© 2019 by Christian Leong

Yelp Redesign

Today's Solution

Did you know that Yelp has a delivery service? A discovery function? Or that you can talk with locals on its platform. While Yelp is primarily used as a restaurant and service reviewing platform, it’s packed with many other useful features that are difficult to access because of the app’s current user interface.

User Studies

To build the most complete story of Yelp’s experience, I decided to survey 6 users whose usage ranged from scarcely used to frequently used. Main takeaways:

  1. All said they would use Yelp to find quality restaurants with four noting that they would use it especially if they were in a new place.

  2. Two mentioned that that they would use it to find other services besides restaurants

  3. Half of the respondents complained that writing a review was difficult

  4. None of the respondents said they use the discover new experiences, or great spots near you features

Synthesizing The Data

To empathize with the respondents, and understand the Yelp experience, I created a flow chart centered around Yelp’s key features on its landing page. One thing that I noticed early on was that each feature either fed into or was accessed through the search interaction.

  • According to the respondents, Yelp currently does a good job at its core interaction (searching for restaurant reviews) but is limited beyond that

  • The primary “search” feature is highly visible and performs its function. However, peripheral features such as “discover new experiences” or “great spots near you” feature throw the user right back into the search interaction.

  • The users’ ability to “write a review” is also hidden in the search interaction, making reviewing a service difficult for first time reviewers

  • In Yelp’s typical customer journey, the major pain points customers encountered were a cluttered and confusing homepage and writing a review/sharing one’s opinion.

  • Most respondents expressed that they did not use the discovery functions, because it was either bad at matching their tastes, or that they didn’t know about it

Red Route Analysis

Proposed Solution

The main goal of the proposed solution is to give users easier access to more key features, currently either hidden in clutter or tucked away menus, while keeping the core search interaction intact. Priorities for the new application are outlined in the below red route chart:

According to respondents, the biggest pain point was the overall clutter, which resulted in difficulty using more peripheral features.

  • Users are currently overloaded with choices, causing decisions to be more difficult to be made and more time intensive.

  • To combat this pain point, I centered the redesign mainly around the effective reduction in Hick’s law (more choices lead to tougher decisions), and the law of proximity (objects that are closer together tend to be grouped together).

Hick's Law

Law of Proximity

Finally, a last goal of the proposal is: instead of relying on the search interaction, for features such as “discover unique experiences,” “find great spots near you,” and “writing a review,” a last goal is to refine those features, and to make them meaningfully differentiated from the search feature.

The Homepage

From this new homepage, each of the primary features are featured and grouped with similar elements (search, discover, review, and connect, core interactions that are group together, events are grouped closer with each other). With improved usability, this new homepage will help Yelp:

  • Expand from a predominantly “review orientated platform,” to a more “social food and discovery platform.”

  • Provide users with more intuitive guidance in navigating and using peripheral features, using user-centered design

  • Allow local promotional events to become more featured, and highlighted with its immediate positioning

Discovering Your Experience

One of the biggest complaints about the "discover new unique experiences" and "find great places near you" features were that they didn’t understand user tastes, and were therefore very random with their suggestions.

  • Users will use discover almost only when they don’t already know what they want to search

  • Instead of randomly finding an experience that the user wants by chance (craft beers is categorized with best parks in the current version), I suggest implementing a filter mechanism so that a the user narrow in on their experience starting from a few general categories (food, activities, services) to increasingly specific places.

Unleashing the Platform

Finally, if Yelp truly wants to become more of an engagement platform than simply a “review” platform, it needs to examine its goals, functions, and structural design of its platform. Currently, Yelp is a consumer to consumer platform that lacks the constant interaction of some of its other major competitors (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin). If Yelp wants to be an engagement platform, the connect feature (see homescreen mock) should be prioritized. By connecting within one’s social and local circles, Yelp will:

  • Improve user engagement

  • Improve the marketability of Yelp’s platform to restaurants and other venues through increased traffic

  • Get more reviews

  • Assist users in discovering new places more successfully (through local and social circles)

  • Attract new users (through being linked to the user’s social circle)

Why Yelp Must Expand

Similarly, to how the talk feature works now, I would keep the interactions organized by threads. However, by updating the UI and functionality so that one can post images, videos and polls, the platform has the potential to be a dynamic one-stop for local restaurants, events, and places.

Imagine planning a trip and being able to create a poll of several restaurants you are potentially interested in eating at, and then having the interactivity of locals to explain their reasoning in the thread.

By leveraging the knowledge of locals as well as one’s social circle, Yelp will be able to fully utilize the scaling network effect and frictionless entry that many of the most successful platforms possess (Frictionless entry refers to the agility of users to quickly and easily join a platform and begin creating things of value: i.e. opinions on local restaurants).

Improving this interaction will also lead to another growth effect called side switching which is when users of one side of the platform join the opposite side (when review viewers become reviewers and provide helpful information for others, as posting an opinion to connect would be a substantially less of a commitment than writing a complete review).

Further Testing

While I believe that my solutions will bring increased usability to the Yelp app, further testing is required…

Yelp is currently a well-established app that is very effective for what it does: provide substantive reviews for many services. Although the platform is effective in achieving this goal, research has shown that it’s other lesser known features i.e., peripheral features are substantially more difficult to use mainly because of a lack of user-centered design which users found cumbersome and unintuitive  (Several respondents who used Yelp regularly were not aware of features that were either hidden in a tucked-away menu or part of the clutter that is the current landing page). With a little more direction and organization from the app, I believe that Yelp can come closer to reaching its full potential as a one-stop platform for anything food related.

  • To understand the current priorities of features, I charted them on a red route analysis graph based on how many people use them and how frequently

  • Currently the search function is used predominantly, with the other features lagging for a multitude of reasons

    • Respondents considered apps that specialize in delivery more effective to use, even though users are basically using the Grubhub app.

    • Writing a review is hidden and not directly accessible

    • Check ins, collections, discovery features and events are hidden in clutter on Yelp’s homepage, which causes users to gloss over them

    • Talk, messages, deals, and reservations are hidden in a menu that is usually reserved for settings