Friday, 24 October 2014

The Menu Pile’s “Secret Sauce”

To be brutally honest, I don't think there is a secret sauce to all of this. The website is growing slowly, but surely, in terms of visitors each week, and the Facebook Page is getting there too.

secret sauce

I've scanned more documents in the past several weeks since starting The Menu Pile website, than I have in my entire life. I bought myself a new scanner a year or so ago, which makes the world of difference, as the buttons on the front panel makes it so much easier and faster to use than before.

Even though the scanner can produce scanned documents into PDF files directly, it doesn't allow me to modify the pages in the process. Instead, I scan the documents as high-resolution .JPG images, and then clean them up using Adobe Fireworks, to cut off the over-scans or to rotate some of the items, as I'd like.

Some of the menus are physically too large for the scanner, so I have to be creative with the scanning step, and then merge/stitch the documents back together again in Fireworks. Sounds like a lot of effort for a menu and sometimes it can be but the outcome is really good and is hard to tell where each image starts and ends.

The images are then set in a layout, and a PDF document is produced. At this point, the images are compressed and downscaled slightly, and then are then uploaded to the online server. The names of the files are recorded against the online database, which the website heavily uses, such that they appear in the front menu and are viewable.

I perhaps don't need to spend the crazy amounts of time that I currently spend on the menus, but the output files would be horrible if not. My opinion is that I would like to produce the files that *I* would like to see as a visitor to the website… I've been researching various restaurants that have their takeaway menu on their own website, and am disappointed that they've been thought as 'ok' to use. Some are ridiculously low-quality, which makes the file size very small but the downloading of them very fast, OR they're absolutely huge files but are so heavy on the bandwidth of mobile phone contracts, yet still poor quality.

Hopefully, I've found a middle ground - I want a higher-quality output file, but not too large, so when a user pinches-and-zooms to read the detail of the menu, they’re not disappointed with the blocky-ness of the graphics.

I haven’t had much feedback about the quality of the menus themselves – I’d hope that because they’re ‘ok’ that they’re received as such – but if not, I’d actually prefer someone to point out that a particular one is not so good, or if they’re all physically too large, etc.

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