Anyone with an Internet connection can browse the Yelp Web site. It's easy to look through business reviews and ratings and read about other people's experiences. When you open up Yelp's home page, chances are the site will recognize the nearest major city or town to which you live and display popular locations and highlighted reviews. For instance, if you're accessing Yelp from New York City, you'll probably open up yelp.com/nyc when you type in the regular address.
But you can't write your own reviews or follow other Yelp users if you don't first sign up for, and manage, a personal account. Signing up for a Yelp account is basically like signing up for most other social networking Web sites -- to create a profile, the site needs your first and last name, your e-mail address, a password for logging in and, if you live in the United States, your ZIP code, too. If you live in Canada, you'll be asked for your postal code, in Ireland, your city/town and in the United Kingdom, you'll need to provide your postcode. Your gender and age are optional. Once you're signed in, you're officially a yelper, the common nickname for Yelp users.
Now you can review practically any establishment in your community. To write a review, users simply click on the "Write a Review" button near the top of the page. From there you can search for the establishment you'd like to review by typing in the business name and the city and ZIP code in which it's located. Once you select the business from the search results, you can click on the "Write a Review" button next to it. At the top of the review you can give the business a star rating from one to five, with one meaning "Eek! Methinks not!" (poor) and five meaning "Woohoo! As good as it gets!" (great). A text box where you can type your review is directly below, and there are optional selections that are either objective or subjective. You can give an average price range, for instance, or you can note whether or not they accept credit cards or have outdoor seating.