Reviewing the Reviewers

 |  Review

It’s that time of year again. Most students are back from their summer holidays, settling in to the old routine AKA mass procrastination to avoid their homework. These avoidance techniques commonly include starting a “WPR”, or “web page review [site]”. It’s a harmless pastime, but it never fails to amuse me how many of these WPRs are dishing out bad advice, or missing key points altogether. I’ve picked upon a few problems at the first 3 WPRs I came across this evening…

Starting with Indubitable Reviews, already I see 4 HTML errors because an id is being used where a class would be better suited. Not a major issue on the grand scale of things, but as the accessibility statement claims that “All the pages on this site validate as xHTML 1.0 Strict” it’s a little bit like false advertising.

The reviews themselves are quite short, and offer little in the way of actual suggestions. There seems to be a lot of ass-kissing going on for a WPR that’s advertising itself as “blunt” (About Us – second paragraph). The review of Kaylee’s Reliquesce for example, tells us that said site is “impressive” but I see no such thing. The site is nice, sure enough, usable and aesthetically pleasant even… but hardly what I’d call “impressive”. Web Designer Wall — now that’s impressive.

My suggestion for Indubitable Reviews would be to try and focus less on being some sort of accessibility expert (really, you don’t need the access keys) and more on the individual websites. Explain in greater detail the benefits of Kaylee adding a search bar (ease of use, etc), or why Alex should elaborate on his pet peeves (increased keyword placement, more interesting reading).

Moving on to Shattered Moment Reviews and we have a WPR that claims to be “one of the best WPRs on the Web”. I would expect this WPR to be the cream of the crop, because not only is it supposedly one of the best, but the owner advertises his “straight A’s in English”. This must mean that the unnecessary capitalisation of web (that’s OK?), and the unneeded apostrophe in “A’s” are total accidents.

The reviews themselves are not as brief as Indubitable, but are much the same in terms of ass-kissing. I also see a lot of paragraphs along the lines of “you have this error, but I’m not sure what the culprit is”; I thought the point in being a reviewer was to impart greater knowledge on those who ask for reviews? Apparently things have changed since my day.

Keira of verbalism.org is told that because her “Writings” are articles she can expect them to be reviewed, and then they’re not touched upon. This, despite the fact that one — “You and Your Blog Site” — basically tells us to write what we want. This article is virtually pointless and I would have mentioned it as such in a review. Furthermore, Keira’s site doesn’t validate and the transitional doctype is a cop-out. Again, two things that should have been mentioned.

Sarah of 3till7.net is lectured on her “25 errors” which — at the time of writing — is actually only 4. She’s told that validating her code will improve the speed of her website and increase her search engine ranking, despite the fact that the errors are caused by a misplaced capital letter, and a couple of missing characters in the JavaScript. Fixing these isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference to speed or ranking.

Harlequin Reviews is probably the neatest of the lot, putting the focus straight onto the last reviewed website. Again though, the reviews are brief. (Did spending 3 days writing a review go out of fashion?) I feel more time could be spent reviewing the content of each website, especially blogs — even if you simply add your opinions of how well its written (or not, in some cases).

For the benefits of semantics, the pending reviews would be better in a list (<ol>) and the site header should not be inside a link (instead the link should be inside the header). Instead of the list of “Read?” links on the Reviews page, a more keyword-rich/SEO friendly approach would be to use link text such as “Review of [name]’s site [site name]” or suchlike. Of course, I’m being anal for the sake of it there.

All in all, the quality of reviews from these flash-in-the-pan reviewers has gone up since I started reviewing (“Splash page? 2000 points!”) but there’s still a lot of hodge-podge attempts out there with a mixture of both useless and sometimes wrong advice. Submit for a review if you’re brave, but don’t put all your faith in one person. Don’t forget that quantity doesn’t necessarily equate to quality, either.

Jem Turner jem@jemjabella.co.uk +44(0)7521056376

23 comments so far

  1. Rachael said:

    It does seem that everyone and his wife are starting WPR sites today… And it’s not good that all reviews are brief (*tries not to be too brief when reviewing*). If reviews get *too* brief, they’re basically equivalents of comments on blogs, which is why you’ll sometimes see me with posts demanding feedback.

  2. Lene said:

    (Did spending 3 days writing a review go out of fashion?) Did you ever took more than two days to write a review? XD For the longest reviews I’ve written I’ve spent about 6-7 hours in a row, but not three days (even if it is for an hour or two each day). I like having some sense of continuity. I don’t like it when people write reviews that are obviously done in less than an hour. Lately that seems to be what I get everywhere. Anyway, at least those first 3 WPR you stumbled with are the lesser evil ones, in a similar case when I reviewed reviewers I saw some horrible ones. Scary.

  3. Kiera said:

    Thanks for picking up on some of the points my review with Shattered Moments Reviews didn’t cover. Actually, I was surprised nothing was mentioned about it being a template. Something I mentioned in both the footer and site info page because I don’t know much about coding. He mentioned, “next time you code”. Uhhh…I didn’t code anything, haha. I’m going to have to read up on this transitional doctype business. Again, thanks! :)

  4. Aisling said:

    Wow, I’d never been to Web Designer Wall, but it is SO AWESOME. Ha ha Thanks for the link! I’ve never had my site reviewed, but I do enjoy reading reviews, because I like to see what kinds of tips others are getting, and seeing if I can relate to them. But there are SO MANY review sites! Soon review sites will be just as popular as blogs!

  5. Chantelle said:

    I’m not a student with homework, but I want to start a WPR. ;) I stand to learn a lot from critiquing others and because I have a reputation for being an enemy of harsh critiques… I think that It would be interesting to see what sort of reviews I produce. I’ll keep all that you said in mind.

  6. Amber said:

    This reminds me that I need to finish the review that I started for Umbrella. This, however, has made me nervous! The good thing about my reviews is that they’re fairly lengthy. Whether or not they’re good is another matter. :P I’m too nervous to submit my site for another review anywhere. I have two pending but other than that I’m not in any hurry. I know there are things to be worked on but I always get an, “EEP!” moment whilst reading. :P

  7. Rilla said:

    Meh. Straight “A’s” in English and he’s 12. I got straight “A’s” in everything when I was 12. And then I got D when I was 13. But I actually think the quality of WPRs has improved over the past couple of years. At least, most of the WPRs nowadays try to validate their coding and write in readable English. Did you ever took more than two days to write a review? XD I actually did! :o And waiting for the other reviewers to proofread and review my review takes more than a week until it gets published. :/ But spending more than two days on a review is actually quite inefficient though, especially with these sites getting a long queue of reviews.

  8. Nellie said:

    I’m far too lazy to spend more time than necessary on a review. I’m a surface reviewer. I should probably add that to the about page. “Don’t expect really in depth reviews because I’m a lazy bum!”. I’m a little wary about reviewing written content in case I inadvertently offend the writer. I have a magical way of doing that. But, because you’re Jem and all, I’ll take this advice and try to apply it. :P

  9. Hev said:

    Hmm…I imagine that these are the very same reasons that I don’t have anyone review my sites. I sit & hope that I don’t get Jem’s underpants award, lol.

  10. Mackenzie said:

    I sit & hope that I don’t get Jem’s underpants award Hahaha, Hev (: That’s exactly how I am too! (I don’t think I’m deserving of one (you definitely aren’t, either!!), but somehow I’m always worried about getting one) Anyway, to be cohesive (if that makes sense..) – if I were you, Jem, I wouldn’t have bothered to write this already. You’ve got 10 months. ;P

  11. Chantelle said:

    This must mean that the unnecessary capitalisation of web Web (like Internet) is supposed to be capitalized according to some style guides (i.e. Turabian/Chicago Style). Also, dictionary.com lists it as “Web.”

  12. Aisling said:

    I sit & hope that I don’t get Jem’s underpants award, lol. Ha ha, I think I would rather enjoy getting a Pants award. It would reinforce my low self-esteem. Please, please, Pants me, Jem! Lol.

  13. Alex said:

    Hm, it seems like almost everyone with a website has a WPR. There goes my hopes of starting Thundered Reviews… Just kidding. ;) …usable and aesthetically pleasent even… Hm, is ‘pleasent’ the English way of spelling ‘pleasant’? I’m just curious… I agree with Josh, some of the WPR’s out there have strange names. Shattered Moment Reviews? Psh.

  14. Vera said:

    what 3 days?? Since I’m working, I tend to spend around one week to a few months reviewing a site :P … which reminds me: poor Mar has been waiting eons for a review. Anyway, this is a post to be bookmarked: I’m always up to improve my reviewing skills :-)

  15. Jem said:

    Actually it’s acceptable to use an apostrophe to denote plural when it comes to letters and numbers Actually, I found more sources that state the apostrophe is not needed for capitalised letters than I did that state it is: http://tinyurl.com/2mlg6u In a context in which the plural is clear, apostrophes after upper-case letters are not necessary http://tinyurl.com/jxu5 There is no need for apostrophes indicating a plural on capitalized letters, numbers, and symbols Hm, is ‘pleasent’ the English way of spelling ‘pleasant’? Nope, I cocked up there ;)

  16. Maz said:

    Apostrophes may be used to pluralise capital letters, but it is not recommended. You should use them for single, lower case letters though. Internet, Web and Net are all capitalised because they’re proper nouns. It is becoming acceptable to not capitalise them though. *deletes her unopened WPR* :(

  17. Jim said:

    Despite my spelling and grammar being atrocious when I blog, I’m a bit of a grammar junkie. I know Web is definitely capitalized, as it’s a proper noun referring to the WWW. According to my Merriam Webster’s Pocket Guide to Puncuation 2nd Edition (it was on sale, shut up): Apostrophes are sometimes used to form plurals of letters, numerals, abbreviations, symbols, and words referred to as words. It doesn’t mention anything about capitalization, but I think the context of a plural being clear is pretty relative so maybe it’s just up to preference. Personally, I think review sites are boring. Just link to the site and I’ll figure out if I like it or not. I don’t need a bunch of teenagers with no credibility to tell me what I should like or not like about a site.

  18. Darren said:

    Hey Jem. Thanks for making this blog. If you didn’t, I’d never realize how bad my reviews are. I’m going to start publishing better reviews.