A pet peeve of mine and many other Web users is the difficulty in finding the contact information on that site, no matter what business they are in.

If you share that peeve, don’t go to a restaurant site. Slate.com is running an interesting story about why restaurant websites are so bad as most of them are Flash-heavy, splashy, overcomplicated sites that leave you frustrated trying to do what one of the purposes of the site is: Finding a menu and contact info.

waiter-restaurantThe part that particularly caught my attention was when Tom Bohan, who heads up Menupages.com, said it was the fault of web designers because they try to impress the client, who is often an owner or chef instead of a marketer.

I agree, and it represents the failing of most agencies, who try to impress the client instead of figuring out how to fix the problem. It reminds me of logo presentations I’ve attended when the splashiest one gets the best feedback instead of the subtler one (Nike “swoosh,” anyone?) that is the most meaningful and will stay that way for generations.

We tell clients that it’s not always the loudest that gains preference, but the one that is most meaningful, strategic and even tactical. (Like, you know, having contact info on the front page.)

Sometimes a whisper is more effective than a shout.

This goes across the entire marketing landscape, not just with website development and design. It’s also important in the branding and marketing messages that should only be intended for one thing: To create preference.

Think of it this way. If the loudest always wins, why is GEICO trailing State Farm and Allstate in market share even though GEICO screams so loud it outspends the national debt in advertising? Because it only plays on price and has no meaningful brand message. Its advertising is just entertaining noise.

Lesson here: Don’t scream. Don’t just try to wow the client. Do the job.