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How Much Time Is Spent Reviewing Each Product?

Quality matters. The better a product is, the higher the probability is that a reviewer will really “look under the hood” and search out each and every feature in it. A product that excites reviewers receives lots of hands-on love. A poorly developed one that breaks down, crashes constantly, or has an unusable user interface gets quickly tossed.

Consider apps. Unique concepts, fun games, or social-networking apps that engage the reviewer (and by default, anyone who installs the app) are often apps that we use religiously in the future. One recent example was a unique health app/service called The Eatery. Steve decided to give it a spin.

This app and service obtains crowd-sourced opinions of how healthy you are eating. Steve decided not use the app permanently, but thought that it would be interesting during the testing to have a number of opinions on how healthy his eating habits were. He decided to keep the app on his iPhone 4S and use it for a few weeks.

This long-term use gave him a really good feel for the app, the service, and how the crowd-sourced food scores worked. Had he just based a review on the look and feel of the app, it would have received a good review. The experience of working with the app over a period of time gave insight into things he liked and hated about it. His total time spent using the app? Probably two hours in total.

That’s one end of the spectrum. On the other end are special-use products that are created for a small niche market. While we try to match bloggers to the product, sometimes a blogger will find that she or he is not familiar with the use that the item is designed for. What happens with those? Usually, they just get a cursory review of features and design, without the detail that a really in-depth review requires. In a case like this, your product may be given only 15 minutes of attention. And that’s a shame if it’s really worthy of more love.

What Kind of Timeline Crunch Are Reviewers Under?

At TUAW and many of the other large blogs, we have an editorial calendar for reviews (see Figure 1-5). That means that we get information about products, but we have several days or weeks to use it prior to writing a review. On the other hand, if a product is considered to be “hot” and is getting a lot of attention from our competitors, we try to get a review out as soon as possible, often on the day of release.

Figure 1-5

Figure 1-5 Many sites now use a review schedule.

Do we rush reviews? No. Our goal is to provide a fair-and-balanced review for our readers, so we’ll try every feature, try to resolve any issues ourselves, and talk with the developers if something really odd is happening. We give just about every product the attention it deserves. Remember, we want to provide our readers with a service that they’ll keep coming back for. If they find that they’re reading a poorly researched and hastily written review, they won’t be back.

How Long Does It Take to Tell You’re Trying Out a Lemon?

After looking at probably several thousand apps and a huge number of accessories, we can tell pretty quickly if an app or accessory is a “keeper” or if it’s heading toward uninstall or the hardware giveaway pile (see Figure 1-6). Many times, that first impression takes less than a minute. If the product shows even a bit of promise, we’ll go further and try out more of the feature set. Apps that are junk get deleted immediately.

Figure 1-6

Figure 1-6 A lemon (Citrus limon) quickly calls attention to itself during initial review.

The product tells us its story. If it crashes or cannot be used from the get-go, that story ends quickly. If it engages us and invites us to continue using it, our testing can go on for hours. With hardware, that testing can even go days or weeks.

The very best products are the ones we jump into our chat room and tell each other about. “You’ve got to try this” means we’ve got a live one on the hook. For those kinds of products, your review may receive input from several bloggers, all of them testing it out, often on our own dime.

If you can get bloggers to go out and buy your product just so they can contribute to a review write-up, you have a winner on your hands.

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