What Is Yelp?
Yelp is a website and mobile app comprised of crowd-sourced reviews of businesses ranging from restaurants to repair services. The only problem is that users feel like the reviews are not authentic. The purpose of this class project was to help me identify areas of improvement and get a feel for rapid prototyping and the various tools used in the process (I used Axure and InVision). For this project, I was the sole designer for UI and prototyping.
Problem, Goals, and Tools
For this project, I needed to uncover a user's needs when interacting with the Yelp mobile app. To accomplish this, I needed to find out if users could perform their desired tasks with satisfaction. My assessment methods included using surveys and conducting interviews to gain an understanding of customer needs in relation to the app.
I began by conducting a series of user interviews and user testing. I invited ten users to take part in a usability study. During the usability test, I asked users to perform a series of tasks ranging from searching for cheap restaurants to reading reviews.
To understand user challenges, I developed the following focused questions:
“What do you currently use the Yelp app for?”
“What types of listings do you avoid? Why?”
“What do you like the most and the least about the Yelp app?
Responses from the research questions showed these results:
- 73% of customers said positive reviews make them trust a business more.
- 70% of customers consult reviews or ratings before purchasing.
- Only 12% of customers said they take no notice of online reviews.
- For 72% of reviewers, word of mouth remains the primary route for recommending a local business.
The results of the user testing and interviews showed that the Yelp mobile app was failing its customers in the following ways:
- Yelp seems to be letting its customers down with generic, clustered results.
- Users complained that there wasn’t clear reason to the search results produced.
- User reviews appeared to be all over the place.
- The difference between paid advertisements and recommended results was difficult to decipher.
- It’s hard to locate and use the current filtering systems.
Taking this user feedback to my colleagues, we went through a structured looped ideation process. With a deadline of three hours, I used Agile methodology to sketch short iterations that test assumptions and efficiently evolve design decisions. I took these concepts and mocked up basic UI designs in Axure; I then fed these designs into InVision to make an interactive prototype for a product innovation presentation to my colleagues for additional testing.
With the use of the Lean UX process I was able to switch to an iterative design and research process, which allowed me to implement user feedback faster.
Once I established a solid working prototype, I set specific user goals and questions to help define the key tasks for the users and encourage them to explore the app's current features. Users were asked to search for burgers under $15.00 in their current location, find a venue that was open for 24 hours, and look up new restaurants in the Downtown Seattle area.
Based on user testing, I was able to help improve Yelp’s mobile app experience by focusing on two key pain points: distrust of reviews and current content filtering. To help resolve these pain points, I did the following.
Quick filtering features - I revamped the app navigation by adding quick filtering features in a more prominent area. This will help users search and make quick choices based on popular categories.
Adding a social aspect - I made it possible for users to see their friends' recommendations and reviews via an icon. This will give legitimate credibility and confirmation to a business.
Curated business listing
I added curated lists to the the search results feed and identified promoted content. This will help users discover things like new restaurants/bars, businesses, and venues.
Yelp has done a great job of creating a business ecosystem based on user reviews, but a large amount of their business is based on advertising. The app could do a better job of balancing paid content and free content. It would be great for Yelp to add a social media component to help confirm listings and generate business exploration, and to add location and user-curated lists to give users additional potential recommendations.
A next step would be to conduct more research on how people use the Yelp app and how the interface should change based on their behaviors. Knowing that many users could benefit from curated content and trusted search results, I recommend further user prototype testing and app development.
What I learned
Aside from how important is to be skilled in prototyping, I learned that prototypes are the closest thing you can get to an actual product without building it. Through prototyping I was able to get user feedback before investing time and money into actual development.