What is Yelp?
Yelp is one of the most popular websites where users have a possibility to find the right services and check the reviews. Yelp was founded in October of 2004 in San-Francisco, CA. 115 million reviews of various services have been written since Yelp’s inception. The company employs 4,000 people and receives around 142 million unique visitors per month. In 2015 Yelp received $550 million revenue (information taken from Wikipedia).
If you want to offer users a product, as did the owners of Yelp, but a similar idea for business has already been implemented – don't get frightened by someone else already doing what you want to do. It's not just about being first, but it's all about giving the most value to your users. Often startups might not have a unique idea, they just repeat and complement an existing one. A lot of this is understandable as it stemmed from competition in the market.
Since the other services could become one of the most popular resources (as a result, increasing number of users and profit), what prevents your company to do the same?
Great, let's make another Yelp!
Yelp and Facebook passed the whole project journey to achieve such popularity and recognition they have now. And most of the new entrepreneurs underestimate the whole path of a new startup. Usually, a business owner contacts custom website development company with a request to make a quick "Facebook clone" in the hope that it will be possible to "copy" out design and functionality. However, this is not even technically possible. In fact, you just have to create a new project from scratch that simply looks the same. In addition to the probable lawsuits, the website with an identical design can cause some confusion and suspicion among users.
So… the best way out, if you want to make a website like Yelp, is to develop your own design and functionality. It’s better to consider all this adventure as not making a Yelp clone, but as creating a new recommendation and review service for business.
Ok, I want such service with reviews
First you need to determine what your web project is and define how you want your project to differ from your competitors' product. If you can not come up with new features, then it’s better to focus only on a particular niche and handle it better than Yelp or Foursquare.
The differences between your business and competitors
For example, you can make winery restaurants review service with detailed descriptions of the places where customers can leave their recommendations and reviews using different criteria.
Furthermore, it might also be possible to select a certain region. Yelp is popular in the US, but poorly represented in Europe.
Do not be afraid to try something new. When developing a website like Yelp, it’s difficult to predict in advance what functionality will make you a leader among similar industries. As a primary preference, it is good to check all the features – just to be sure. With a proper development process, you can quickly find different pathways, generate alternative hypotheses and find the right niche soon enough.
It is important to determine how the project will earn you the profit you want. Probably, it will be services for restaurants, which you have to:
- Highlight in the list
- Display in the above results
- Brand into the page
In addition, you can simply use banner ads to sell online.
After determining the technical parameters of the project, you have to make a marketing plan. As with the Yelp project, you will need to promote the product for three target audiences at once:
- Business owners
- Visitors and reviewers
- Advertisers (for banner advertising)
Most importantly, do not neglect your marketing. Expect that marketing budgets can exceed development costs by 3 to 4 times.
Gotcha, let's get to work
The development of a startup is a difficult task and you can not be sure that everything goes smoothly when planning ahead. After all, a beta launch or marketing changes can dramatically influence on the project. To operate under such uncertainty more effectively, the Agile methods have been developed.
The basic idea is to develop the most important and risky parts of the project every week/month, to show the project to the users as soon as possible and to adapt it based on their responses.
If you want to verify your hypothesis and assumptions about your customers, you can use such convenient services as: http://vip.javelin.com or https://www.leanstartupmachine.com/validationboard/.
Do not forget, you can never say for sure what your users will like – you have to run experiments and test various hypotheses.
Moreover, you can try A/B testing for the experiments. It might be convenient to do with https://www.optimizely.com.
Make sure you communicate with your users. Establish credibility by being an open and communicative developer, than a mysterious-evil-genius who hides his identity. In addition, if you do not communicate with users, you can not know whether they like or not what you are doing.
In the end customers used to a support! Nowadays it is hard to imagine a service that does not have an online support or can not help with all the nuances in all aspects of communication. If you want to win recognition from users and become popular, you should provide this service.
https://www.intercom.com is an excellent site to help you with this task.
In addition to the support services, you might want to start a forum where users can discuss your project, offer new features and vote for them. For example, you can try http://www.discourse.org.
Whether it is an application or a web-resource, testing is an important aspect of the outsource software development. No matter how good was a description of your project requirements, there are always unforeseen bugs. And you have to fix problems and catch the bugs before the users find them. No one wants to use the website where the drop-down menu does not work or you are not able to download images.
Lots of startups do not give weight to the project testing, and subsequently, active customers are no longer interested in their products and use a competitor’s service.
How much does it cost to develop a custom website like Yelp?
There are hundreds of developers working in Yelp, and as we know a software programmer earns an average salary of $75,000 per year in the United States (the information is taken from http://www.payscale.com). Basically, if you want to deploy a similar project, the price tag will be several million dollars.
Given the above, it’s much easier to estimate an initial project budget, the functionality of which can generate enough revenue and attract enough investment to cover the costs.
For a project like Yelp, you will need at least:
- 2 Developers
- 1 Designer
- 1 Tester
The total cost of such team will be about $25 000 - $30 000 per month.
After 2-3 months of development, you can launch a basic version of your product, making it available to the general public. Most likely you will have to make changes based on the users’ feedback and business model experiments. If that makes sense, you’d rather plan out another 3-4 months of development to make the necessary changes (of course, it’s not so deep and intense part of development – enough one programmer and a part time designer). Also do not forget about the technical support and hosting services.
To make your own custom software website like Yelp, you'll have to start from scratch. However, you should not feel discouraged, as lots of startup entrepreneurs face with such challenges in today's competitive landscape. First of all, you will need to:
- Decide what services to provide at your website
- Understand what services to avoid
- Make sure you know where from to earn your revenue
- Choose an appropriate development team and act!
We wish you good luck :)