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Digital Menu Design Best Practices

February 4, 2021

6 Ways To Improve the Mobile Menu Experience For Your Guests

Use of no-touch digital menus served on personal mobile devices has surged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and restaurant guests have come to expect a clean, easy-to-read digital menu design. There’s nothing worse than squinting to see what toppings are on the house salad, or zooming in and out to view different sections of the menu.

Not all menu layouts are effective for mobile viewing. Even menu designs that look stunning in print can get warped when uploaded to a digital menu platform. Plus, holding a printed menu is a very different experience than viewing the same content on a small digital screen, so digital menu design should be treated as such.

Whether you want make your existing print menus mobile menu friendly or design a brand new digital menu, following these digital menu design best practices will improve the mobile menu experience for your guests:

1. Use a Vertical Menu Layout and Small Page Size

The best mobile menus use a vertical layout, which reduces image scaling and the need for the viewer to pan and zoo¬m. When a customer opens your digital menu by scanning a SpotMenus QR code, the menu image will automatically scale to fit the width of the mobile phone screen. If the menu is designed horizontally, it will appear smaller and be more difficult it will be for guests to read when displayed on a mobile device. Unlike print menus, there are no page boundaries or height limitations to worry about when designing a digital menu—so stack your content into one column and allow the volume of content to determine what the page height will be. The mobile phone screen will limit how much content the viewer sees at a time, and guests will naturally scroll through it at a comfortable pace, just as they would when checking email or reading articles on their mobile device.

Even menus with a vertical orientation can be problematic when viewed on phone a mobile if the page width is too large. Did you know that a standard 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper is approximately 3x as wide as a smartphone screen? So, what’s comfortable to read on a letter-sized print menu will load about 66% smaller on a mobile phone. To ensure your menus load at a comfortable size for reading, it’s best to design your mobile menus with a page width of 6” or less. As a starting point for designing a digital menu, begin with a page size of 4” x 6.5” and increase the height as needed to fit the content.


2. Use Large Font Sizes

When designing a digital menu, it’s not just the page size that matters. The font size will also make a big difference to viewers. As a rule of thumb, the wider your page size is, the larger the fonts should be.

Here are some general font sizing guidelines based on a page width of 4”:

• Section/category headers: 20-30pt
• Menu item: 14-20pt
• Menu item descriptions: 12-14pt
• Legal mandatory/footnotes: 6-10pt

To preview how various font sizes look on 4” and 5.25” menu widths, use your smartphone camera to scan the QR code below and view the SpotMenus font sizing guide:


3. Divide Content Into Separate Menu Categories

Divide content into separate menu categories, such as appetizers, entrees, and beverages, so guests can easily find what they want. The SpotMenus mobile interface has built-in navigation that makes it easy for users to jump between categories with a simple tap. Full food and drink menus with multiple categories can be difficult to navigate when scrolling through multiple pages on a mobile device. Creating separate tabs for different menu categories means there’s less scrolling, panning, and zooming required, which gives the guest a better digital menu experience.

When dividing your menu content, don’t forget about the SpotMenus feature that allows you to display different digital menus at different times of the day or week. For example, you can have a happy hour menu appear when a QR code menu is scanned at the bar during certain hours of the day. Or, you can make sure your breakfast menu is only displayed during breakfast hours, and lunch is only displayed during lunch areas, and so on, so guests only see items that are available.


4. Be Mindful of Your File Size

There is a lot of variance among users when it comes to their smartphone models, network providers, and data plans. One of the few downsides to mobile menus is the fact that users must rely on a network connection to load and view them. Users with newer devices and strong signals may have no issue loading and viewing a large file while others are stuck with longer load times. To limit issues related to network speed, it’s best to keep your menu file sizes as small as possible and optimize them for web viewing. The smaller the file, the faster it will load for your customer to view. Here are a few simple ways to reduce your file size:

Split content into multiple menus

Not only does the split content approach help your customers with navigation, it also makes a big difference in file load time. Loading a portion of content is always going to be faster than loading the whole menu all at once.

Choose minimalism when adding images to your digital menu design

Images store much more data in digital menu files than text, so image-heavy digital menu designs will have larger file sizes and load times. When you do use images, crop them into short horizontal proportions to help reduce the overall height of your design and minimize scrolling. If the print version of your menu has a large, image-heavy cover, consider repurposing it for your QR code signage rather than bogging down your digital menu.

Use web optimization export settings

Screen resolution is significantly lower than print resolution, so there’s no reason to export your digital menu PDF files using print-quality settings. Instead, take advantage of web export settings that eliminate excess image resolution.

Many designers use InDesign for digital menu design. When exporting a menu file out of InDesign, select Adobe PDF (Interactive) from the dropdown menu. Under the compression settings, start out with automatic compression, medium JPEG quality, and resolution at 144 ppi. If your file still loads slowly, try reducing the resolution to 96 ppi.


5. Test Your Digital Menu and QR Code

After loading digital menus to SpotMenus, it’s good practice to scan your QR code, test how the menu loads and looks on a mobile device, and ask yourself the following questions:

• Did the menu load quickly?
• Is the text easy to read when the menu loads, or do I need to zoom in?
• How is the navigation experience?
• Do my menu titles make sense? Are they displayed in the right order?
• Are the right menus being shown, given the current time of the day or week?

In addition to your own testing, pay attention to your customers as they view your menus. Are they struggling with anything? If something isn’t working, continue to revise your menu design.

6. Have a Backup Plan

QR code technology is incredible when it works as planned, but just like any other digital solution, problems may occur and you should always be ready with a backup plan in case something goes wrong. Here are a few scenarios to plan for:

Low lighting

In order for smartphone cameras to recognize and scan QR codes, the code must be well-lit. If your establishment has low lighting or outdoor dining at night, make sure there’s enough light for the code to scan. Try scanning your QR code materials in dark areas and add lighting if necessary, or consider providing your servers and hosts with flashlights.

Poor network connection

Network connectivity can be unpredictable, and certain areas of your establishment may be prone to weak signals. Include your Wi-Fi network name and password next to your QR code to help guests improve their connection.

When all else fails

The best backup plan for any technical difficulty is to have some printed menus on hand. To ensure the safety of your guests, provide single-use disposable menus or ask your BrandMuscle team about antimicrobial menu options.

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