Elmenus.com is one of these websites operating over a concept so simple you can’t help but wonder how you didn’t think of it first, it – as the name implies – is a menu directory offering menus from various Egyptian restaurants, what sets it apart though from competitors such as otlob.com is the added feature of being able to review restaurants as well as menu items, a level of granularity not present in any other application targeting the local market. Basically answering the ages old question “whats good on that menu?”.
Going through the website you can tell its simple and straight forward enough for anybody to use it, what I liked the most about it though is the fact that it doesn’t try to mimic similar websites (Such as forkly) going instead for its own identity, which is a bit on the minimalist side, there is almost nothing that’s not absolutely essential on their landing page.
You can tell that they went for the minimalist design all the way through, even with the colors, going for basic colors and a simple design which in a way works better than a more elaborate design would have. My main issue though was with the number of ad banners they had in their landing page, obviously being their main menu stream resulted in them overloading the landing page with as many ads as possible, Two page long banners one on each side as well as a google adsense box at the bottom of the page. The banners are really colorful and distracting impacting the entire user experience nothing you can’t handle but still they are always there.
Using what appears to be a an ad-based business model, it relies mainly on ads to generate its revenue stream. Since the website is based on crowd sourcing and minimal effort is involved in enriching the websites content its operational expenses are limited to hosting, which may explain why the ads appear to be flat rate ads rather than pay per click ones. The site has a Google ad-sense banner at the bottom of the page but I can safely assume that its generating minimal or no revenue, since adsense doesn’t work that well with websites targeting the local market. I refreshed several times and every time i was provided with a completely irrelevant set of links to click, this is going to change soon as Google has started to advertise its services in Egypt, so perhaps in few months this would turn to a new source of revenue but as it stands the main revenue stream is the flat rate ads (currently bought by McDonalds).
I believe though that new unconventional revenue streams can be found that’d allow elMenus to florish even further, Basically elMenus is sitting on a treasure trove of information that its not using, this information can be used in all sorts of different ways to generate direct or indirect revenue. By either providing the users with a highly customized experience thus increasing users loyalty to the website or by dropping the fixed flat rate ads for pay per click user-tastes based targeted ads (which increases the possibility of them getting clicked) , or even recommending places based on the previous customers tastes (which can even include paid promoted content). My favorite concept though is integrating reservation features into it, allowing users to book tables in their favorite restaurants through the website, which is a bit far fetched and would include an additional level of complexity however would generate a steady and considerable revenue stream to justify its existence.
Realistically speaking Elmenus.com should be trading in Information/Data rather than ads, providing users menus in exchange for their data and tastes, that can be later used to generate content tailored for them as well as targeted ads.
All in all I like the website and what they have to offer, it passed my usual “will I use that?” test, and most importantly I believe there is a lot of potential and room for development if it stays true to its identity and core services, all while keeping it as trimmed down and simple as possible.
My final thought here is, why on earth did they use ASP rather than php to build it? doesn’t make sense at all, on the long run php is a lot cheaper and easier to build on…