Yukono lets everyone be a critic

The food at Sanchez Cantina is "excellent ... when it finally gets to your table." Riverside grocery is "tiny," but a "magic emporium" of specialty items. And the mechanics at John's Auto may drive to your house in the middle of winter to drop off a new battery for your car according to a reviewer on Yukono who experienced it firsthand.

The food at Sanchez Cantina is “excellent … when it finally gets to your table.”

Riverside grocery is “tiny,” but a “magic emporium” of specialty items.

And the mechanics at John’s Auto may drive to your house in the middle of winter to drop off a new battery for your car according to a reviewer on Yukono who experienced it firsthand.

Yukono – which riffs on the phrase ‘you can know’- is a new online site to rate and review local businesses in the Yukon.

The site is fashioned after Yelp, a “monster of a website” that reviews businesses all over the world, said Geoff Harries, one of the creators.

Yelp actually carries some Yukon business reviews, but it isn’t particularly “Yukoncentric.”

“I mean, one of the reviews on Yelp is for the A&W in Whitehorse,” said Harries.

He kicked around the idea of building Yukono for a couple years, but never got around to executing it, said Harries who has a background in design and marketing.

Harries put together a prototype of the site before realizing it was much more complicated to build than he first imagined. At the time he was more focused on the start up of his own digital marketing company, Subvert.

The kick in the gut eventually came from Michael Johnson, a programmer Harries hired in the fall.

Johnson completely re-worked Harries’s design and had the site up and running in a month.

The no-frills website works like a search engine allowing people to search reviews on anything from chiropractors to real-estate agencies in the Yukon.

Yukono went online in February and has slowly been gaining attention since then, said Harries.

The irony is that Harries’s marketing company has relied more on word-of-mouth than advertisements to let people know about Yukono.

“We’ve been purposely low-key,” said Harries.

“In the past I’ve seen that if you have a big bang at the beginning it can fizzle out later on. What’s the point?”

He’s hoping the site will grow organically and has relied on less-than-conventional ways of marketing.

Hand-drawn signs flap outside of businesses like Java Connection and the Bent Spoon calling on people who patronize those businesses to write a review for Yukono.

Harries acknowledges those ads with a laugh, calling them “super ghetto.” But his marketing tactics aren’t what you would call traditional.

His business card is a sticker that says ‘Subvert’ on one side in stylish, block lettering. When he hands his card over to a potential client Harries writes his name and number on the back of the sticker.

“When I hand it to them they usually give me this horrified look,” he said.

But their unorthodox methods seem to be working as internet traffic has been growing.

The site has almost 50 registered users, most of whom are reviewers. The rest are business-owners who have signed up to “claim” their reviews.

By claiming a review the business owner can respond to comments about their business and interact with the reviewers, said Harries.

“It’s about teaching businesses new rules of engagement,” he said, explaining that Yukono will allow companies to show that they’re listening to feedback from their customers and incorporating those changes.

Right now Harries and Johnson are treating the site as an experiment. They’ll be watching closely to see how the site grows and how people respond to it.

What started as a “fun outlet” for the two designers could actually turn them a profit in the future, said Harries.

They’re hoping businesses will pay to have their company featured in different sections of the website or to add distinct customizations to their listing.

Businesses could pay to track who and how many people visit their listing and possibly have some of the reviews instantly uploaded onto their own websites.

The two designers are even looking to turn Yukono into an iPhone application, said Harries.

Aside from advertising their own name, Subvert will also be building a vibrant online community. And in the Yukon, where technology trends often hit 10 years later, Harries thinks it’s about time.

Check out Yukono at www.Yukono.com

Contact Vivian Belik at vivianb@yukon-news.com