How I Research Products Using Online Review Sites - InformationWeek

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1/20/2010
08:48 AM
Allen Stern
Allen Stern
Commentary
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How I Research Products Using Online Review Sites

Here's how I use a variety of online review sites to help determine if I should purchase a product I am interested in.

Here's how I use a variety of online review sites to help determine if I should purchase a product I am interested in.For me all research for products I want to purchase begins at Amazon. Whether it's a shirt, television, grill pan, computer, book or DVD, Amazon has the best overall collection of reviews online today. While it's a bit difficult to navigate to the reviews on Amazon, there's no other site that has such a good collection of reviews across a wide variety of products and a diverse base of reviewers.

Once I've decided on a hotel I am interested in for a trip or conference, I always check the reviews on TripAdvisor. While the site may seem a bit old, the reviews are the best available for lodging. While you must take into account the perspective of the reviewer (see my note below), there are reviews of nearly any hotel, motel, or other type of lodging available around the world. Reviewers also post photos and videos from the properties which give you a real sense of what you can expect when you arrive. I rarely book my hotel reservations through TripAdvisor but I do use their reviews and community extensively.

For food and restaurant reviews, Yelp is where I go to see if the location makes the grade. While Yelp has reviews in a variety of categories, I only use the service for food-related reviews. The reviews are easy to read and the map is easy-to-use. I especially like using Yelp when I need help finding a restaurant in a new city. It's easy to use their map and zoom into a section of town I need to be located in and then read the reviews of the provided establishments.

For laptop computers I always use the in-depth laptop reviews on NotebookReview. I like this site because they do very detailed reviews about nearly every new laptop. More than the reviews is the NotebookReview forums. They have millions of posts and by doing some simple searches, you can get a good idea about what actual owners of the model you are interested in think about the laptop. Most users on NotebookReview are comfortable to advanced with laptops so the information and discussion is pretty technical which is a good balance to the Amazon reviews I noted above.

I use NewEgg to look at reviews for computer parts and peripherals. For items including RAM, hard drives, monitors and other computer parts, NewEgg has a good base of technical users providing reviews and compatibility information. The reviews include information on whether the part works in a certain type of computer or other electronic device. While there aren't as many reviews as some of the other review sites, NewEgg is adding more reviews at a rapid pace.

One important thing to keep in mind when looking at review sites is perspective. I find that perspective is most important when looking at hotel reviews. Two reviewers can see the exact same property and room completely differently. Many times people are used to staying in 5-star hotels which can make any regular hotel appear to be very poor when in reality the hotel is perfect for its level. Make sure when you read any review you try to consider the perspective of the writer and look at photos or videos to help you make your own determination. Many times they will leave hints that give you some insight into their perspective when reviewing a property.

What review sites do you use to research the products you are interested in buying?

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