Yelp Review

Group Members: Chris Brenner, Kemal Wahju, Adam Chan, Ryan Nazar, Crystal Meyers

Yelp is a high quality social media site that allows users to search and review businesses. Aspects used to review this site can be summarized into a standard review form that consists of profile, security, ease of use, features, user base, support, search, and credibility.

Profile
If you do not have an account, the sign up pages asks for your name, email, birthday, gender and location (country and zip/postal code). When you have completed this task and have logged in, it allows you to personalize your home page. You can sync your facebook to yelp as well to add more interconnectivity.

Here you can add a picture, invite and connect to friends, write reviews, leave compliments, create lists, follow people, bookmark pages for later and purchase items. It also has an events tab to remind you of the events that you are attending. You can also edit, update and describe yourself with as much detail as you want to display.

When you are at www.yelp.com, your user profile allows other people to see who you are and view how active you are within this community. It shows your rating distribution, number of reviews you have done, friends, tips, fans, photos, lists and compliments.

These are very valuable tools not only for you but also for the person reading the review because these qualities mentioned above, show that you are a legitimate source of information and add a lot of credibility to your name and the ratings you submit.

Security
Privacy / Safety tips
Yelp has a Privacy Policy on their site, which includes safety tips.
http://www.yelp.ca/static?p=privacy&country=CA

Since it does not involve money transaction, perhaps the only concern regarding safety here is identity theft, spam or fake reviews. Moreover, although they use commercially acceptable means to protect user’s personal information, Yelp cannot guarantee its absolute security.

Secure connection
Yelp has been certified by TRUSTe, an online privacy solutions provider
for compliance with the the following programs: EU Safe Harbor and Web Privacy.

Blocking
A warning window will show up if a review is deemed suspicious, or if the establishment seems to buy reviews.

Reporting spam
Yelp anticipates user from getting spam from other users and how to deal with it.

Information from their FAQ section
“ If you receive spammy messages from another Yelp member, or if you receive a message that is harassing, abusive, or contains a violation of our Terms of Service, please report it here.”
Link: CONTACT US

Cookies
Yelp may use cookies, web beacons, local shared objects (sometimes called “flash cookies”), and similar technology in connection with our use of the Site.

Ease of Use
Layout
Yelp.com utilizes a very clean, two column layout design for most of its pages, with others being reduced to large single columns of content.

Navigation
The navigation of Yelp.com is also very straightforward and intuitive. The global navigation is comprised of seven sections (Welcome/homepage, About Me, Write a Review, Find Friends, Messaging, Talk and Events), and is positioned just under the header/search area. The local navigation is quite thorough, including Restaurants (which are also broken down into types of cuisine), Food, Shopping, Nightlife, Bars, Automotive, Health & Medical, Arts & Entertainment, Local Services, along with many others, and is positioned in the left column of the homepage, just under the Recent Activity section. Taken as a whole, especially considering the breadth of content for a site this large, the ease of navigation is quite simple but also very direct and specific.

Visual Design
As with their general layout for the site, Yelp.com uses a very clean, regimented visual design. Employing a large amount of white space across every page, the header/search bar is a very simple red/beige/white design, with section headers utilizing the same red font color. Graphics are also utilized but are reduced in favor of actual written content, which, again, for a site of this type and size, is a smart idea. Users can post small profile photos of themselves, business/restaurants/etc can post their logos or photos of their locations, but beyond that graphic usage is minimized. As mentioned above, the layout is formatted into two columns for the most part (except on profile pages, which are expanded to three columns), font use is limited to two different types, and color usage is also limited, as noted above.

Features
Features of yelp that allow you to communicate and share as well as use the site are well placed and labeled. The main navigation bar includes a wide range of sections that allow you to do the most necessary actions for a social site. After you have created a profile, you can start writing reviews of places. There is lots of meta data that allows you to properly inform what the place is and where it is located. There is also rating, check-ins, text for review, and listed in. Other users can also write compliments to your reviews, and that feature is accessed two different ways on the site. There are also features that allow users to rate the review as well as bookmark, send to friend or link to this review. There is also a section inside the user profile that let you write out tips for a specific place, which will allow you to jot down important side notes that people can find without reading through lengthy reviews.

You can easily add friends in a few different ways: through the ‘find friends” nav tab or the member search. It allows people to connect through email contacts or Facebook. Connecting with these people isn’t like Facebook where you can livechat, but there is a messaging section with a newsfeed of posts and there is also a follow the reviewer.

There are a number of features that you don’t always see on many social media sites. Talk is a forum section on the website where users all over can reply to questions or topics that have been posted. Bookmarks section allows you to bookmark businesses of interest to you. Purchases is where deals and/or gift certificates that you have gotten specifically on the yelp website are stored for you. Events is a database of user created events that promote businesses and local eatery events in the city. Another interesting feature is the ability to create your own yelp URL so that people can find your profile easier. That seems to be a popular trend in social media sites now.

User base
Followability
To funnel content to you, this site allows you to befriend or follow other users to see their activities (reviews, business photo uploads, profile changes, etc). Information is relayed to users through two main areas: the main “Recent Activity” feed on the home page and the sidebars located on each page. In the “Recent Activity” feed, by default, you see information about businesses located near you. You also have the option to see updates based on friends, people you’re following, and your own activities. The sidebar content changes based on which section of the site you’re in and includes content such as “Review of the Day,” “Popular Events,” “People Who Viewed This Also Viewed…,” “The Best of <city name>,” and “Friends.”

Networking
In terms of networking, users are able to both friend and follow other users. If you are closely connected to other users through your current friends you will be notified. You can also view other users friend lists. There does not appear to be any types of groups to subscribe to. Also, you are able to search friends by e-mail account lists (Yahoo, Gmail and AOL), through Facebook and by e-mail invitation. While you are able to bookmark a business, it does not seem to affect any of the content that is shown to you.

Groups
Users themselves do not appear to be grouped in any specific way.

Support
There is an extensive FAQ section that is organized at the top into categories that will link to anchors further down the page with the answers. I think that its breadth probably covers every questions that a normal user will have.

Contact Yelp is a form that will email to the company. It is well laid out in the fact that they first try to direct you to somewhere on the site that might help you, and if not, choose a topic that your question might be about, and then to send in a comment. It  doesn’t ask for unnecessary contact info, because it is probably pulling profile information. The only way to see if this would be a prompt service is to write into them and see how they deal with your question/problem.

Search
To search for a specific business you can search by name or cuisine type as well as location (address, city, province, postal code). Upon entering search criteria here you are given a list of filters you can apply such as: neighbourhood, distance, features, price, category, rating. This is great because it gives you a lot of control over what you are searching for. The list that populates is ordered by most reviews but you are able to change this based on rating or best match as well. On the homepage you are also able to select a city and all content shown to you will reflect businesses in that area. This allows you to browse recent reviews and updates related to a variety of businesses in your area without having to choose a specific restaurant or type of food to search by. To search for other users you can use the member search function, which allows you to locate people by name or email. In addition, you can also invite friends through your e-mail contact lists, Facebook or by e-mail invitation.

Credibility
When you sign up for the account, it just asks for an email confirmation. It is pretty easy to get a fake account on this site. I could see that this technique could be used to defame other businesses or competitors. Although this probably happens, it seems that the majority of users are legitimate.

Credibility is greatly increased due to the fact that the user reviews and rating system seems to be the backbone of this site. It is very detailed and shows you how many reviews you have done, the distribution between how many 1 stars to 5 stars you have given out and a graph to show you an average. Other users are also allowed to comment on your posts and leave compliments so you can get a feel of the venue from not only a single person.

Generally, the more detailed the profile, how descriptive the review and how active a user is helps increase credibility with a reader as it shows that they have taken the time to update, write and maintain their profile on this site. Also, each review is dated so that you know that these are current. I feel that this helps users determine if this is a legitimate review vs a someone trying to hype up their own place.

Yelp has the right to edit, delete and hide the review. This does take away from the credibility as Yelp is now monitoring the site and can skew the outcomes of some reviews. Thus if you were a business, you could pay Yelp to take off the negative comments.

There are a lot of useful features on Yelp that allow users to connect and search through the different types of information. There could be a better structure of the database to finding the lists and tips that users make without having to be on their profiles. The functionality for connecting with other uses allows you to easily see what your friends are doing and to keep updated on local restaurants. Yelp also offers thorough searching capabilities which makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. This site does have a simple user interface that allows you to post reviews and ratings, link up to other social media websites and helps users make decisions on businesses they may want to use. Keep in mind that they do collect user information and it is used to help direct marketing to your profile.

Yelp uses all the necessary security measures to protect us against spamming, fake reviews and identity theft, although they also mentioned that they cannot guarantee absolute security. So as in anything else, use common sense in browsing and giving your opinions on this site. Yelp in general is a credible website,  and it seems that the quality of users adds to that credibility. They are one of the biggest social media review forums currently on the web and seems to do a pretty good job of policing its sites policies. However, the fact that they have pop up advertisements and have the power to veto, edit, or change your review tends to diminish some of that credibility to the site in general.

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