of depth by using images with both a foreground and background
  • Allowing site visitors to resize photos and translate captions into multiple languages
  • Capturing mood and tone with light, color and the restaurant’s operations at different times and occasions
  • Using a balanced format of print, headlines, bulleted lists, illustrations and white space to prevent crowding
  • Considering where each element best fits on the page
  • Placing text or ads near photos only if they relate directly to the subject
  • Changing the spacing around features to highlight points of interest

Photography Tips that Wow Restaurant Customers

Food is the star on most restaurant websites, but designers should balance the page with food photos and interior and exterior shots. Never use stock photos, but invest in professional photography for best results. The results justify the extra expense, and restaurateurs can use any extra photos for newsletters, ads, social media and other marketing purposes.

  • Fake smiles and staged settings are obvious to customers.
  • Position photos in ways that make customers feel like they’re dining at a table.
  • Include photos of real employees working.
  • Create a thoughtfully designed menu page with photos and descriptions to entice customers.

Tips for getting photos that wow customers depend on the restaurant’s style, customers and cuisine. Use a bright, light tone for fast food and a dimmer and more formal atmosphere for gourmet establishments. Use diffused natural lighting when possible for photos that pop; built-in flashes create harsh shadows, flat images and dull photos, so crank up the restaurant’s lights, use indirect natural sunlight or alternative lighting sources. Other tips for photographing food include:

  • Get close, and don’t feel compelled to show the whole plate or platter.
  • Use a tripod to get the cleanest shots.
  • Set the stage for each shot by matching the website’s color palette.
  • Try different angles to get the best shot to complement other photos on the site.
  • Use optical zoom instead of digital zoom to eliminate pixellation.
  • Use fast lenses for brilliant results in various lighting.
  • Camera phones produce good results, but a DSLR camera isn’t that expensive and allows photographers to swap lenses.
  • Shoot at table level instead of eye level.
  • Leave something to customers’ imaginations—it’s impossible to show everything.

Generating and Strengthening the Wow Factor

Photographs can accomplish a lot, but complementary designs strengthen favorable impressions. A static website that never changes soon becomes old news without adding fresh content. Strategies to reinforce good photographs include:

  • Highlight signature products with photos, anecdotes and information about ingredients, local history or suppliers.
  • Write with active verbs and describe foods, décor and events concisely and grammatically.
  • Provide fresh content continually to give people enough information to interest them.
  • Maintain a professional look by using custom templates or hiring a professional designer or consultant.
  • Engage viewers with questions, or ask for topics, opinions and reviews; always respond to customer questions or comments.
  • Ask directly for a response, sale, review, reservation or comment.

Almost everyone knows that great photographs make websites more memorable, but restaurants often go over-the-top and fail to achieve their marketing goals. The wow factor should resonate with what diners are looking for instead of impressing people at any cost. Planning photo shoots in detail, using professional photographers and incorporating photos in a website’s overall design generate the wow factor for both customers and restaurateurs by producing astonishing results.

Photo: “Digital Camera” by bplanet available on