Yelp is rolling out new options for personalization today, meaning you’ll tell the app about your dietary and lifestyle preferences, and it’ll spit back appropriately-tailored search results — in theory, anyway.
If you log into Yelp today, you might find that you have the option to add “preferences.” These include several categories on foods you like, what kind of life you live (parent, pet owner), and what you like to do. Now when you search for something on Yelp, you’ll get results based on your stated preferences without having to filter them out yourself.
The most helpful and potentially useful of these options are those for restrictions, either dietary or physical. For example, you can select your dietary preferences from keto, vegan, pescatarian, etc. It also allows you to select whether you prefer places with wheelchair access or gender-neutral bathrooms, two very essential things for a significant part of the population.
To be clear, the app doesn’t suddenly become a whole new Yelp after you select your preferences. I can tell Yelp I like brunch and nail salons, and the recommended places it shows are the same that come up if I were to search for “brunch” or “nail salon.” It’s not as though it’s offering a portal to an alternate dimension where a brunch-serving nail salon exists.
Also, it doesn’t strictly limit the search results based on dietary preference. I listed myself as “vegan” for the purposes of testing and the app still showed me burger joints for miles in every direction. I live in Texas — I know there aren’t that many vegan burger joints around here.
That said, it’s still a cool feature, and it feels like something Yelp should have already had by this point. Yelp claims this is all based on data collected from user reviews and that business owners can’t add any labels themselves — presumably to keep a business from, for example, calling itself pet-friendly when it’s not. It’s not perfectly executed on arrival, but it’s definitely something worth refining.
According to Vivek Patel, Yelp’s chief product officer, this is part of an overall refresh to the app, which is 15 years old as of this year:
Yelp has always been a helpful discovery platform that surfaces great local businesses based on your search. By making it more personalized, we’re saving people time and giving them an easy way to find the right business for them. Now, Yelp will help you discover businesses and activities based on who you are and what you like to do.
It’s a step in the right direction, even though we found there were hiccups in execution. The full update rolls out to millions of iOS users today, with the rest expected to receive it by fall. Android users can access personalized search results, with the rest of the features being available sometime next year.
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