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Tech & Trends

The Digitisation of Physical Assets

08 September 2020


How to deliver menus and other information in the best way

Hotels and restaurants are needing to deliver digital assets more than ever. Whether that is menus, wine lists, information packs or anything else. Most of these businesses are now repurposing website pages to deliver this content. In this article we introduce how Static Sites can deliver this same content in a way that is 95% faster, more secure and available as a progressive web app for users.

The need for digital distribution of once-physical items like information packs, menus and wine lists has left hospitality businesses repurposing their websites to either host downloadable assets like PDFs or showcasing menus on website pages. This is a great first step and the idea is bang on. However, marketing-lead websites and PDF downloads are not the right mechanisms to be deploying this communication. 

Your website is full of pictures, tracking scripts, widgets, integrations and a whole host of tools that do a great job of showcasing an experience but are not conducive to  ‘sledge-hammer-to-a-nut’ when the goal is to showcase a simple, styled list of items. Furthermore, we’re expecting people to use their own devices in potentially patchy areas of mobile internet. Downloading 5MB of web-page for each menu view is really quite excessive and inefficient.

First of all, a PDF download will most often be designed for print, and therefore quite difficult to navigate on a mobile. Secondly, it’s very tricky to switch between PDFs, particularly on mobile. If you have it set up as a web page instead, that is better but still the navigation will never be that snappy. Imagine downloading and switching from drinks, to set menu, to a la carte to specials etc. Doing this via PDFs or via separate web pages is very cumbersome. 

Enter Static Sites and Gatsby…

A Static site is a website that differs from dynamic websites because they have absolutely no backend. Each time the page loads there is no database lookup which makes them significantly faster, easier to maintain, with no plugins slowing them down and generally more ‘modern’ in their approach. Developers essentially build an App out of Javascript, feed it with content from somewhere and a static site generator spits out flat optimised files. Tools like GatsbyJS have become very popular and that is what we have used to create a solution.

Umi has created a static site application and used Gatsby’s progressive web app feature to become a platform to host your digital menus and information.

Current measurements show that the application is only 150kb and loads in 0.4 seconds with a CDN. This is approximately 95% smaller and more than 5 times  faster than a typical hotel website.

Managing the content for the menu can be directly done in WordPress (We use the WordPress API) or whatever CMS you want to use due to the ‘headless’ nature of the application. The front-end experience, unlike the main website, is both super lightweight and lighting fast. It allows for users to scan a QR, touch an NFC tag or simply type in and they can have a near-native, app-like experience through the mobile browser.

Take a look and let us know what you think – Are there any extensions to this? Can you think of any other application beyond F&B for this technology?

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