How to Create an App Like Yelp: Useful Tips on Features, Monetization, and Design
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- 8 min
- Feb 14, 2019
According to the Local Consumer Review Survey 2018 by BrightLocal, 86 percent of consumers read reviews for local businesses.
In this article, we take a look at one of the most popular review platforms, Yelp. We list its key features and provide possible monetization strategies and tips on how to create an app like Yelp.
I got sick and needed to see a doctor. Back then there was very little information on the Internet; it was frustrating. We realized the best way to find a doctor, or other services, was by word of mouth.
With the help of Yelp, users can discover local businesses like bars and restaurants and services including home cleaning and event planning. Users can read reviews of businesses, write feedback about them, and rate them. Today, Yelp has more than 171 million reviews.
Yelp has three types of users:
- Local businesses
- Users who just read reviews to find recommended businesses
- Reviewers, or content creators
Reviewers are vital for platforms like Yelp as they create content that other users consume.
Like any large platform, Yelp has changed throughout the years and expanded its feature set. Today, users can book a table and order food for delivery or takeout. Yelp allows transactions through the website and mobile app with the help of third-party integrations.
Key features of a Yelp-like app
If you want to create an app like Yelp, first of all you need to know the core features of this type of platform. Here are the features that are crucial for a Yelp-like app.
Review and rating system. This feature lets users rate places and services, leave feedback, and choose top places.
Geolocation and location-based search allow a user to find places near them. With these features, the app provides choices based on a user’s location, improving the user experience.
Social login. This feature enables users to log in with social media accounts like Facebook. As a result, people can start using the app faster by skipping the registration process.
Push notifications provide users with information based on their preferences. To personalize offers for your users, you can use information from check-ins and reviews.
Photo/video uploading. This feature lets users share photos and videos in their reviews.
User accounts. Yelp offers two types of accounts: accounts for personal use and business accounts.
Analytics. Yelp also provides a mobile app for business owners where they can track activity on their business page.
How can you make money with a Yelp-like app?
Here are some monetization strategies you can consider when deciding how to make money with an app like Yelp.
Yelp sells advertising to businesses. Yelp ads are placed higher in the search results and on competitor’s business pages. Remember that ads should be relevant to search queries so that users don’t get annoyed by them.
One more possible revenue source for an app like Yelp is commission from transactions like ordering food. Yelp is already entering the transaction business. Still, advertising remains the company’s main source of revenue (over 90 percent).
Deals and offers
Yelp offers Yelp Deals, letting businesses create promotional deals to attract more customers. Yelp receives fees for deals that are sold. This strategy has one more advantage: exclusive deals can attract new users.
This model is called freemium. Users can download and use the app for free, but there are some features they have to pay for. The challenge here is to offer enough features to keep the users who aren’t ready to pay while providing premium features some users will actually pay for.
How can you make a successful app like Yelp?
Let’s take a look at some tips that can help you make your app popular among users.
Find your niche
If you choose a popular target market, you’ll have to compete with big players. While Yelp covers various kinds of businesses and services, you might want to consider focusing on a particular niche.
Let’s take a look at other popular review platforms that target different audiences and see how they differ and what they have in common.
TripAdvisor targets travelers, letting them view recommendations and write about places they’ve visited. That’s why TripAdvisor has only travel-related categories, including hotels, things to do, restaurants, and flights. On Yelp, you can find all of these categories but also educational and financial services, for example.
Zomato lets users rate and review places just like Yelp does. But unlike Yelp, Zomato focuses exclusively on cafes and restaurants.
One more example is HomeAdvisor. This app aims at homeowners and home improvement professionals. It lets users find local home service contractors, read reviews about them, compare their ratings, and set up appointments.
Focus on the user experience
Always keep in mind users and their needs when you build your app and decide on features.
Since apps like Yelp are primarily used for finding businesses and services, your app needs a user-friendly search. Here’s what you should remember when designing the search feature to let your users find what they need quickly:
- Make the search box clearly visible. Users don’t want to spend time looking for a search bar.
- Guide users with clear copy. An essential part of interfaces is the UX copy. This is the text part of your app, such as instructions and navigation buttons that guide users through your app and create a positive experience. Give users examples of what they might type in the search box or ask them questions as shown below.
- Provide search suggestions. Search suggestions appear in a drop-down list as a user types in the search box. They provide immediate results and help users find what they need as fast as possible.
- Store recent searches. With history of recent searches, users save time when they want to find something again.
- Consider voice search. Voice search makes it even easier to use a mobile app on the go as users don’t have to type queries.
- Add filers. Filtering is used to narrow things down so that only relevant results are shown. Let your app users filter search results by location, price, and more.
Create a community
Jeremy Stoppelman has noted that Yelp puts the community first, the consumer second, and businesses third. Yelp manages to make their users feel like they’re part of a large family. This helps the company to raise brand awareness and build trust.
Consider letting your app users rate others’ reviews, add each other to their friends lists, and send messages. People are more likely to contribute content when they know who they’re writing for.
Speaking of communities, Yelp has gone even further, organizing local Yelp events to let users meet in real life.
Gamification is an effective tool for engaging and motivating users. It helps to encourage users to write reviews and also entertains them.
Gamification elements include:
One of the ways to gamify an app is to give users badges to mark their achievements. Badges can be given for a certain number of reviews left or places visited.
For example, TripAdvisor awards Reviewer badges, Expertise badges, and Helpful Votes badges to recognize their users’ contributions to the TripAdvisor community.
Yelp users can nominate themselves to join the Yelp Elite Squad. One of the requirements is a number of high-quality reviews. Elite Squad members get an Elite badge on their profile to mark their achievement. After five years of membership, users get the Gold Elite Badge, and the Black Elite Badge after ten years.
One more way to gamify an app is to provide a ranking system to motivate those who like to compete.
What it takes to create a Yelp-like app
The cost and time needed to create an app like Yelp depend primarily on the number of features, development company rates, and whether the app is going to be developed from scratch. Here how long it takes to create such an app from scratch.
- UX design - 230h
- Business analysis - 235h
- Quality assurance - 302h
- UI design - 374h
- Project management - 705h
- Backend development - 959h
- Frontend development (iOS) - 1001h
- Frontend development (Android) - 1014h
The development of a similar reviews platform from scratch for iOS platform takes approximately 3,806 hours, and 3,819 hours for Android platform.
To estimate the cost of the app development, we need to find out the average hourly rates of software development companies in different regions.
The development of an app like Yelp from scratch in Central and Western Europe will cost you $163,658 for an iOS app and $164,217 for an Android app. The same app will cost you $95,150 (iOS) and 95,475 (Android) in Ukraine.
To reduce development time and costs on building a similar project, we've created a white-label solution with all the most necessary feature modules to build reviews apps starting with $40,000 for an MVP, much faster if compared to the development from scratch.
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