Yell.com has just released a free iPhone app allowing users to search for local businesses in the UK.

There are already some pretty good apps available, such as Yelp and Qype Radar, that provide local listings, so I’ve been trying out the Yell.com app to see how it measures up…

Homepage / search

The homepage is basic, with just two boxes; one to enter the type of business you are searching for, the other to enter the location, while you can also press the symbol on the right and use the phone’s GPS to enter your current location. 

The auto-complete feature is useful, helping to reduce the amount of typing necessary, as well as avoiding typing errors.

Entering a search term is the only way to find listings on the app. Unlike Yelp and Qype you cannot browse by business category to avoid the need to type anything. 

Results pages

The results are clear enough to understand, though if a search returns a lot of results, there are no tools to sort the results, or an advanced search option to narrow down the search.

This makes it far harder than it needs to be to make sense of results, and find a suitable service or business. For example, and advanced search option on a listings page for restaurants could allow you to filter by type of food, price range, review score etc.

Listings

Like the rest of the app, the listings are basic, and don’t actually provide much information about the business other than address and contact details. Perhaps in the case of the vet listing below this is all you need, but for things like restaurants, more information would help users to decide if it is what they are looking for:

You can click to call straight away from the page, which is useful, or plot the location on map alongside the other results, as well as getting walking or driving directions.

All useful, but the map options could have been made clearer, and instead of linking to the iPhone’s Google Maps, it keeps you within the app for directions, which makes it less easy to use, and if you exit the app, you need to search again to find the directions.

The main drawback, when compared to the Yelp and Qype apps is the lack of information to help users. Both these other apps have user reviews and pictures of businesses, as well as other useful information like opening hours and a link to the website.

Conclusion

The Yell app has the advantage of the sheer quantity of listings from the main Yell.com site, and was the third most downloaded app from the App Store within a few days of release.

However, as indicated by the average rating of three stars, it offers only a basic user experience, and doesn’t match the breadth of useful information provided by the Yelp and Qype apps.

As a result, given the potential to create an app that would compete with Yelp etc, Yell.com for iPhone is a disappointment, failing to make the most of the iPhone’s capabilities and to match the user experience and useful information provided by other local search apps.