Zagat—a leader in user-generated restaurant reviews and ratings—has been a client of ours for years. We recently completely rebuilt their site to allow them to more easily upload and manage all the content they publish about the 25+ US and international cities they cover. In addition to their reviews and ratings, Zagat also generates lists, recommendations, and news articles written by their internal editorial team. With millions of visits every month from both web and mobile app users, and dozens of editors needing access to the CMS, it was important that we focused on creating a website that’s back-end was as well-designed as its front-end.
Website, CMS, and data pipeline development for an iconic dining resource brand
What we did
Creating Intuitive Tools with Effective Security Measures
Zagat brought us on when they needed to completely rebuild their content-heavy, complex website. We built the new site using ExpressionEngine with the goal of creating a CMS that would be accessible and easy to navigate for the hundreds of admins who require access. We focused on implementing effective security and content controls as it is important that users only have access to the specific areas of the site they have permission to edit. The CMS includes useful features that allow users to preview content before they publish it, publish posts on a schedule, and make real-time updates to existing pages.
For every city Zagat works in, the homepage for that location is custom-controlled by an interactive homepage builder tool. The CMS does not require users to have any coding knowledge and we made every field simple and intuitive. The CMS also allows users to manage images that are stored in the cloud. We built the site to include close integration with sponsors and ads using DoubleClick for Publishers as the ad serving framework. We integrated with external data stores which allow CMS users to pull information about restaurants that are not stored in the CMS. We also took over the survey system Zagat uses to solicit its reviews.
Building a Layout That Drives a Personal User Experience
The user interface is designed to enable visitors to find restaurants and other content that suits their particular tastes. A prominent feature of the homepage is the search experience, which is powered by Elasticsearch and sports an autosuggest feature that surfaces restaurants, cuisines, and various other relevant search options. Beyond restaurant ratings and reviews, the search and landing pages surface editorial lists of restaurants and interesting articles and video content curated by Zagat staff. Snappy load times and near perfect uptime are made possible through the use of Google Cloud Platform hosting, for which we are an official service partner.
Accommodating a Multifaceted Database and Improving Analytics
Another major overhaul we provided was developing a new URL structure using faceted search and restructuring the navigation to include new sections based on keyword phrase research. After we implemented new title tag and meta description structures, we also tested multiple variations to improve their click through rates (CTR). We also implemented custom dimensions and variables in Google Analytics 360 to provide the team with information pertaining to most popular articles/sections as well as insights on which search features are being used. With such a large variety of content being generated from so many different people across the globe, we successfully tackled the challenge of building a website that could accommodate all of the company’s needs.
Fully Responsive Site with New, Easily Accessible Functions
We included in-depth social media sharing functions on the site as well as options for users to easily write and submit reviews. The Zagat site was built to be accessible across various mobile platforms and applications, so we built the CMS to incorporate an API that updates the mobile apps for both iOS and Android. The marketing work that we did for Zagat, including SEO and Google Analytics, has greatly improved their CTR. We continue to work closely with Zagat to improve their site and provide them with the best possible results.