Building a hyperlocal business directory: call for suggestions

I’ve long been planning to build a hyperlocal directory for The Lichfield Blog and something which can be used by other hyperlocals.

B31 Blog launched their business directory the other day using a simple form submission and manual entry of listings. Owner Sas Taylor complained on Twitter about the lack of a decent business directory plugin, something I’m well aware of.

So when I mentioned I have been planning my own I got a few excited responses and figured if there’s interest why not ask those interested what they’d like in a directory.

Let’s start off with fields;

  • Name (of the business, of course!)
  • Address (incl postcode, of course)
  • Phone number
  • Fax number
  • Mobile number
  • E-mail address
  • Opening times
  • Contact name
  • Web site address
  • Description
  • Wheelchair/disabled access?
  • Toilets?
  • Disabled toilet?
  • Photo
  • Location(s) (pinpoint on a map)
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Foursquare

Features

  • Ratings
  • Reviews
  • Maps (using postcode/address)
  • Search, with filters
  • Show directory as;
    • a list,
    • categories,
    • a map.

Options

  • Toggle visibility of fields
  • Payment option (to charge for listings)
  • Paid-for upgrades (e.g. add additional photos/info)
  • Use opening-times.co.uk for opening times so we simultaneously build up that site (which I made a plugin for)
  • Pre- or post-moderate listing submissions

Any others? Add your suggestions to the comments below…

14 thoughts on “Building a hyperlocal business directory: call for suggestions”

  1. ooOOoo excited! šŸ˜‰

    We’ve started taking entries for our directory and are painstakingly linking pages of categories and listings. Once the directory starts to grow, this is going to get very tricky!

    Other things I’d personally like to see are:

    1. Ratings and reviews. At present, it will be possible to add star ratings to our listings (using the GD Star Rating plugin for wordpress) and reviews via page comments.) This will work, for now, but I’d love to see a ratings and reviews system where people can order search results by rating.

    2. Is there a way to automatically embed a google map in the listing, using the submitted postcode rather than having to do it manually?

    3. Advanced search: so you can search the directory by postcode, rating, keyword, disabled access, business name, categories etc

    4. Toggle moderation: chose to allow listings to be published on submission or after review

    5. Makes coffee. And provides biscuits.

    Ta! šŸ˜‰

  2. Don’t think there’s any more to add – you seem to have everything covered! Just thinking about presentation, wondered if there’s a way the information could be mapped? E.g instead of a list, maybe a map of the local area and then the option to search for the nearest pharmacy for example? Guess this would probably only work for really small areas/villages or maybe it’s just too complicated!

  3. We have had a business directory on alderleyedge.com for sometime. Top of my todo list is to vastly improve it based on what we have learned. Your list is a pretty good start but here are a few comments.

    You should geo code the address so you can display its location on a map – or even better, with the occasional unreliable geo coding, get the business owner to place the pin on a map.

    You should have a field for mobile number (a lot of small businesses, builders etc like to have it listed as well as their landline) – we chose not to include fax numbers (so 1980’s).

    Whether they are paid for upgrades or not you could allow business to have their rss feed and/or tweets published on the business listing page – we have had a few requests for this.

    As an aside, I think the lack of a decent business directory plugin for wordpress (or many commerically orientated plugins for that matter) is the wordpress license. The interpretation of many is that the wordpress license is a minefield if you want to sell the plugin to users. Hence our commerical hyperlocal operation doesn’t use wordpress.

  4. Forgot to add, another key reason we geocode businesses other than displaying their location on a map is that it allows us to give a greater degree of exposure the more local a business is.

    I’ve not explained that very well but here is what I mean. We run three sites all within a 5 mile radius all using the same business directory. If I go to the restaurants section of alderleyedge.com they are ordered by distance from the center of alderleyedge.com (or to be completely accurate the center point we use is the local coffee shop from where Lisa writes most of the content! (and spends most of our revenue)). This means a restaurant in the center of the village gets more exposure than a restaurant 5 miles down the road. You can get the gist of what I mean by taking a look at http://www.alderleyedge.com/restaurants/ and http://www.prestbury.com/restaurants/

    1. Understand completely Martin. We cover Lichfield City and Burntwood Town – quite far from each other, each with several commercial areas that would need serving independently. Again, stuff that in my mind is a given – it’s all common sense when you consider what’s best for the end user.

  5. Thanks Martin. Yeah, geotags are a must-have. I didn’t add that because it was a given in my mind, I was thinking of stick the tail on a donkey style job when adding listing.

    Ha, I did chuckle to myself when I wrote Fax number…changed to mobile now, makes more sense.

    Yep Twitter good and I’ve added Facebook/Foursquare page – should be able to integrate those nicely.

    My understanding is that you can’t sell WordPress code or plugins but you can sell services (i.e. *access* to plugins and support). I wouldn’t rely too much on that answer though.

  6. Exciting project, Philip.

    I emailed you a few notes on the business directory system which I’ve set up at at http://listings.hyperlocal.co.uk and then deployed to greenwich.co.uk and thecity.co.uk

    I think you seem to have everything well covered although I am interested in any thoughts you have on how you will deal with customer ratings and reviews.

    I left this kind of functionality out because it seemed too open abuse either through false praise to promote a business or false criticism to damage business. But if you find a way to make it work, I can see that would add real value for users of the directory.

  7. I’ll help you add microformat markup, so the business’ details can be easily downloaded into readers address books.

    Add links to http://opencorporates.com/

    Oh, and please openly-license the data, so that it can be imported into other systems, not least OpenStreetMap – make sure that whoever adds data has to sign a suitable agreement before doing so.

  8. Thanks Andy, what kind of things should I consider during development so that we get it right? I.e. making sure the right fields are available to businesses so that microformats are actually useful.

  9. @Philip: Mostly, what you would do anyway; but it’s always a good idea to capture postal addresses granularly, with separate fields for extended address (“flat 4”; “unit 27”), street address (24 High Street), Locality (Lichfield), region (Staffordshire – though county is not necessary), and postal code.

    For reviews, stars “out of five” is easiest to deal with.

    Any other issues should shake out when we kick the tyres on a prototype.

  10. Ratings is the most important factor I’m interested in. I think everything you’ve listed is all we need (except maybe wifi availability?).

    I really want a directory modelled on the iPhone/Android app stores where users can comment and star rate every single listing, so locals can easily separate the good services from the bad.

    Also if there’s a mailing list for when this will be available, I’d love to be added to it and will definitely donate for this plugin.

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