Which product reviews should you trust when you’re considering a purchase? There are generally two types of product reviews: those written by customers like yourself, and those written by experts. Both types of reviews can be very useful, but it’s important to understand the limitations of each type of review.
User-written reviews are easy to find: many web sites are dedicated to them. Also, many online stores, such as Amazon, let customers contribute their product reviews. One problem with customer-written reviews is that, although they are well intentioned, some people don’t have enough information to make an informed opinion. If a person submits a review after only an hour or two with a new digital camera, they might not know that the battery life is abysmal, or that the lens doesn’t focus properly in dim light.
A larger issue is that some customer-written reviews aren’t written by actual customers at all – they’re secretly submitted by the company itself, or its PR firm, or someone else who has a vested interest in the product selling well why not get the best silverware for your kitchen?.
Also, the sheer number of customer reviews at some web sites can make it difficult for you to form a clear opinion. A hundred 5-star reviews and another hundred 2-star reviews might show that people have very different opinions about a product, but it would take you a long time to sift through all of those reviews to make an informed decision.
Your other choice is to turn to reviews written by industry experts. Expert reviews typically are published in mainstream magazines and newspapers, or at popular web sites and blogs. In these cases, the reviewer is typically able to try the product for a week or two (or even longer), to really get the feeling for its pros and cons.
Equally important, an expert reviewer has probably used many, many other similar products over time, so has a better knowledge of what features are important, and which ones don’t work as well as they should.
But expert-written reviews are not infallible. Because they are penned by a single source, expert-written reviews are subject to the whims and biases of a single writer (and perhaps, his or her editor.) Pressed with deadlines, a publication might not be able to test a product as thoroughly as they would like before being obligated to publish the review.
Careful shoppers should use a combination of user-written reviews and expert reviews when deciding which product to buy. Perhaps you’ll want to start with user reviews to get a sense of which products are appealing to you, then move on to expert reviews for a final judgment.