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How MIGHT we give Yelpers a more immersive experience beyond the search bar?



Users who interact with people they know in person have a better overall experience. Yet the Yelp app as it stands does not enable such engagement. The following factors briefly sum up users’ difficulties:

  • Lack of use — users only open the application to use the search bar

  • Difficulty distinguishing good reviews from the bad

  • Irrelevant content (random sections)

  • Retention — once users find a location, they immediately leave the app

My role: 

I worked on the design challenge for a few hours over the course of a week.

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The Process



There’s a huge market for podcasting. Podcasting is on the rise — and companies are likely to follow suit quickly. Some research I’ve discovered:

  • Podcast listeners are on nearly every social media application (94% are active on at least one)

  • Podcast listeners are more likely to follow companies and brands on social media

  • Digital storytelling: food is inherently intertwined with communities. Spreading knowledge and educating users through podcasting can be highly influential

  • Of the 68 million listeners, 44 percent are between 18 and 34 years old (our target audience)

  • Easy, digestible, and accessible format: Podcasting is auditory — allowing users to multitask, and is also a great option for those who are handicapable

Sources: ESPL

Why Yelp Mobile? I’ve pulled some facts directly from Podcasting is typically used on mobile-devices, and Yelp Mobile is used nearly 60% more than Yelp on web.

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Our target audience will be users ages 18–34. Based on these three categories (and research that states 44% of podcast listeners are in this age group), I believe Yelp Voices will be most successful targeting the millennial age group.



I interviewed three students from various backgrounds to try and identify what some of their pain points and likes/dislikes were.

I picked three users, who are all familiar with the application. Since Yelp Voices is primarily targeted towards active and existing users who would fit into the ideal demographic. Each user was hand-picked from my fellowship cohort for convenience and time constraints. Through asking a series of 8 short questions, I was able to learn a lot about my users, why they use Yelp, and what apprehensions they had about the app.


Three user interviews. A common thread I discovered — each user emphasized local restaurants/recommendations.

Three user interviews. A common thread I discovered — each user emphasized local restaurants/recommendations.



“The home/search page all blends together.”

“Yelp is NOT a social media platform.”

“Wow, I’ve never used the “Me” tab. I can see how that would be helpful, though.”

“If we can’t find something on Yelp, I have friends that will ask people in person. Personally, I don’t do that but you can get great local recommendations that way.”

“Woah, what is that? Oh wow — just kidding, I just clicked on an ad.”

“To be honest when people give me recommendations in person, I just associate them with radio advertisements. Sort of like a brand rep.”


Three things stood out to me.

Users only use the search bar.

Users value local restaurants and recommendations.

Users want good reviews that are both quantity and quality.


Two of the users had some more polarizing opinions about the mobile app, which offered some unique perspectives. Ultimately, I discovered that a common thread between all three users was their high regard for local recommendations and restaurants, and valued opinions. Some looked to close friends for good recommendations, others navigated through the inundated Yelp reviews.

How could I translate this? I brainstormed, and found the best way to incorporate the love for locals and good opinions into a podcasting section. I explored two different direction — one being a new section, the other being audio reviews by friends and Yelpers. After user testing, I found that some users associated auditory reviews as radio ads, so I decided to go with the first idea.

In rolling out Phase 1, instead of throwing a wrench into existing user’s nav bar with a new podcasting section, Yelp Voices will first appear solely through the ad banner on the search page so as to ease active users in. Yelpers, like many social media users, can be resistant to change (Yelpers being the most outspoken individuals), so I decided to design sensitively around them. If well-received by the community, Yelp can begin to create a tab for Yelp Voices for Phase 2.

I will be fleshing out Phase 1 for the final prototype.

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Two potential directions.

Two potential directions.

Iterating on screens from Direction #1

Iterating on screens from Direction #1



Wireframes created with Sketch — flowing from the initial ad to the podcasting section.

Wireframes created with Sketch — flowing from the initial ad to the podcasting section.



High-fidelity mockups created with Sketch.

High-fidelity mockups created with Sketch.

My primary goal when designing the interface was to seamlessly integrate it into Yelp’s existing UI. Yelp has an online style guide which was immensely useful — anywhere from the color palette, icons, and button styles.

I also looked to existing design patterns within the online podcasting community, and pulled from Yelp’s similar scrolling gallery sections as well. I wanted the new sections to be as intuitive as possible.


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I incorporated reviews because that was something I discovered my users really valued. I also made sure to use as many realistic photos as possible, in order to draw users in.

I tried my hand at prototyping with Principle for the first time to show the user flow of the site (definitely still getting the hang of it!). Initially, users will be on the search page, leading them to the ad for Yelp Voices. Once clicking through, a whole new section opens up and users can navigate through. Because they may still want to hear from friends, I’ve also included an “In Your Network” podcast section.

I think my design is beneficial because it’s low risk. It’s an incredibly experimental idea, especially for a platform like Yelp, but if it doesn’t fare well it will have little effect. If it does perform well, Yelp can move forward and add the Yelp Voices section to the navigation bar. On the other hand it does lose the functionality of a working podcast section. I think it’s easy to get lost in the application, and people might argue that it’s sophisticated enough to be its own application.




Space designated for ads

Space designated for ads


Instead of overhauling the existing app or creating a new spinoff, we will be slowly integrating “Yelp Voices” podcasting into the mobile application through two phases.

  1. The existing application’s home screen gives a lot of real estate to ads (and promoting their new reservation system). In the first phase, we can pilot the feature here. Since most Yelpers exclusively use the search bar, they will already be on this page. We don’t want to immediately overwhelm and confuse active users by creating a new tab.

  2. If we find that phase one is well-received by the community, we can begin to incorporate a tab within the nav bar.



  • How to improve my user research

  • How to get started prototyping with Principle

  • How to think critically and sensitively about Yelpers as my users

If I had more time, I would have fleshed out the user research a bit more. I was only able to interview three users, which covered a very small scope of Yelpers. User journeys and storyboards also would’ve added to the case study. I would also spend more time learning how to create more fluid interactions. Overall, it was a really incredible experience to work on a case study like this from start to finish. It definitely sharpened my UIUX skills and helped me strengthen my design process and philosophy.


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