Yelp’s ability to provide detailed information and reviews of businesses is rather remarkable, and its free mobile apps put exactly the right details into your hands when you’re on the go. You can quickly find out if a business is currently open or closed, get directions to the site, see photos of what’s inside, and read reviews and tips about the business. But it’s best digested with a grain of salt. As with any user-generated content, you’ll need to turn on your critical thinking skills to wade through some bias, but the design of Yelp’s mobile app makes doing so surprisingly simple. Yelp is an Editors’ Choice iPhone app because it absolutely makes life on-the-go better and more enjoyable. Its design and interface are clear, and the information it delivers is succinct.
Interface and Usability
The free Yelp app is jam-packed with tools, features, and various sections, but the layout and user interface actually make all this easy to navigate and understand. The key is that when you find a business you need, whether it’s a restaurant or a doctor’s office, the app gives you the most important information upfront in a digest: hours open and an “open” or “closed” note for the current time, map to the location, overall review rating (1 to 5), the phone number, a link to open directions, and the distance from you to it.
The main menu runs along the bottom of the app, with a home button at the far left, just where it should be, and subsequent buttons for Nearby, Search, Bookmarks, and Check-Ins. A second search tool lives at the top of the app—intentional redundancy that is a good example of Yelp’s well designed interface. Searching for businesses is what users typically want to do with the app, and I appreciate that Yelp gives me multiple places to access that search button.
Also at the top are two additional buttons, one quite clear in its use (settings), and the other slightly confusing—the “add” button. Click “add,” and you have pop-up options to create a new entry for a business, upload a photo, write a tip, or check-in to a venue. It seems odd that adding a business would be the first option under “add,” and I’m confused why there isn’t an option to add a review, seeing as you now can write them from a mobile device.
To add a review, you have to land on a business’ entry first. You can search for businesses with any terms, like “coffee” or “gas stations,” or look for ones nearby generally using Apple’s Location Services or within a specified category such as salons or drug stores. On a business’ entry, you can also bookmark the place (save it to your Yelp account).
I couldn’t immediately find “tips” about a hotel in Brooklyn where locals apparently pay $45 a day to hang out on the pool deck. It turns out tips are way at the bottom, below the address, mapped location, basic information like open hours, and snippets of reviews. To add a tip from the business’ page, you have to scroll even further down, to the end of the section showing snippets of tips. Best tip here? A day pass costs ten bucks less if you go during the week rather than the weekend.
I scoped out some more businesses and found a nearby coffee shop I like near PCMag’s office and wrote a quick tip (bring your own cup, and drinks are nearly half price). I hit publish and saw a confirmation that my tip posted. But then I navigated back to that business’ entry and re-opened the complete list of tips, where I saw mine had posted four times! In my own user profile area, though, it appeared as if I had only posted the tip once, so I don’t understand what happened. I left the business, searched for it again to load the page anew, navigated back to the tips and saw my tip just once now. A glitch, I suppose.
The real selling point of the Yelp iPhone app is that it gives you succinct but essential information about businesses you might need or want to visit that are nearby. There’s a lot more going on in the app, too, but it doesn’t get in the way of the critical information put at the fore. You can now write reviews on the go, as well as add tips about a business, upload photos, as well as peruse photos and read complete reviews from other users. Yelp’s iPhone app provides a great service, making it an Editors’ Choice and one of the 50 best free iPhone apps available.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc