Optimizing for popular tasks

28Dec07

While looking through restaurant reviews on the Yelp Mobile site, I noticed that they only show you a little snippet of each one. To read the rest, you have to click on a link and wait for another page to load. Granted, this approach lets you see the first part of many reviews at once, ensuring a wide sample of opinions. But if my experience is any indication, it makes the more common task of reading the most interesting or relevant reviews a lot more tedious, since you have to click each one separately.

I’m pretty sure Yelp designed it this way to make the file sizes smaller, reducing load times for each individual page on mobile devices. Or maybe they wanted to fit more entries on the small screens. But while a given page might load faster, the overall process is more complex and time consuming. Users have to look at the snippets, click the first review that looks relevant, wait for it to load, read it, go back to the list of snippets, choose the next review, etc. Do this a few times, and it becomes quite frustrating.

I recommend two changes to remedy the problem. First, when the initial review page appears (with all the snippets), provide a link that expands all the reviews on a single page. That way, those who want all the info at once can have it, without increasing load times for those who are just browsing. Second, if you’re committed to the one-review-per-page method, include links to view the previous or next review for that business. This eliminates the frustrating back-and-forth that accompanies a snippet-only design.



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