January 4, 2019

Stop the Squinting: How to Make Your Digital Menu Boards Easier to Read

In the blink of an eye, many aspects of our lives have suddenly turned digital. Digital menus have begun popping up across the country.

You know your menu is important. The menu is the very tool that translates your product to the customers.

Digital menus shouldn't be thought of any differently. If you've installed digital menu boards in your restaurant, you may notice your customers squinting.  Don't let this investment go to waste.

You need to make your menus easier to read. Don't allow your customers to struggle to read the menu. Here's how you can make your digital menu easier to read for a better customer experience.

Category Is. . . Organization

Any good menu will be effectively organized. Create columns for different types of menu items.  For example, create a different column for sandwiches, salads, hot beverages, and cold beverages. Menu items should be easy to locate. Menu items should also be in rows with their corresponding prices. Don't force your customers to struggle to find the price of an item.

Each menu item should occupy a separate row from the one before it.  Organization will keep your menu items easy to locate and easy to read. Consider creating a hierarchy of menu items. Highlight your most important or best-selling dishes. Put them at the top of the menu.

Your high-value items should take up more space on your board. Standard menu items, or items that people frequently buy, should take up less space. Necessities, such as soft drinks, condiments, and descriptions should occupy even less space.

You can also highlight menu items by using larger, bolder text.

Use Readable Typeface and Font Size

Your customers will only be able to get so close to the menu boards. You need to make sure the words are readable from a distance.  On average, your menu boards will rest about 10-15 feet from your customers.  Choose a font size of about 30 pt or greater. This will also force you to choose which information is vital. You don't want your boards to become cluttered with extraneous information. If you have 4K displays, font size will need to be even larger.

For menu item names and other headers, you should use a larger font than the rest of the board.  Play around with typefaces that fit your brand. Don't go too fancy. Fancy typefaces can be difficult to read, especially at a distance.

Your menu should showcase the food, not your typeface preferences.

Color Contrast is Key

When you are choosing colors for the font and background, seek higher contrast. The words should stand out against the background.

Consider colorblind individuals. Green words on a red background are less than ideal. Green-red colorblindness is the most common, and frankly this color combination is not good for normal people to read either.

Complementary colors are fun but can easily tire the eyes. While you want to create contrast, you don't want to contrast too harshly. This particular color combination also evokes a holiday feeling.

Black on white or a pale yellow would be a good choice. In general, you should aim for darker text on a lighter background. You can also use lighter text on a darker background.  For example, you might choose a dark blue background with white text.

Keep your color palette simple. Colorful menu boards may be visually stunning, but they can be visually distracting. You may lose your customers' attention before they even step to the counter.

You can leverage many free color palette tools online like Adobe Colors to select, design your color scheme that both easy to read and aesthetically pleasing.

Balance Your Use of Visuals and Text

Balance is a key design element. A balanced menu board will keep your customers' eyes moving and scanning the whole menu.

For example, don't have one menu board filled with images and another filled with text. Your customers will focus on the images and avoid the other board completely.

If you have a large, heavy element on one side of your board, balance it with an equally heavy element on the other. You might consider a heavier block of text to balance it. This is one simple way to create balance.  

You could also place a smaller element further away from the axis. Avoid intentional imbalance. This can create a sense of discomfort in your customers. They're here to eat, not enjoy your artistic rebellion.

What you could do is use one centralized board to promote special events, deals, or other important information. If you do this, make sure the board is balanced out on either side by the real content of the menu.

Use Images and Videos but Not Too Much

Images and videos are a great way to get your customers' mouths watering. However, you don't want to overwhelm your customers or your board with too much visual information.  A little mystery goes a long way.

Many of your customers will already be familiar with your more popular items. If you have a new item that you wish to showcase, give it the attention it deserves.

Good visuals will make your customers crave that brand new croissant you just started serving.

You want to avoid relying on images to convey your message. Too many images can distract from the mission at hand. That is selling your food.

You may choose to avoid images altogether. For example, your brand may be more streamlined and modern. In that case, images may be of no use in your branding efforts.

If you do use images and videos, make sure they are of high quality. An image of your delicious bacon cheeseburger could make or break your sales.

You can enhance your image experience with some simple animations. You don't need to create an animated work of art.

A simple rotating image of a burger could work wonders.  

Just Breathe for a Second

Have you ever walked into a restaurant, looked at their menu and found yourself overwhelmed? This might be because the restaurant owner or manager has filled every inch of the menu board with information.

Don't let this happen to your menu.

Negative space can often go underappreciated for those who are not so inclined toward visual design. On your menu, negative space will be the space surrounding text blocks and images.

Using negative space will help you create focal points for each menu item or category. It will also keep your menu free of unnecessary clutter.

A cluttered menu board can be difficult to look at. Your customers may struggle to find the items they seek.

You want your digital menu boards to convey information about your products. You don't want your menu boards to give your customers a not-so-brief history of sourdough bread.

Consistency Across the Menu Board

One of the most important things you can do for your menu is to remain consistent. Your use of color, typeface, and font size should be consistent across the board.

You may choose to use one typeface for headers and another for individual menu items. Stay away from using more than that.

Each category of items doesn't need its own personalized typeface.

If you include images on your menu boards, make sure the quality is consistent. The lighting and backgrounds in images should be relatively the same.

If you can afford to hire a professional photographer, this is a great option. If your budget doesn't allow for this expense, make sure you use a quality camera and good lighting.

Don't distract yourself or your customers from the product. A consistent menu board is easier to read.

If your menu board is consistent, this will also inspire the thought in your customers that your food is consistent. Your customers come to you expecting a certain quality level in your products.  Don't disappoint them. They may perceive you as inconsistent before they even get their food.

Invest in Quality Digital Menu Boards

It may seem like a small change at first, but digital menus have some huge impacts. One of these impacts may affect your restaurant's wallet.

That is, they can get pricey. Don't worry, replacing your old menu boards with digital ones could have some financial benefits.

For example, they can easily be changed with the press of a few buttons. This is much cheaper than printing new menus each time you make any changes.

Digital menus also save you from wasting paper on new menus. Paper doesn't just grow on trees (wait, it does, and that's the problem). Going paperless is an environmentally responsible choice.

They're also interactive and can make your menu items more appealing to customers.

You can even find good deals on these items. OptiSigns offers affordable payment options for our digital menu boards.

That way, you don't have to worry about paying for the boards up front.

When you invest in quality menu boards, they will be less likely to malfunction or break. Keep one eye on the future.

Take Your Time With the Design Process

Creating a comprehensive list of all the products you offer seems easy enough. Unfortunately, many people fail to take into account some basic design principles.

It's true, not everyone can be a visual design expert. That doesn't mean you can't design a decent, effective menu board.

Don't transfer your existing menu boards to a digital format. Breathe some life into the menu, and take your time. Your menu design should be well thought out.

It should be visually appealing and align with your business goals. The above-mentioned components will play an important role in this.

Don't think you have to do everything yourself. Ask the people you trust for ideas and guidance.

As your customers which items are their favorites. You can't please everyone, but it helps to do a quick customer survey.

Walk a Mile in Your Customers' Shoes

You know what it's like to be a customer in a restaurant. When you go to a new restaurant, what makes your heart glow? What makes you cringe? Try to view your restaurant with those same eyes. As a customer that has never eaten there, what do you want to see?

When you look at your menu board, can you easily find items A, B, and C? Do your photos make your food sound irresistible?

Test your new digital menu boards on friends and family. Ask them for feedback. They may be able to show you where you can improve.

If you're feeling brave, ask your customers if there's anything you could improve.

You will also need to make sure you test the design out on the menu board screens. A design may look good on your computer screen but look terrible when put into practice.

Get Creative

There is no one way to design your menu boards. If there was only one way to do anything, the world would be a boring place. Think about what makes your business unique. Play on that.

Is there a particular theme or color scheme your business uses? Bring that life into your menu boards.

Your menu should be as much of a reflection of your business goals as your wall decor. Think about those themes and elements that you use across your whole business model.

Take inspiration from your website or logo. If you have an overall contemporary design premise, don't go baroque on your menu boards.

Don't hang an ugly, uninspired menu board for your customers to see.

Successful Menu Boards for a Successful Business

When you make the switch to digital, you will step into the future. Your new menu boards deserve to present a well thought-out design.

Take your time and seek the help of friends and family. Follow some of the above tips and you may find your way to a successful digital menu design.

OptiSigns offers affordable, high-quality digital menu boards. Our products are compatible with a range of software and contents.

Get in touch with us today to help us help you make the most of your business.

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