Yelp IPO Puts Consumer-Review Site up for Review

Welcome to the Weekly Cornerplay, a guest column where each week we analyse a tech product or service.

Foursquare is pivoting to a focus on place recommendations — e.g. restaurants and cafes — and this made us wonder how the app actually stacks up to the competition already there. Food is the biggest category and since we are in Singapore and food is inherently local, we examine the competition here: Yelp, Hungrygowhere, SoShiok, 8 Days Eat, Pickat and Burpple in addition to Foursquare.

We pit all seven apps against each other, reality game style, to see which app comes out on top. The answer may surprise you.

Note: We tested the iPhone versions of all seven apps.

Look and feel
Let’s start with attraction. Except Yelp, the candidates are all good looking, with modern designs and big photos — Burpple is especially pretty. Yelp is the ugliest, with looks that date the iPhone 3G. Another app’s looks we are not fans of is SoShiok. SoShiok ticks the boxes but somehow it doesn’t come together well. Like that person with too much plastic surgery: theoretically good looking, but really just weird-looking.

Good: Burpple, Foursquare, Pickat, 8 Days Eat
Bad: SoShiok, Yelp

SoShiok1 SoShiok2 SoShiok3
SoShiok should look attractive, but somehow it doesn’t

User interface (UI)
UI is like conversational skills; about how easy it is to get to know a person. There are two key things you’d want to know from a food app: what are the good places to eat, and is Place X a good place to eat? A great UI gets those answers as effectively as possible.

Yelp is the only app with an excellent UI in that respect. The candidate who came last in one episode comes first in the next. Hungrygowhere, Picket, 8 Days Eat and Foursquare try to do too much. For example, in Foursquare, check-ins and friend information interfere with recommendations – splitting the service makes sense from a UI perspective. Burpple has UI more like a news apps, which while fine isn’t as efficient, and SoShiok just seems confused.

Good: Yelp
Bad: Burpple, 8 Days Eat, Pickat, Foursquare, Hungrygowhere, SoShiok

HungryGoWhere’s UI is pretty… pretty annoying

Also Read: Burpple launches new web feature, looks like Google for food

Place recommendations
If aesthetics is about looks and UI is about conversation, this is about character. How well do these apps actually recommend eateries? I compared each app’s overall review of places I know very, very well to see which are the most accurate. So it’s not scientific, too bad! We work with what we have.

Surprisingly, Foursquare gave decent results, in spite of not having mainstream adoption in Singapore. Unsurprisingly, so did Hungrygowhere and Yelp with their large base of reviewers. You might complain these two services can give bad recommendations, but that’s like saying people can have a bad day.

Burpple is a funny case because it may not even provide recommendations per se. Burpple seems so bright and cheery – everything is awesome! – like that overly positive blonde cheerleader who gets on your nerves. For a restaurant to be above-average, another must necessarily be below-average, and Burpple fails to be a useful tool in that respect. The app does provide good “nearby” results, comparable to Yelp, Hungrygowhere and Foursquare.

Burpple1 Burpple2 Burpple3
Everything is recommended at Burpple

Pickat seems so commercial — recommendations are often accompanied with coupon offers. Hmmm. Pickat is the fake person you can’t seem to trust.

SoShiok and 8 Days Eat give good recommendations, but only when you can actually find them. Their reviews aren’t user generated, so there aren’t many. These two are the kind at parties you don’t know what to talk about with.

Good: Hungrygowhere, Yelp, Foursquare
Bad: 8 Days Eat, SoShiok, Burpple, Pickat

Pickat1 Pickat2 Pickat3
But of course Pickat’s recommendations come with a coupon /sarcasm

Editorial content
Editorial content — e.g. food guides, top five lists, food news — this is probably the least important aspect of a good food app of the variables tested here, yet seems to be the biggest area of time spend for many. This isn’t something international companies can easily provide, and accordingly Yelp and Foursquare offer little here.

Good: 8 Days Eat, SoShiok, Hungrygowhere, Burpple
Bad: Yelp, Foursquare

8Days1 8Days2 8Days3
8 Days Eat put a lot of effort on food content… but does anyone care?

Also Read: This man’s app plans to open up the ‘hidden secrets’ of Singapore

Who downloads a food app just to read about food? It’s a use case we don’t think exists for the average person. Food content is still largely consumed with other types of content (e.g. newspapers and lifestyle magazines) than exclusively on their own (e.g. niche publications like Epicurious). Some of the apps in our face-off rely too much on users having a food porn fetish, when it should aim at being the best utility possible. A tool to get to what’s needed as quickly as possible.

Tally everything up and we have an upset winner: it’s the ugly person with the best personality that wins. Yelp may appear drabby, but when it comes to the basics of letting you know what you should eat it stands on top. If only Yelp could get a makeover. Hungrygowhere puts on a little too much makeup and generally tries too hard, but otherwise is fine. There’s a lot of potential in Foursquare, who is coming-of-age and on the verge. Burpple is the hot person whose nice to look at but not actually talk to. 8 Days Eat merits a date or two. As for SoShiok and Pickat, it’s best not to pick up their calls.

Yelp1 Yelp2 Yelp3
Yelp could use a cosmetic makeover but remains the best overall food app

The Cornerplay’s ranking of food apps in Singapore:

  1. Yelp
  2. Hungrygowhere
  3. Foursquare
  4. Burpple
  5. 8 Days Eat
  6. SoShiok
  7. Pickat

Disclosure: In addition to food blogs, my startup’s feecha app features Yelp and Foursquare content. We do that because both have good, friendly APIs. We’d feature the others too if they can get their act together.

The author, Jeffrey Yuwono, blogs at the The Cornerplay, a weekly column about the tech and startup scene.

The views expressed here are of the author, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them

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