• Queer Review

    A passion project turned startup, that some call the "Yelp for safe spaces" or a "TripAdvisor for Diversity and Inclusion."

What's The Story?

A small change at the beginning of the design process defined an entirely different product at the end.

The Intro

Queer Review is the first reference tool and peer-reviewed guide to local businesses, in order to identify safe spaces. Reviews address concerns across the LGBTQ+ spectrum to end discrimination, harassment, bullying, and discomfort.

How do we identify a "safe space?" A Safe Space is a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express themselves, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability. It is a place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect and dignity and strongly encourage everyone to respect others.

App Prototype

Click on the each screen to navigate.


The Challenge

We identified that our next milestone was to expand our user base so that we can make the case for offering training to businesses on how to attract more LGBTQ customers, and adapt their offerings to accommodate the needs of the community. I believed I could help with this by trimming down the burden of entering new places and new reviews, thereby returning more results with reviews, and making the case for both customer demand and an accurate measure of existing quality of service.

The Approach

​​Core to my strategy is using the Google Places API instead of maintaining our own database of places/businesses. Users would no longer experience looking up addresses, phone numbers, mistyped titles, or geolocations. They'd just review and go. This will keep the Queer Review database focused on the unique reviews applicable to the community.

The Solution

Paired with the introduction of the Google Places API, I believe that delivering two mobile applications – Android and iPhone &emdash; will help to boost usage. People are often more-likely to form a stronger commitment with a downloaded application versus a website, and use it more frequently. A mobile application also provides more personalized features like geolocation, directions, and social sharing. This can all be accomplished using the same code base, through hybrid-mobile technology &emdash; HTML and Javascript, compiled to native apps using Cordova. In my experience, only minor alterations are required to match the look and feel of the separate platforms.

The Google Places API will cut out about 25-50% of the migration work by having user searches query the Google Places database, and then just attaching the reviews. This also instantly expands our list of businesses/places...by thousand-fold. Maybe even a million-fold! Plus it eases the data entry problem; users only enter reviews & ratings. They never have to enter a new place or the information: addresses, phone numbers, hours of operation, or logo.

Here are some examples of the Google Places API in action:

Another thing to think about is that using Google Places will probably mean removing the browse feature. Users would no longer browse “Food & Entertainment,” but they could instead search for “wedding planner near me” or “wedding planner in New York City”. On the plus side, this simplifies the UI and the information architecture, and reduces the time for data to load and the quantity of listings -- something that I hope delights users.

The Hurdles

Hurdles included developing for every operating system and software stack, as we wanted people, both domestic and international, to use the site and experience good site performance. HTML5 and CSS3 fallbacks and gap analysis led to compromise on some designs but overall the new framework and use of Google's material design interface will improve performance and standardize workflows for both web and mobile.

There was also some strategy and design thinking applied to how to anonymize data on the businesses and users of the app. Users and business owner admins could use aliases or screen names to protect their identity, and pages for Safe Spaces will be dynamically generated with Google data (hours of operations, address, image) and then paired with our reviews. Links to the Queer Review web page for a place or business would be listed with other review sites in a web search, but the reviews would only appear if on the site or within one of our apps.

The Impact

The organization has been featured in The Huffington Post, Daily Dot, Bustle, and more publications and has even picked up users in over 20 countries!

The Outro

User feedback is going into all of the changes and we hope to delight our growing user base when we launch mobile apps and a new, simplified web application.

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    Social Login

    Login & Sign Up are presented in a very simple manner, only showing required fields. Social Media accounts can be used for either logging in or signing up.

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    Homepage Search

    Search is robust for our site so we made it very easy to access, even including search filters on the homepage. Category level search is in the main navigation as the first item and opens as a mega menu. Speed and accuracy of results is key to our users, as the site is dedicated to research.

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    Search Listings

    The map to the left defaults to the country where the browser is and a list of places is on the right hand side. Users can type in keywords or filter by listing category or regional location. Results cluster on the map for easy scanning.

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    Filtered Search

    Search results on the page and the map update realtime, leveraging the efficient data handling of the Google Maps API. Filtering by the state of Maryland and then zooming into the map shows map markers for 2 places and the 2 listings show up on the right.

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    Listing Details

    Listing Detail pages have an embedded Google map, user uploaded images, hours of operations, reviews, and advertising (for small revenue generation).

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    Add A Listing

    Users can add a safe spaces or business manually (not all places have physical locations). The form is easy to use and passes W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).

  • Reinvent yourself

    The current design was a live beta for user research, product validation, and A/B testing. I now get to work on the mobile apps and a website update.

    • Current Design
    • Updated Design
    • COMING SOON

Read What People Had To Say


  • Huffington Post
  • Bustle
  • The Daily Dot

Ideally, every place should be a Safe Space.


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