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How much does it cost to make an app like Yelp

With $713 million revenue in the last year, Yelp has become huge and influential. It has evolved fast from a simple website to a multinational corporation and business platform for restaurants, shops, clubs etc. It launched Yelp mobile app due to ever-growing use of mobile devices, and now over 70% of traffic come from mobile. Now many strive to make an app like Yelp to promote businesses.

Before we review the issue of Yelp app cost, we should briefly highlight what is Yelp and what does it do. Generally it’s a service to guide you through city venues, check ratings and leave personal reviews. With mobile application Yelp became an even more sophisticated tool, making great use of GPS. It helps people instantly find local businesses in their area. Yelp app has also been complemented by augmented reality feature recently.

Yelp app features

A navigation app, a travel app, a lifestyle app or food and drink app… Yelp fits in all those categories, and that’s what makes it unique. Development of an app like Yelp implies 6 main functionalities:

  • Reviews
    Writing and checking user reviews of venues, services, food and overall experiences at places of visit. Also, star ratings from 1 to 5.
  • Search nearby 
    With GPS on a mobile device, you can open the app and browse venues and services in your area. Or you can browse by category, as well as by exact name or keyword.
  • Directions
    Geo-location tool to navigate users towards places of interest, with information about the address, working hours, photos, etc.
  • Menus
    A great extra feature to view today’s menu of a restaurant or a cafe.
  • Photos
    To view images of places or services, and leave images along with user reviews.
  • Check-ins
    Real-time mapping and posting to social media accounts about the venue you are at right now.

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To make an app like Yelp, you would have to build user module, communication module elements, social integration, etc. Here is a simple chart of Yelp features.

Yelp features, Yelp app cost

Yelp also has certain features for businesses. For instance, premium partnerships or the ability to respond to user reviews directly. If you wish to build a mobile app similar to Yelp, consider this side of Yelp development too.

Related topic: How to make a restaurant app.

Tech stack for Yelp-like app

To make your own app like Yelp, wouldn’t it be appropriate to examine the technology behind Yelp app? Though it does not impact the Yelp cost, it can have an effect on project duration. So, first off, Yelp uses the so called LAMP stack – an open source platform to build web applications. It includes:

  • Linux Ubuntu
  • Apache
  • MySQL, the Percona fork
  • Python/PHP

They especially like SQL to work with data, as it is easy to configure and scale. The Percona build adds some extra possibilities, mainly for a better performance. Yelp runs near 100 data servers, split into few data sets. To work with Python, Yelp uses MySQLdb connector. To monitor MySQL performance there are various tools like:

Yelp also works with LVS and HAProxy for load balancing. For social media logging they use Facebook Scribe. Yelp’s infrastructure for real-time streaming data has to cope with millions of messages and updates. And, as long as Yelp works with Salesforce as CRM system, they use Salesforce Connector. It is paired with Apache Kafka messaging system.

These are just the basics, and we should rather stop there. More about a mobile app like Yelp below.

Yelp app cost components

Now let’s see what goes into Yelp app cost. To develop an app like Yelp, the process would include the backend (skeleton of an app), programming the functionality for mobile platforms, design/UX, web application (optional) and testing. Another aspect for Yelp app cost is the method you choose to build an app. Do you do it yourself, hire a freelancer or start a project with a mobile software development agency? Rates differ, clearly.

For purposes of our Yelp cost estimation, we assume hiring a developer company. If you search for rates, you’ll see that they range from $25 to $150 per hour. We’ll go around this by taking a median $50 per hour rate to make an app like Yelp. To create a navigation app, four elements would be crucial:

  • User profile/authentication
  • Geolocation
  • Reviews/ratings/recommendations
  • Push notifications
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Our dev team at ThinkMobiles gives the following estimation of Yelp-like app development time. The users module, with features like registering, authentication, social logging, main screen, etc., would take about 1500 hours to develop. It also covers things like activity/feed screen, search/browse screen, bookmarks, events, user profile, categories. And finally, place reservations which are also vital to an app like Yelp.

Approximately 500 hours would be needed to build the communication module. This includes messaging, push notifications, Yelp API service, and a location service. Additional tasks in making a Yelp clone app could be implementing Facebook API, Google Maps, custom animation and views. And those may require about 500 developer hours.

Thus, we have a rough estimate of 2500 hours to develop an app like Yelp. Though, that is surely not all. That is only building an app for platforms like Android or iOS in the Yelp app cost. Don’t forget about design, quality assurance and most of all, the backend.

Backend structure

To build a mobile app similar to Yelp, we may use HTML5 and Python programming languages, like Yelp actually does. For HTML scripting they go with jQuery, and use Django as Python framework. Another essential service is Google Maps API, and especially to build a Yelp app for Android devices.

The app should be able to grab user’s location, conduct a search in that area (or upon given parameters) and place the result back on a map. Of course, Yelp utilizes Amazon web services (AWS), no wonder. AWS EC2 and Elastic Load Balancing are great for applications with large traffic. Smaller starter apps may not need it at the beginning, but capacity should be there.

This is how Yelp backend architecture looks like in a considerably simplified way:

How to make an app like yelp

To construct such backend with the minimum effect to the Yelp app cost, developers need at least 200 hours.

Total cost estimate

Now we add up all the components with development time and multiply it by $50 rate, as previously mentioned. And remember, this is just an approximation based on outsourcing Yelp app development and a median hourly rate. Your way of making an app like Yelp could be totally different from this. Though, if you googled this type of information about Yelp app, our cost estimation may guide your thought.

Here is the table summing up the aforementioned parts and Yelp app cost:

QA / PM100$5.000
Total cost (approx.)2.900$145.000

So you wanted to know how much does it cost to make an app like Yelp. And the answer lies in the approximate figure of $145K. For some, it may seem high, while others may find it too low. Since Yelp did something unique with their mobile app, it could be hard to compete in their category.

On the other hand, studying Yelp example, one can find many handy tools and make use of it for own business or a mobile application. You could do a simpler navigational app just for one kind of institutions, like retail shops. Or you do an app for restaurant guide and reservation in your area/country. And by the way, did we mention we could help you with that? 🙂 Hit us via email or Skype and let’s discuss your app.


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Specialists will contact you ASAP.

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