I am a big fan of Yelp. It helps me find local restaurants and services easily and quickly. However, when it comes to group decisions, Yelp seems not that helpful. I think there is an opportunity to improve so I started a 5-day quick design exercise.
I proposed a "Group Collection" idea where users can collaborate on a Yelp group collection and vote for group consensus. The main challenges were: How to introduce a new feature in the current collection creation flow? How to help users make decisions through minimum interactions? How to make a smooth switch between social media and Yelp that users are willing to complete the task?
ROLE & DURATION
Interaction, Visual, Motion Design
Prototyping & Testing
5 days, Jan 2019
The difficulty reaching a group dining choice
We all experience this: You create a Messenger group with other friends to decide where to eat for dinner. People start dropping Yelp links. There are just so many requirements and preferences. You have to switch back and forth between Yelp and Messengers. The conversation gets out of hand quickly. It is not unusual that you start the conversation with high expectations to explore the city but end up eating the dumpiest pizza. How frustrating it can be!
Collection is one of the Yelp's existing core features where users can gather their saved restaurants or services into categories for future use. It's mainly for private use right now.
There is an opportunity to extend the use scenarios of Yelp collection to a group setting because there are already familiarities, affordances, and technology support built into it.
current collection feature
I don't think there is much opportunity in small groups to adopt Yelp group collection. People I interviewed mentioned they would rather use social media for small group dining choices because they usually have more specific goals. Existing chatting experiences outside Yelp are smooth enough to facilitate these decisions.
For this design challenge, I decided to focus on big groups of people who don't know each other very well. Usually, there lacks mutual understanding and trust, therefore endless conversations and unstoppable notifications. This is when we get into decision-making hell.
Imagine you are traveling with your friends to a new city. The first thing you would do is add a ZILLION restaurants to your wish-list. But we are all different: some like pizza, some are on a diet, some only eat gluten-free, etc. The conversation can be a total mess.
There is also natural asynchronous conversation in our existing social media and messaging tools. People can choose when and how to join the conversation as they like. Someone might be too shy to speak up, too late to catch up, or might just mute the group message. All of these make group choreography difficult.
Think of a common situation when you propose options to a group, you are likely to get a response like, "Yeah...I mean whatever." It can be super noxious and confusing. Is that a "Yes" or "No" ...what on earth? People rarely have strong opinions and those ambiguous opinions make group consensus difficult.
Even though people have different preferences and restrictions when it comes to dining choices, they share a two-step-dance decision-making process. They use filter or rank to narrow down the options and then view details to make the final choice. In a group setting where there are too many choices, this process can be overwhelming.
The sharing and viewing experience of current Yelp Collection is highly individual-oriented. It can be super troublesome to view all the choices when you have a big collection. It also frustrates non-Yelp users.
Current Yelp collection is more of a one time activity with no interaction among collection members. Users only use it for browsing different choices. In order to better facilitate group decision, it needs the right amount of conversation and collaboration.
"It’s really troublesome to click restaurants one by one in a list while keep other choices in mind, especially when I'm not a Yelp user.
-- Kailin, student at IU
"To figure out a group plan, we have to switch back and forth between Messenger and Yelp lots of times.
-- Simon, student at IU
Why I did not choose it?
Although this design can provide smart suggestions, it might require more attention and actions from users. When a collection is not long, the ranking is not necessary. Also, it creates technical challenges.
Why I did not choose it?
Again, this idea might be too much for choosing a restaurant. From testing, I learned that users just want to select the top 3 or 5 restaurants they prefer and leave the final decision to other group members.
Why did I choose this option?
1) It matches the "Narrowing-Detail" decision process most users shared. They can just swipe and vote without clicking restaurants one by one.
2) It requires less engineering efforts to implement since it reuses the current design pattern without adding any new algorithms.
During the test, one user asked, "Can I make the collection a public one and group one at the same time?" To avoid confusion, I changed the toggle to the checkbox for single selection and made it easier for them to understand the privacy of group collections.
For the detailed preview mode, I found that a "swiping card" view is not ideal since users want to see more information. So I changed back to the current Yelp design and added a voting bar at the bottom. It also requires less engineering efforts. I also made other peoples' votes visible on this page because their opinion can be highly influenced by others .
For the two-step dance decision-making process, I originally provided list mode and detail view mode in two tabs. Users had difficulties understanding the intention here, so I combined these two modes with the map viewing feature in current Yelp, indicating the different viewing modes. A map view is also a helpful tool for decision-making. Further, I changed the icons to give more visual affordance.
Someone mentioned an interesting scenario—they are attracted by some restaurants while browsing on Yelp first, then they have the idea of group dining. So I added a smart suggestion for empty collections to help users get started.
Another thing which stood out from the testing was user timing. As an initiator, it can be troublesome to remind other members about time over and over again. So I added a plan time and a voting time for filtering the restaurants that are closed at this time.
By reading some articles online, I got to know that Yelp wants to convey a fun and cute brand. So I made some animations for its mascot to make the experience more delightful while adding visual affordance to introduce these new features.
By clicking the "Create" button, users can start a group collection within a few clicks. The mascot hamster will welcome users and introduce the new feature in a delightful way that is easy to understand.
After creating the collection, users can add restaurants by the search bar, or more conveniently, from our smart suggestions, their browsing history, private lists, or their friends' liked items.
To make the collection more group-oriented, the initiator can add plan time and voting deadline to remind their group. The system will give warnings when a restaurant is closed at this time. Then they can share the collection to their groups.
Users open the shared collection to vote and propose restaurants. If a user doesn't have Yelp, they can just input a name and vote as a guest. This makes the collection feature more group-oriented, available to all group members, and potentially bring new users to Yelp.
I introduced the idea of voting to help people turn their "fuzz opinions" to absolute preferences.
Because people have different preferences, they can propose new restaurants to the group just as simply as adding items to their own lists. Also by leaving a message, when necessary they can provide some context for the group, such as their food restrictions. This helps to make the current asynchronous conversation easy to catch and digest.
The design facilitates users' two-step dance decision-making process. The existing filters and ranks narrow choices and then goes to the detail viewing mode to check for more information. They can swipe right and left to view and vote while being aware of others' decisions.
Additionly, I redesigned the layout of the current restaurant detail page. The information on the current one is very cluttered. By separating it into 4 tabs, users can find the information they are looking for quickly and easily.