In honor of Black History Month, the Yelp Design team highlights a project from Summer 2020, created to empower Black business owners and their communities.
Understanding the Opportunity
As the pandemic drastically impacted businesses across the United States, Black business ownership was disproportionately affected. In May 2020, Black business ownership fell more than 40% — a steeper drop than any other racial group .
A few months later, a national outcry placed a necessary spotlight on the strained relationship between law enforcement and members of the Black community. During this time, Yelp users were vocal in their desire to find and support Black-owned businesses as a way to stand in solidarity and demonstrate their empathy for Black-owned businesses .
We’ve received an outpouring of requests from our community to provide an easy way to find and support Black-owned businesses on Yelp. In fact, this has been our most requested feature during this time…
— Tara Lewis, Yelp’s VP of Community Expansion and Trends
Our team saw an opportunity to create a Black-owned business label on Yelp that would help users search, identify and support Black-owned businesses in their area.
Scoping the Solution
Our cross-functional team included a project manager, data scientist, multiple engineers across iOS, Android and Web, a communications manager, public relations specialist, an illustrator and product designer.
Because our team was working quickly to create this feature, it was important we aligned on several fundamental product decisions at the beginning of development:
- The business label required opt-in by the business owner
- The business label would be free
- The business label would be visible on multiple surfaces within Yelp
- The business label would be non-ephemeral (it wouldn’t disappear after a certain amount of time)
Defining these rules helped contextualize the project’s opportunities and limitations. For example, by defining that the label would be non-ephemeral, we knew our solution needed to work for both the present and the future as the product grew.
Examining the Experience
Our team identified areas in which new and returning Yelp users could view the Black-owned business label throughout different points of their experiences.
It was important to establish multiple touch-points across various user journeys because placing the label on a single surface would be less visible and effective.
We chose to integrate the label into the existing experience to leverage users’ built searching and navigational behaviors. Significant traffic between the search results and business pages ensured high visibility. Additionally, we included in-app promos to promote the label in other areas of the app like the Home page.
Our team implemented auto-fill in the search bar so users could type part of the keyword Black-owned and auto-fill suggested different business categories like Black-owned restaurants, businesses, local services, and more. This gave users direct access to a filtered list of the businesses they were looking for.
Not all business owners who would want to display the label would necessarily do so. Some businesses remain unclaimed on Yelp, meaning they have no owner managing the business page. Alternatively, not all business owners actively manage their page.
As a solution, our team devised that if a certain number of reviews for a business mentioned Black-owned, search results for that business would denote: X reviews mention Black-owned.
This solution gave users the opportunity to glean potential Black-business ownership while avoiding giving a business the Black-owned label without their explicit opt-in.
Defining the Visuals
Towards the beginning of the process, our illustrator ideated a variety of symbols that could represent the Black-owned label. It was important to create a symbol that felt representative of the label’s purpose: to provide support for Black businesses.
“We wanted to create a metaphor and mark that got across unity, empathy and business ownership without touching on any stereotypes inside a 24x24 pixel container.”
— Scott Tusk, Lead Illustrator
Working within the 24x24 pixel space to communicate a complex idea with sensitivity was the primary challenge of creating the icon. In Figure 5, concepts A, C, and F skewed too broad and lacked context.
While B and D were powerful visuals that alluded to imagery that captured the spirit of support witnessed during the Summer, both lacked the broadness that the icon needed in order to exist on Yelp in perpetuity.
Concept E combined the image of a business storefront with a heart to represent support and compassion towards Black-owned businesses.
In a two-week period between May 25 and June 10 2020, 35x increase in search frequency occurred for Black-owned businesses (and related terms) compared to search history collected during the same time in 2019 — a 7,043% increase .
From restaurants, coffee shops, doctors, bakeries and local services, our data showed users’ staggering interest in identifying and supporting Black-owned businesses.
Our team continues to be incredibly inspired by the engagement of the Yelp community around this feature — from business owners adding the label to their pages and users searching and supporting them. We’re invested in continuing to create features to serve the members of our communities.
 Knowles, Hannah. “Number of Working Black Business Owners Falls 40 Percent, Far More than Other Groups amid Coronavirus.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 25 May 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/25/black-minority-business-owners-coronavirus.
 Stoppelman, Jeremy. “An Update on Our Commitment to Change.” Yelp, 13 Nov. 2020, blog.yelp.com/2020/08/an-update-on-our-commitment-to-change.
 Lewis, Tara. “Yelp Teams Up with My Black Receipt to Support Black-Owned Businesses.” Yelp, 30 Sept. 2020, blog.yelp.com/2020/06/yelp-teams-up-with-my-black-receipt-to-support-black-owned-businesses.
Gross, Elana Lyn. “Support For Black-Owned Businesses Increases More Than 7,000%, Yelp Reports.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 23 July 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/elanagross/2020/07/22/support-for-black-owned-businesses-increases-more-than-7000-yelp-reports/?sh=72a6654542a8.
Leary, Brenae. “Yelp Names Black-Owned Businesses to Watch in 2021.” Yelp, 1 Feb. 2021, blog.yelp.com/2021/01/yelp-names-black-owned-businesses-to-watch-in-2021.
Stoppelman, Jeremy. “Laying the Groundwork for Change.” Yelp, 30 Sept. 2020, www.blog.yelp.com/2020/06/laying-the-groundwork-for-change.
Alexis Glenn, Brenae Leary, Brenda Kaing, Brian Chan, Chris Short, Clara MacDonell, Jackie Berte, Josh Mahoney, Julianne Rowe, Kathleen Liu, Kelly Kinch, Rose Chang, Scott Tusk, Tara Lewis, and Xuan Zheng.