Zomato is a popular website for finding restaurants and food delivery. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? You go on, enter your area and search for what you fancy, or to check out a particular restaurant. Or you can browse the collections and recommendations, see what is trending, or filter your results even more.
1.2 million restaurants are featured but it’s the user base that is most impressive with 120 million users each month, 30 million photos uploaded, 10 million reviews and 18 million bookmarks.
These sites of curated user generated content are some of the biggest on the web right now.
Zomato has a big team working on that but this sort of website and the new kind of business websites dominating the web are not out of your reach. The solopreneur, one man band, bootstrapping startup, really can build a thriving website in the mould of Zomato.
It is India’s biggest startup, formed in 2008 and valued at $660 million in 2014, having raised more funding since then. It’s lauded as the first of the country’s Unicorn startups to break even and acquired UrbanSpoon in the USA to get started with food delivery.
That’s all to play for, but we are focussing on getting a great site up and running. Leveraging the social community aspects and the user generated content you can quickly have a massive amount of submitted data that you can collect and curate.
And here’s how to grow your own Zomato, with a fantastic, versatile, WordPress theme.
Choose your flavour
What do you want your site to be about? Sure, you could go straight for the Zomato model and focus on food. People do love food. There’s definitely room for different takes on the same subject.
You could focus your foodie site on a particular area or city. Or a particular cuisine. Zomato and friends achieve dominance by being huge and apparently all-encompassing. But there’s a lot to be said for the niche effect too.
Outside of food, think about what people either desperately need or massively love. How do they spend their money, how do they spend their time? Find out what people care about by talking to friends, doing some research online, or looking at your own life.
Travel, health, fitness, video games, music, movies and television, are all things that people pour massive amounts of time and money into. That’s where you want to be, and that’s where you could build a site to curate all the user generated content, just like Zomato.
Getting started building a website like Zomato
What do you need to get started? Not as much as you might think. The preparation phase was the trickiest.
The basics are your domain name and webhosting. EpicThemes recommends Bluehost if you are looking for webhosting and it works well with the next step – getting WordPress installed.
WordPress is the biggest content management system in the world and perfect for getting a site like Zomato going. You don’t need web developers or anything fancy. WordPress is capable of a lot of heavy lifting. It’s easy to install WordPress – and it’s free. And your theme will really top it all off.
You might think WordPress themes are all a bit samey. The same blog layout, maybe with a side of corporate looks. But it’s not just about looks. WordPress themes can change the very structure of your site, give it all sorts of functionality and be completely unrecognisable from your standard blogs.
Those are the kinds of themes that we love here at EpicThemes. WPeddit is styled on Reddit and we’ve got a whole article on how to make a site like Reddit with WordPress. EpicHackers is another community theme that can build an amazing curation site.
But the WordPress theme most like Zomato is PluginHunt. It’s inspired by the look and functionality of the massively successful Product Hunt site. This is the exact model you need for building the next big thing in the curated web.
PluginHunt features user submissions, social networking, commenting, voting, trending sections, a customised homepage and much more.
Users can discover and submit their favourite restaurants, along with photos and video. Other users can then comment, discuss and add their own ratings. They could favourite and track the restaurant and keep track of all their faves from their profile page. All the ratings are combined and displayed on the new, hot, and trending sections of the site so visitors get the best content straight away.
It’s such a versatile idea you can use it for finding the latest geeky tech or the tastiest food.
PluginHunt is ready to go out the box with minimal set up but you can add some more great plugins and features to make your new site even more powerful. Custom fields, Facebook style images for more shares, and four plugins built for the theme: NotifyMe, FeedbackMe, OnboardMe and PopularThis.
You could use the PluginHunt theme to build a near pixel-for-pixel clone of the Product Hunt website. Making a site like Zomato isn’t going to be that precise a copy but you will be able to get all the necessary functionality in and have it looking great.
What your site needs
The main features are the submissions, the ratings and the categorising. A strong community will be great but they need the features to love first.
PluginHunt allows users to post their new finds on the site by adding some basic information and media if it’s available. And man do people love taking pictures of their food.
Other users can then comment with a beautiful, simple AJAX commenting system. There’s a separate discussions area of the site where everyone can chat and share their thoughts.
The users can build collections of their favourite posts and even get them featured on the front page.
Just like all the major sites your visitors can create accounts using their social networking accounts. Or they can login normally on a styled WordPress login page that they probably won’t ever realise is WordPress. Stealth mode activated.
Votes on the posts – in this case, restaurant listings – get tallied and the hottest content rises to the top. With the PopularThis plugin you can add date sorted hot content links to the top bar on the site.
As the admin you get loads of options if you want to have a tinker around. Or you can just do the minimal setup and the theme will look and work great. If you want some tweaks you have fully customisable options for how it looks and feels. You can have an invites system and restrict membership as well as vet comments to keep everything civilised. The blog isn’t forgotten either so you can blog to your heart’s content.
Use collections or pages to add easily searchable categories, tags or links that make browsing your site a doddle. This is all about curating, so build interesting, compelling collections to show people all the great stuff they are missing out on is where the real value comes in.
All this activity on the posts, sharing and linking, builds a bustling community. You can encourage that even more and draw new users to the site with plenty of social sharing and networking integrations. Pictures work well on this kind of site and you can make the most of them as highly shareable and engaging. The Social Gallery plugin and friends give you amazing Facebook style images with commenting on the images themselves, user tagging and embedded sharing options. You can boost user retention with the plugins NotifyMe and OnboardMe. The latter helps people get started with their account and NotifyMe is all the notifications, on the site and by email, they need to stay in the loop.
Once you have the site sorted, then what?
It might take a while to grow your site and you will have to be the most active user and biggest cheerleader for a while. But all the integrated social features will help create a snowball and the visits and users will start to add up.
Zomato makes its money on advertising and that would be a great way to monetise your new site.
Advertising could be straightforward Google ads or another ad network. Or once you get some traction you could approach specific businesses as direct advertisers.
Not up for advertising? You could run affiliate offers. You could introduce a membership element, sell products, guides, ebooks or courses depending on your niche. The theme is WooCommerce compatible so you can have a full store experience all on the same site.
Collecting and curating content to build a site like Zomato, or in any niche, doesn’t need to involve expensive and time-consuming web development. You can get started right now and make your great idea for “the next big thing” a reality. PluginHunt is a WordPress theme that gives you all the features that makes sites like Product Hunt or Zomato so popular.
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