Introduction Ch.1: Opening a review site Ch.2: Gather your resources Ch.3: Terminology and tone Ch.4: Building rubrics Ch.5: Begin your review Ch.6: In-depth or shallow? Ch.7: The key ingredients Ch.8: Positives have their place Ch.9: A compedium of tips Ch.10: Check your spelling Ch.11: Formatting your review Ch.12: Common roadblocks Ch.13: How to deal with... Ch.14: A review hypocrite Ch.15: Plagiarism Ch.16: The semi-reviewer Ch.17: Visitor contribution The End Extras Sitely

Welcome!

My name's Turnip and I bet I know why you're here. You want to learn more about how to be a reviewer. More precisely, you want to learn how to write great reviews. Well, I hope this guide I've written will be useful for you.

Like my previous guide, How To Offer Great Service (HTOGS), HTWGR will be using the same template as its "parent" site with each major topic separated into its own chapter so you can easily pinpoint what exactly you want to learn. You can use the menu on the left side or simply navigate through the chapters using the "next" and "back" links at the bottom of each page. This guide doesn't deal with providing high-quality service, so you may want to give HTOGS a read as well.

With all that said and done, feel free to neomail me should you have any questions or want to contribute to this project.


Before you start reading...

Updates

If you see something in a spiffy box like this, that means it was submitted by a visitor!

Something in a grey box like this means it's an example.

Want to contribute to this guide? Check out chapter 17 and send in your tips!

See a certain word or phrase that has been bolded or italicized? That means it's important!

Note: As you've probably guessed, this guide is more or less finished and updates will be extremely rare. Still, I'm always open to suggestions so feel free to neomail me if you have any ideas for this guide.

Sept.14.2013
+ 1 site to the Review Wall.

July.25.2013
All chapters have been edited for minor spelling/grammar errors. In certain chapters, I also added more examples or clarification.
+ 1 site to the Review Wall. I definitely need to sweep this section for inactive sites...

Mar.27.2013
Added a few links to Chapter 2; minor spelling and grammar edits (up to the end of ch2)
+ 1 Peer Reviewed; + 1 affiliate




#1. Opening a review site

Every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration. Constructive criticism is not only to be expected but sought. - Margaret Chase Smith

First off, let's start at the very beginning. If you're a veteran reviewer and already have a review site, feel free to skip this section! However, it may provide some helpful background information on your "job" as a reviewer.

Important topics...

Why be a reviewer?

The Neopets site community is full of different site genres or types. From graphic sites to link directories, screenshot pages to adoption agencies, there are a whole lot of site owners out there, each with his or her own unique talents. So, why do you want to be a reviewer?

Let me get this out of the way: no one is born to be a reviewer - it's something you need to constantly work at. Sure, you may have experience and knowledge to help you get a good start, but reviewing sites and being able to provide useful feedback isn't something that you "possess" – it's something that you learn and constantly get better at. Being able to pick out important details of a site comes with experience.

People become reviewers for different reasons. For some, they enjoy giving feedback for others who need it. This is probably the most common reason and providing help and opinions to your fellow site owners is very rewarding. For others, slipping into the role of "reviewer" may have come naturally to them. This definitely happened for me as I never planned to open a review site. Before Frequent Flyer was established, I just received a lot of neomails asking for my opinions on things like graphics and layouts.

What made you decide to open a review site?

Well, first I noticed that there weren't many active review sites in the community. Most of those that claimed to be active took short hiatuses every few weeks. I also wanted to be someone who could make a difference, and actually help people by making their sites better. I always used to give my friends advice on their guild webbies or their sites, so I thought that there wouldn't be much difference between giving advice and owning a review site. Even then, I was a little bit wary about opening Mirror Mirror, because there were so many other great review sites, such as Third Impression and Frequent Flyer. The thing that really pushed me to open was something that one of my friends, a previous review site owner had said. She told me that in order to get more visitors, she, including others, had lied on her reviews and gave everyone high scores so people would like her more. I thought that that was terrible, because what's the point of a review if it won't help you? That's when I had the idea of opening a review site that would give an honest, unbiased opinion of a site.

- Star

Whatever your reason for becoming a reviewer, make sure that it's a positive one. Here are some examples of opening a review site for the wrong reasons:

Let's look at your resume!

A review site has a lot of different requirements than, say, a graphics site. That's because the content you offer is all about words. What you're saying, why you're saying it, and how you say it all factor into a review. With simple text, you can advise people to change their sites, remove this section, or edit that layout. Though the idea of opening a helpful review site is appealing, let's take a moment to see what you need as a reviewer.

The most important question is this: do I need previous experience as a site owner in order to be an effective reviewer? The answer is quite tricky because it definitely depends on the content. I would argue that in some circumstances, previous experience as a site owner isn't necessarily mandatory, but it's a huge advantage if you've run a few sites before and actually know what you're talking about. Prior experience means you've already plunged into the watery depths of site-making and you're familiar with terms like "lister" or you're knowledgeable in the quality of link back buttons. Because you've already been a site owner before, you can look at a page from the eyes of a site owner, a review, and a visitor. This "multi" point of view can potentially give your future reviews something extra because you understand what it's like to be an owner.

If you've never owned anything before and a review site is your first foray into the site community, then you might need some additional help and you should strongly think about limiting your reviewing targets. What are "reviewing targets"? Well, for the majority of review sites today they generally analyze sites of all types, whether it's a button request site, or a link directory. Now, if you're becoming a reviewer with no prior site experience, then it's probably best to stick to your strengths.

Let's say that you're an avid pet trader and you're a regular at the Neopian Pound neoboard. You know your ins and outs of all the things involved in adopting and trading pets. Your best bet would be to limit your reviews to pet applications since you're fully knowledgeable in that specific area. You can adequately critique pages like pet applications and adoption agencies based on their content (are they missing any key information?), ease of access (how easy is it for visitors to adopt a pet from that page?), and other things.

For the most part, review sites that have a general review target (in other words, they review the majority of site types) are much more demanding in terms of expertise. You need to be able to tell what makes a button high-quality. For instance, you'll have to know when animation speed interferes with text readability. You might even be called on to review a fellow review site, at which point you need to understand what makes a review in-depth and helpful.

One of the best ways to know whether or not you're ready to be a reviewer is to write up a sample review of a site. First, get the site owner's permission and let them know that you'll be reviewing his or her petpage as "practice". Next, get feedback from established reviewers. Approaching site owners may seem intimidating, but don't worry – we don't bite and a lot of us are glad to help! In fact, there's a section on this site called Peer Reviewed which has a list of volunteers that can help you with your tough questions. Finally, don't be discouraged if you get negative feedback. As I mentioned before, learning how to review requires a lot of hard work and experience. You'll undoubtedly face a whole lot of obstacles but once you get over them, reviewing is very rewarding.

Another thing you can do is visit review sites and read through their reviews. See what points they're making and why they're making it. Be sure to pay attention to what makes the reviews helpful: are they fully explaining their viewpoints? Are they using visual aids such as screenshots? Not only should you be looking at how they review, but also judge for yourself the quality of the reviews. Are the reviewers focussing too much on the smaller details and not enough on the big picture? Is there a balance between quality and quantity assessment?

Important traits of a reviewer

No, I'm not talking about your credentials, but your actual traits - your characteristics! These qualities serve to embody the average reviewer:

A critical eye
This one may be a "no-brainer" but you'd be surprised how many reviewers I've seen let their biases enter their reviews. You need to be able to step back and look at a site with a completely critical eye. Instead of writing down what you "like" and "dislike" at a personal level, write what you think works well or needs improvement.

The ability to use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation
Being able to write properly and professionally is a key aspect of being a reviewer since it's likely that the requester will take you more seriously. Nothing says "amateur reviewer" more than reading a review that's full of spelling errors, faulty sentence structure, and an endless usage of smilies. For more information, check out HTOGS: chapter 9, professionalism and scroll down until you see the "Writing Style" section. Of course, you'll have typos here and there – that's normal. You can't catch all of your mistakes but the important thing is to re-read and edit your own review before posting it on your site.

Patience
Running a review site can be draining, whether it's from dealing with people who disregard the rules or reviewing sites that you feel just aren't very high-quality. A lot of things can test your patience but it's important to keep a level head and remain calm.

The ability to argue your point and persuade the site owner
You should be able to write your reviews as if you are in a debate class, in which you're trying to get your point across to someone who always disagrees with you. Why should they change the colour of their headers? Well, because of (insert reason here). Don't try to be an aggressive arguer though since there's a difference between slamming someone's site and providing constructive criticism.

Some more "traits" may appear in later chapters but for the most part these are the most important ones to talk about straight off the bat.

What to review?

Petpages, guilds, pet applications – there's so many things to review! Part of being a successful reviewer includes knowing your weaknesses and strengths.

Petpages:
The vast majority of review sites deal with critiquing petpages or general sites. These are things like button request sites, premade layout sites, link directories, graphic sites, and even review sites. Since the category of "petpages" is so diverse, you might find it in your interest to set aside some limitations or restrictions for sites you don't or can't review. For example, a lot of owners might say in their rules: I can review all sites except for link directories, wish lists, and "about me" pages.

Guilds:
A lot of guild reviewers are or have been guild owners or part of guilds themselves so they know exactly what to look for. Things like council activity, guild activity, and active members are things you should have an eye for.

Pet applications
As mentioned in the previous category, pet applications requires extensive knowledge into what makes a high-quality pet application.

To summarize...

#2. Gather your resources

I believe in criticism. - Paul Anka

Reviewers should always have an arsenal of resources at their disposal and this chapter will provide some great sites and tips that will definitely help you along the way.

Important topics...

Important sites to visit

These sites provide detailed information on various topics, ranging from service to graphics. By gleaning a bit of knowledge from these pages, you'll be prepared for a lot of the issues that'll come your way. In fact, a very helpful aspect of reviewing is pointing your requester in the right direction by providing them a link to a high-quality guide!

Banner Buddies is a guide that focuses on four aspects of banner-making: cropping, texturing, brushes, and text. What makes a banner over-textured? Why is this a bad thing? How should an image be cropped? All of these areas and more are discussed.

As the only link directory currently available, this site offers a lot of tips and tricks on a many topics including layout, organization, and maintaining a link directory. Though it's geared towards those who want to open a link directory, I highly encourage reviewers to read through it nonetheless. For instance, you'll learn about the pros and cons of using anchored versus "one page" layouts.

As I mentioned in the introduction, How To Offer Great Service was the precursor to this page. It provides very in-depth details on what it means to offer high-quality service. Though often ignored in the past, more and more sites are increasingly paying attention to this aspect of a request site. There are over 10 chapters, each one dealing with a specific topic.

Neocolours is a page that provides a wide variety of hex codes. Sometimes, you may want to make colour suggestions to your requester so this is a great resource. Other similar pages include: Color Codes (this page has a very unique detail in that when you hover over a hex code, it "expands" to give you a better sense of that colour), Bubble's Colour Charts (provides hex code and also the basic names of the colours).

Everyone needs a good CSS guide and this is one of the best! With both basic and advanced levels of difficulty, this will help you provide coding examples in your request if you run into any coding issues while reviewing a site.

Soroptimist Directory is the best place to go if you ever need to find a particular petpage. Even though it's not being updated anymore, it's still a great resource for finding sites because so many have been listed. Because it's an old site, chances are there are links here that new link directories will have missed. The Shelf and Plethora are some of the few link directories still active so if you're dealing with a very new site, you may want to suggest the site owner to advertise there.

A particularly good resource is Review Site Intervention 2010, which acts as a mini-guide. It's in the process of being re-written here.

Talia's Writing Guide

This guide is about how to write short stories. It's a very in-depth guide that goes over story basics, word choices, editing, and more!

How To Write For The Web

This guide deals with general writing for the web, such as using paragraphs, lists, how to be concise, and choosing colours. If you're interested in starting a review site, this guide is a must read.

Top 10 Common Mistakes

This is a short mini-guide I wrote for Frequent Flyer. It basically goes over the most common issues that I find at a site. Sometimes in my reviews, I say something like "Refer to #8 in the Top 10 Common Mistakes guide" for more information. As a reviewer, you'll probably run into these issues a lot!


The two links above deal with pet applications in particular. They go through the different aspects of applications, ranging from layouts to designing a character.


If you'll be critiquing more visual-based sites (like graphics or button sites), then it would be handy if you were familiar with GIMP. This spiffy petpage goes through many GIMP techniques, ranging from easy tutorials to the more advanced.


You might think it's a bit strange to have a ranking site on hand, but you'd be surprised how many times I refer to this site. It lists top-quailty sites in a lot of categories, ranging from graphics to guides. For example, let's say you want to refer the site owner to some high-quality buttons since their "link back" section needs some new ones. A ranking site like this one showcases high-quality sites.

A community of reviewers

Within the site community, there's a smaller community of reviewers. Take advantage of this as one of your "resources" because getting advice from more experienced reviewers will definitely help you along the way. Like I said in the previous chapter, you shouldn't be afraid of reaching out for help. After writing a review, you may want to ask another reviewer what he or she thought of your finished product. Getting feedback shouldn't be scary. Think of it as an important tool for improving how you write and review. I'm always available if you need to bounce some ideas off of, or if you have general inquiries!

Remember that there's the "extra feature" at this site where reviewers volunteer their time to answer questions from new reviewers. It's called Peer Reviewed and you might find it useful to contact a "veteran" in the business!

To summarize...

#3. Terminology and tone

I pattern my actions and life after what I want. No two people are alike. You might admire attributes in others, but use these only as a guide in improving yourself in your own unique way. I don't go for carbon copies. Individualism is sacred! - Richard Chamberlain

As a review site owner, your petpage offers content in the form of words, text, and persuasion! No, I'm not talking about the Jane Austen novel, but instead good old fashion opinions. Your reviews offer suggestions and comments to requesters. Don't mistake your reviews for fact because this simply isn't the case. Most of a review can be argued and it's up to you to argue your side of the picture. A review site's content is text-based so you'll need to be able to convey your ideas in an appropriate manner.

Important topics...

Terms I use throughout this guide

There may be some terms that pop up now and again so here's a quick list of "definitions" for you!

Requester: This refers to the person who's sending in the form. In other words, you'll be critiquing his or her site.

Review target: This is the type of sites that you review. For example, at most review sites, the site owner reviews a large variety of "targets", from graphic sites to link directories. However, some review sites may only focus on reviewing pet applications. In this case, I would say that that particular review site has a "review target" of pet applications.

In-depth reviews: This is not a term that takes the length of reviews into account – it is solely based on how well the reviewer is getting their point across. In other words, you can also say that "in-depth" reviews will be more helpful than those that aren't in-depth.

Site genre/type: This refers to the type of site. For example, The Lunch Box is a graphics site with requests, Soroptimist Directory is a link directory, and How To Offer Great Service is a guide.

The word "harsh" doesn't mean a thing

Countless review sites have been the victim of this mistake, saying something along the lines of "my reviews are harsh". This doesn't mean what you think it does.

Definition of harsh: Severe, cruel, or exacting; unpleasant or uncomfortable
Definition of critical: Characterized by careful, exact evaluation and judgment; containing careful or analytical evaluations
Definition of in-depth: Carefully worked out, detailed and thorough
(all definitions from Thefreedictionary)

Now, which one of those words would you like to describe your review? A review should never be "harsh" – you're not trying to actively hurt someone's feelings. Also, a review shouldn't be "unpleasant"! What it should be is critical and in-depth, both of which are features of a high-quality review.

I completely understand why reviewers use the word "harsh". They want to convey the idea that their reviews take even the smallest detail into account. However, that term isn't correctly used when describing reviews.

How to describe quality

Again, you'll want to carefully phrase your wording so that you're not bashing or hurting the site owner's feelings when you're describing his or her site. Using generic descriptive words is a great way to convey your ideas while still remaining professional. Here are some examples:

The reviews you offer are high-quality because you spend a lot of time making sure the site owner understands your explanations and opinions.

The second icon is very low-quality. The text is illegible and extremely distracting.

On the other end of the spectrum, don't be afraid to come out and say "low-quality" if that's truly your opinion. Besides, the opposite of "high" is "low", right? You shouldn't feel guilty when you say "low-quality" because you're letting the site owner know that there are areas that need improvement. A common mistake that new reviewers make is that they shy away from making any sort of "bad" statements about a site. If there's something that you feel needs work, say it. A review is a collection of your opinions and the site owner has asked you for them.

The text placement on the third button is poorly done because it's covering up the focal point.

When describing something that is low-quality or poor, stay away from strong words such as horrible, terrible, awful, hideous, and the like. These words have a much deeper suggestion and is more likely to make the other site owner feel bad or less confident about his or her work.

Can "I" be in the review?

Of course! This isn't a super formal essay where you can't say "I". It's totally okay to say things like "I think the colour of the background should be changed because..." and "I understand why you put the update box there, but maybe you should do this instead". Like the previous category, be careful that you're not using "I" in a negative manner however.

Do:
- I would recommend...
- I think...
- I strongly suggest...
- I like how...

Don't:
- I don't like...
- I hate...

Using an assertive tone

Being overly aggressive doesn't do you any favours. If the requester reading your review notes that you have a negative attitude, his or her impression of you is that you are a rude reviewer. On the flip side, being too passive means your opinions won't appear very strong. Here are examples of both aggressive and passive review statements:

Aggressive statement: Your layout's too ugly so you definitely have to change it to improve your site. The header also looks messed up.

Passive statement: Your layout's not that great, but you don't have to change it if you don't want to. The header also needs improvement.

In the "aggressive" statement, the major issue is the use of overly negative words, like "ugly". The phrase "messed up" is also too negative. Another problem is with the overall tone ("you definitely have to change it"), which makes it appear as if the reviewer is forcing the site owner to change something. With the "passive" statement, it appears that the reviewer is trying to stay on the site owner's "good side". Remember that as a reviewer, you should point out the negatives if you truly believe it needs improvement.

So, what tone should you be using? With all of your reviews, try to use an assertive tone. Here's an example:

Assertive statement: Your layout needs improvement because as it currently stands, it doesn't make a very great first impression.

Sure, you're saying something negative about his or her site, but here the way you're saying it isn't negative or "rude". You're presenting an opinion without using a negative attitude. Also, your statement appears much stronger because you're not appearing passive – you're emphasizing your thoughts.

Here are a few more examples – can you spot which ones are aggressive, passive, or assertive statements? (Note that I'll try to provide some generic problems so you can pay more attention to the wording rather than the situation):

The icons used on the front page are very low quality. The base image is poorly cropped and makes the layout look ugly.

It was going so well until the last word! If the reviewer used "low-quality" instead of "ugly", this would have been an assertive statement, but because of the overly negative tone, it's an aggressive statement instead.

On your "sitely" page, it might be better if you made the textareas a darker colour. However, because this is a minor issue, you can keep the colour as is.

At first glance, it might seem like a passive statement because the reviewer says that the site owner doesn't have to change anything. However, this is actually an assertive statement. With very minor issues, it's completely fine to say "the choice is up to you" because a smaller problem won't drastically affect his or her site.

You can read more about tone and professionalism in writing here.

To summarize...




#4. Building Your Rubrics

A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it. - Danielle Steel

One of the first things a new reviewer should always think about are the rubrics that they will be offered at his or her site. Simply put, a rubric can be seen as a grading sheet and a guide for how a reviewer will look at a petpage. Regardless if a score is given, rubrics give requesters clear indications of what reviewers will be critiquing. You might be surprised but creating your rubrics will not only be your first test, it will also be a difficult one.

Important topics...

Different Types of Rubrics

At many review sites these days, the reviewer usually has different rubric types for visitors to choose from. Here are the more common ones:

Classic
Usually the longest and most in-depth rubric, this "classic" rubric includes all of the major categories found at most sites. This includes: first impression, layout, content, organization, spelling/grammar, and sitely. Of course, this "classic" rubric has been around for a few years and has seen its fair share of alterations. Nowadays with the increased emphasis on professionalism, you might find that as its own category. Likewise, spelling and grammar may or may not make an appearance in a typical classic rubric. The essential thing to point out about this rubric is that it is intended for people who are serious about improving or changing their sites and is the most comprehensive of rubrics, taking the majority (if not all) of the site in question.

The formatting for this rubric is typically the same wherever it's found and in the review itself, the reviewer usually uses some sort of header or text style to indicate the different sections. Generally, scores or some sort of grading system accompanies this sort of rubric, with emphasis on content and layout design.

Pro/Con
This rubric is a favourite, not only for review site owners to write but for visitors to request. It's not meant to be all-encompassing like the "classic" review but instead, should be short and to the point - indicating what the site owner is doing right and what he or she needs to improve on. These "pro/con" reviews can benefit new and veteran site owners alike. They're quick and easy to write on the reviewer's part, and for the requester they can get some indication of where to improve without having to read an essay!

Though chapter 11 will deal more with formatting, I'll discuss it briefly here. The formatting for typical pro/con rubrics is very different from the previous "classic" rubric, both in terms of visual formatting and how it is written. Unlike "classic" rubrics which use multiple categories that each have a specific focus, there's generally only two major categories here: pro and con. Also, as a reviewer you're not forced to use strict categories like "first impression" or "sitely". If you see a "pro", then you simply write that down as a bullet point. This leads to the next difference, which is visual formatting. Pro/con rubrics are written using bullet points (i.e. one topic or "issue" per bullet point or short paragraph), rather than lumping all "pro" or "con" issues into one giant wall of text. This is because organizing your pro and con comments into bullet points will make your review easier to read as it'll be more organized.

And that's pretty much it for rubric styles! Well, at least the common ones. Here are some rubrics that are gaining in popularity.

Custom
Custom rubrics are somewhat of a wild card as you can never predict what you'll be looking at until the visitor sends in his or her form. As you can probably guess, "custom" rubrics are ones where the visitor can choose different categories for the reviewer to look at. For example, your rubric might look something like this:

Rubric title: Custom
Summary: In this custom rubric, you call the shots! Choose which categories you want me to look at: first impression, layout design, layout function, organization, sitely, quality of content, quantity of content

In essence, visitors choose which major categories to include in their rubric. If they didn't choose quality of content, then you won't be looking at this area for your review. Custom reviews aren't quite as popular as the "classic" rubric but reviewers who add this rubric as an option usually know that somewhere out there there's a very picky site owner who knows just what they want to be reviewed on.

Q & A
If you thought the "pro/con" rubric was short, this one takes the cake! Like the "custom" rubric, this review is dictated by the visitor. The review starts with a question asked by the requester and as the reviewer, you answer their question. You might be surprised that this may be one of the harder rubrics seeing as how you have no idea what you'll be asked - you might get stumped by a question! Because of their very short length, these reviews tend to be done through neomails rather than posted on the actual site.

And lastly, here is a "rubric" that used to be so popular years ago and yet has fallen behind: Spelling/Grammar Checks!

It's quite unfortunate but nowadays, out of 10 review sites, about 1 may offer spelling and grammar checks. For text-based guides, it's nearly impossible these days to ask someone to proofread your site! For all reviewers who are thinking about adding additional rubrics to your site, I ask that you strongly consider "spelling/grammar" checks!

This rubric is considered more of a "service" than an actual review, but it's still something that should be included at a review site. As the title implies, the reviewer will only be checking the text-based content, such as your introduction. The formatting here is usually the same at most sites that offer this rubric. The reviewer copies and pastes what you wrote on your site, then underneath they provide the re-written example.

How many to include at your site

Seeing as how the "classic" rubric tends to be favoured, having one of these in-depth rubrics is a must at your review site. The majority of site owners want a comprehensive review of their entire site and the "classic" is intended to do just that.

Pro/con reviews are also very popular because they provide something quick and easy to read. While not all review sites offer pro/con reviews, the overwhelming majority do.

Thus, at the very least I would encourage reviewers to offer these two rubric styles. Even with just two rubrics you're allowing your visitors a great deal of choice on how they want to be reviewed.

Note: If your intention is to open a spelling/grammar checking site, then you don't have to include other rubrics like "pro/con". This guide is written with the general reviewer in mind (I.e. those who review sites).

Caution: What should never be in a rubric?

When reviewing other review sites, there are always certain categories that make me chuckle or worse, grimace. Here are some categories that should never be included in a rubric.

Updates
We all know the saying of how people like to see a site that's updated frequently but let's step back for a minute and actually think about it. Do all sites need to be constantly updated? No. Let's say I have a completely finished guide and want to get it reviewed. If the rubric I'm requesting has an "updates" section, chances are I'll get docked marks because it appears I haven't updated in three months. However, is this really the case? Does a completely finished site need to be updated every week? Should I still create an "update" section on my completely finished guide and say "nothing to update" every Friday?

Of course, there are sites that need to be updated regularly. Take graphic or request sites for instance that rely on quantity of content and custom requests. Now, if these types of sites haven't been updated in three months, that would be a bad sign.

However, just because the "updates" category of a rubric may be applicable to some sites and not others doesn't mean it should still be included in a rubric. As a reviewer, you want to keep your rubrics on equal footing with all site genres, from guides to request sites. The categories should be applicable to all sites you intend to review. Lastly, the whole idea of "frequent updates" is a bit biased towards the "bigger sites" - what about those new request sites that are struggling to get some requests in? They can't update because they're not getting any requests. Should they really be penalized for that?

You can use the updates as an indicator of how well a site is going. For example, let's say you're reviewing a button request site. You note that they've been updating with new requests everyday for the past week. You can make note of this and give them a pat on the back because this is a sign that their request service is quick.

Extra marks
For one, I've never understood "extra" marks because it seemed so biassed and the whole idea of "bonus" points is very subjective. Sites should be assessed based on the rubric they've chosen and that rubric should have a full list of what they're being scored on. In other words, the visitor needs to know what you're looking at. The whole idea of "bonus" points doesn't fit into a review rubric because it isn't fair to the visitor who doesn't have an idea of what score they'll be marked. Bonus points are based on personal preferences, rather than explanation.

Originality/Creativity
Along the same lines, "originality" is a category that should steer clear of your rubrics. What's to say that one thing is original and the other is not? Like "bonus points", originality is far too subjective and hard to grasp.

For more details on why you shouldn't include "originality" as a scored category in your rubric, click here.

Effort
Again, this is a category that sometimes gets included in rubrics and yet it's hard to accurately determine the score. I could put very little effort into a banner and a person might think that I put a lot of effort into it.

Be careful about these categories…

For the next few categories, you can still include them in your rubrics but be careful how you actually score or critique each section.

Sitely
In this section, the most common pitfall that reviewers face is the question of "quantity". So often I see reviewers dock marks simply because a site doesn't have a lot of affiliates or aren't listed at many sites. Ask yourself this: does having more affiliates make a site better or higher quality? The simple answer is no. Just because a site isn't listed at ten directories doesn't mean you should dock marks. Some sites don't need to have affiliates or directories (for example, guides or graphic tutorials). Because having affiliates and getting listed at directories is an area completely up to the site owner, this would be hard to score.

Instead, focus on things that can be commented on fairly, like the order of the sitely page (link back buttons, then sister site, affiliates, listers, then other miscellaneous information, then finally the credits). Organization of the sitely page is big and that order is usually the standard at most sites. If someone had the link back buttons at the very bottom, the achievements at the top, and the credits on an "extras" page, that wouldn't be a very organized "sitely" page, is it?

Another thing that the "sitely" category should look at is the quality of the link back buttons. It's here where you can comment on the level of quality, whether you think any should be replaced, or which ones you found interesting.

A useful thing to check for the "sitely" page is broken links (links that don't connect to any page or the wrong one), or affiliates/directories that haven't linked back.

Keep in mind, the "sitely" page should contain things that involve the site, such as information about where it's been reviewed at, who its affiliates are, and its site counter or visitor tracker.

Content quantity
The quantity of content is always a tricky area, but it should be easy to navigate through this section if you're aware of one simple fact ahead of time: how long has the site been open for? In my own review forms, I ask that requesters give me an indication of how long their sites have been active just so I can measure the quantity on their petpages versus their sites' ages.

What is unfair is docking marks if a site only has five banners, but in reality, it's only been open for three days. As a reviewer, always make sure you know how long the site's been open for and potentially, any hiatus/revamp periods in between. While you can usually find out when a site was first opened by reading through their introductory paragraph, it might be beneficial to include something in your form (for example, "How long has your site been open?").

Now, there are other tricky areas as well. Let's say an untaken name site has 100 names and it's been open for three months. 100 names might seem like a lot in three months, right? Well, that's actually not a very high count for that particular site genre. Untaken name sites are all about offering the visitor choice so for these types of sites, quantity should rank equally as high as quality.

To score or not to score, that is the question

Whether or not you want to attach a score with your rubrics is completely up to you! Here are some things to keep in mind when determining a grading system:

How will you grade the reviews?
There's a few systems you could use. The most common one is numbers where you dock marks for any issues you come across. Using this system, the requester starts with full marks. For example, let's say that I'm currently reviewing someone's layout out of 10. At the very start of the review, he or she has 10 points. However, I spot some issues: faulty navigation system, blurry images, and side scrolling. From the 10 points, I determine how much to deduct.

Using a number system, each category in your rubric will have a specific score, with content generally being the most important (thus, having the highest score count). Things like first impression, sitely, and spelling/grammar usually have far lower score counts. In general, the review will end with a final tally of marks (the score for each category added together). In some cases, reviewers also provide a percentage count with it as well. For example: Final Score: 50/100 or 50%.

The next system you can use is the letter grade. Rather than scoring individual categories, you simply post one letter grade at the very end (ex. A+, C-, B, etc). You can provide a letter grade for every single category, though it would be harder to come up with one final average letter grade at the end.

The third system is using stars, which may or may not be used for each category. It's easier to count up and provide a final score, but if you're using graphics (like the one below), then you're limited to how many points each category has.

Here's a quick "pro/con" table about each grading type. A plus sign (+) means it's a positive while a dash (-) means it's a negative.

Numbers Letter grade Stars
  • + One of the more popular used grading system
  • + Easier to find a "concrete" score (ex. just add the numbers up - simple!)
  • - A system of how/when to deduct marks takes a lot of experience
  • + Easy to use
  • - Hard to convert one entire review into a simple score
  • - More subjective and ambiguous



  • + Easy to use
  • + Can be used in each category (for example, if each category was ranked out of 5)
  • - Limited "stars" per category if using graphics


Do I "need" to include scores?
Scoring a rubric isn't something that's "needed", though a lot of your requesters will appreciate it. A score is a quick way to judge how far along your site is coming - if you scored a 50%, then you're site is off to a relatively good start though there's still more to do; if you scored an 80%, then you're off to a great start and have only minor things to change.

Still, adding scores to your rubrics should be your decision. Knowing when to deduct points is extremely hard because you need a consistent system that remains fair for all of your requesters. Thus, it might just be simpler if you don't add scores if you're just starting out.

If you do decide to score, make sure that not only are you being consistent but you're deducting points fairly. For example, let's say I'm reviewing a site using the "classic" rubric and am currently in the "spelling/grammar" error category (the category itself is out of 10 points). What I don't do is take away one point for every single mistake - that would be way too harsh and unfair! What I do is list all of the issues I find, then step back and look at the list. If you're reviewing a site genre that heavily relies on text-based content (ex. reviews, guides, tutorials, etc), chances are they'll have a lot more mistakes than other site types where there isn't a lot of written content (such as premade layout sites or graphics). Is it fair to grade them similarly? Not really because the more text on a site, the higher the chances of making typos.

What you should be looking for is consistency - is he or she consistently making errors on each page? Does he or she spell a certain word wrong every single time? For example, if the word "review" is present at the site multiple times and it is written as "reviwe" incorrectly once, that doesn't really warrant an entire mark taken off because it's a typo rather than an outright error.

An in-depth rubric reflects a high-quality review site

Just as there are differences between a high and low-quality review, there are such things as "high-quality rubrics" as well. The more in-depth your rubric, the more likely your visitors will get a feel for how you review. As a reviewer, if you spend time and effort on writing your rubrics, this is a chance to show off how thorough you are. Here are some examples below of actual rubrics taken from real review sites.

Example of a high-quality pro/con rubric:

Pros: These will be a list of short sentences. Here I'll put anything on your site that you do particularly well or that I especially like.

Cons: This will also be a list of short sentences. Here I'll put things I think you need to fix.

Suggestions: Here are things that you aren't problems with your site, but that I would recommend adding or changing to improve your site.
(Taken from Third Impression)

The idea of a "pro/con" rubric is so straightforward yet you should still explain it. Here, the review site owner has done an excellent job not only showing you the formatting of the review but giving a brief look at what each section will include.

Examples of low-quality category explanation:

Below is a category used in a "classic" rubric. Note how the "explanation" doesn't really explain what the reviewer is actually grading.

Content /25 - This category evaluates whatever your site offers.

And at another site...

Content: ?/25| The most important section. I'll look over the quality of the service you offer, etc.

So, the category will evaluate what your site offers, but how will the reviewer do this? Is he or she looking quantity? Quality? Will he or she be looking at how textures are applied? Text visibility? The site owner hasn't done enough to properly clarify his or her expectations or what his or her focus will be. Additionally, try to fully explain yourself rather than rely on "etc" and hope the visitor understands what's included.

Just how does one write a high-quality rubric? Well, an easy thing that most reviewers do is ask questions. For example, here's a part of the "classic" rubric at Detect (spelling errors have not been changed as the section has been copied directly from the site):

Having a neat and organized site is pleasing to the site and makes the visitor stay. If the site was unorganized and everything was everywhere, it would be hard to navigate and the visitor would be unpleased and not revisit. This is a revisiting factor. If there was a messy store and it was unorganized and dirty, would you revisit? I wouldn't. In this portion of the rubric, I will judge you on...

Is your site organized? Is it easy to navigate? Is there anything that pops out and shows unneatness? Is there any layout glitches tht are fixable?

Note how thorough the explanation is. He start off with a brief paragraph discussing what the category is all about and why it's important. The site owner follows this up with a list of questions that he'll head into the review with. As a visitor, this makes preparing my site for a review so much easier.

One of the categories that often gets a weak explanation is "first impression". Though it's self-explanatory, you shouldn't gloss over it and simply put "This category is my first impression of your site" because this says nothing about how you'll review it.

In one of its rubrics, The Lodge does an amazing job with explaining this section:

First Impression (?/10): When I arrive, do I want to stay and look around? Does something immediately catch my eye? This category does not assess your entire sites first impression, simply the very first thing your visitor sees when they arrive. If your site does not look professional and organised then immediately you give off a bad impression.

To summarize...




#5. Begin your review

Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection. - Kim Collins

When you begin your review, it's best to take some questions with you. Below are some that I personally like to use for certain site genres. These "premade" questions will help you focus your attention on the important things. Of course, you don't have to use these - they're just here as suggestions! Also, if you're a reviewer and would like to add your own questions, feel free to neomail me.

Each site genre is divided into its own box below. At the beginning, I've listed important categories for that specific site genre. After that are some questions that I typically ask. For request sites, it would be helpful if you read through How To Offer Great Service as that can give you an idea of how request sites operate.

Questions for each site type

Graphic sites

Graphic sites are a dime a dozen, which is both a good and bad thing. It's easy for newcomers to get into the site making game with a graphic site, but at the same time, it's extremely hard to maintain a high level of quality and quantity as time goes on.

Important categories
- Quality: This is a no brainer as graphic sites are completely dependant on how well the graphics are made. A graphic site that has low-quality content won't get many re-visits.
- Quantity: A graphic site that offers five super high-quality banners is still a site that only offers five banners. That's not a lot of choice so once a visitor sees them all, chances are they won't be impressed with the lack of selection.

Questions

  • Based on how long the site's been open, is the amount of content appropriate? (quantity)
  • Are there any issues in quality? Are icons cropped to 100 pixels by 100 pixels?
  • How are the graphics organized? Are they placed side by side in neat rows? Or is the site owner not using space effectively and putting content in a long column?
  • Has the site owner provided textareas with the code? For content like pixels, this is optional as certain things are just too small to have textareas (like smaller pixels or resources).
  • In terms of assessing the graphics, look at what the site owner has done. Is his or her colouring technique eye-catching? Has he or she applied textures properly or has he or she not blended it into the base image?

Request sites (general graphics like banners, icons, shields)

These request sites generally take far less time than more demanding requests (such as buttons which need animation, reviews which need to be written, or layouts which need to be designed and coded). Because these are request sites, I always try to relate my critique back to the visitors and their requesting experiences. Customer service is key.

Important categories
- Rules: The vast majority of request sites will have some form of "rules" on their page. This needs to be an area of focus if you're reviewing them because it can affect how easily a visitor can request.
- Convenience: Because request sites are based on service, be sure to pay attention to how easily visitors can request, move through the site, and pick-up their custom items.
- Quality: Since the sites in question are providing graphics, it would still be in your favour to provide a brief critique of their latest work (usually those in the "pick-up" area or in their portfolio).

Questions

  • When you read through the list of rules, can you find any major restrictions? Are they fair?
  • Are there any "tricks" in the rules? Are they clear to understand? Are they too easy to catch?
  • In their "pick-up" areas, do they provide the codes in a textareas? Do they write the names of the requesters above their respective request or is it hard to tell which graphic belongs to which person?

Review sites
A lot of reviewers will end up reviewing review sites (try saying that fast!). The content here is very different because they're not offering anything "visual" like graphics or layouts. Instead, they're providing text-based content.

Important categories
- Rules: Because review sites provide a form of service, the list of rules should be a key area to look at (Do they make sense? Are there any unnecessary restrictions?)
- Quality of review: To get a sense of the site owner's reviewing skills, you'll need to read through at least two or three of his or her most recent work (in the "pick-up" area).
- Organization: Organization of the reviews themselves is important because you don't want to read anything lengthy in a tiny div with a ton of scrolling!

Questions

  • Does the site owner have fair rules with little restrictions?
  • Is the reviewer fully explaning his or her opinions?
  • Is the site owner putting his or her reviews into a tiny div box? Easy readability is crucial here as reviews should be placed in a well-sized div box.
  • Are the rubrics high-quality? Has the reviewer explained each category properly or is he or she leaving it almost blank?
  • If possible to find out, is the site owner finishing his or her reviews within seven days? (Checking the updates can possibly help you with this question.)

Button request sites
Like graphic sites, button sites are very popular to open but extremely hard to keep running. It's one of the more demanding site genres out there.

Important categories
- Rules: Because so many people request buttons for different things, the rules should have little to no restrictions.
- Quality: Buttons are composed of a lot of different things, such as text, the button base image, borders, and in some cases, animation. Knowing how to critique each of these things is important.
- Text design: Buttons are meant to advertise a site and thus, the text is the most important thing on a button. It doesn't matter if the base looks nice or if the animation is executed because text should be your #1 focus.

Questions

  • Does the site owner not make buttons for any site genres? Did he or she explain why he or she doesn't make buttons for those types of sites?
  • Do the buttons appear polished or low-quality? Does the animation help accent the button or is it too harsh and obvious? Is there enough breathing room or static frames between each animation loop? If the animation directly affects the text in some way (ex. colour sweep, fade), is it interfering with text visibility?
  • Does the button maker provide the button code in a textarea? Has he or she remembered to include border="0" in the code?

Premade layouts
There's not a lot of premade layout sites and with good reason. Layouts take a long time to finish, both in designing and coding. While the designing part is may be easier to some, coding requires HTML/CSS skills that not many new site owners possess.

Important categories
- Quality: Like graphics, layouts need to be high quality and you should be looking at things like texture use, how large/small the content area is, and the location of the main links.
- Quantity: Because layouts take far longer to create and finish than smaller graphics like banners, try to focus on the different styles rather than sheer numbers. Still, you'll want to look at how much content is on the site (a premade layout site that's been open for a month and has only 3 layouts isn't very productive).
- Examples: One thing to look for is if the site owner has included a screenshot of the layout in action. Make sure that it's not too small and that details on the layout can be seen (anything less than 500 pixels in width would be too small a screenshot).

Questions

  • Based on how long they've been open, have they uploaded enough layouts? Remember that visitors want choice.
  • In terms of convenience, are their layouts properly coded using up-to-date formatting? Have they clearly identified whether or not layouts work in all browsers or just a few?
  • Have they included a relatively large screenshot of the layout above each textarea?

Layout request sites

As with all request sites, convenience should be one of your priorities.

Important categories
- Rules: The fewer restrictions, the better.
- Convenience: Like the premade layout category, a very convenient thing a site owner can do is provide a relatively large screenshot example of the finished product rather than simply putting the code and the requester's name.
- Quality: The same issues for graphics apply here as well. Look at how textures are used, whether or not the site owner sticks to a unified colour palette, and where the navigation is placed. Also, pay close attention to site name design. The site title should be designed so that when a visitor loads the page, it's one of the first things he or she see. A poorly designed site title (for example, plain text slapped on the layout) won't draw a lot of attention and makes the overall layout look low quality.

Questions

  • Are they operating on a "first come, first serve" basis? If they're not, then it's not fair for the requesters who may never be able to get a layout (i.e. speaks to site owner's bias).
  • Try to figure out how long each request takes (if the requester is waiting for 2 weeks or more, that's not very high-quality service).
  • Are the layouts themselves high or low-quality?

Guides/tutorials

Guides, whether text-based or visual, can be interesting to review. One of the first things to determine is the intended audience. For example, some guides may be written for intermediate or experienced layout makers (thus, they won't be explaining ever single detail).

Important categories
- Content display: How the content is organized is very important. If the site owner is using a "one page" layout (i.e. not anchored), has he or she included a fixed "back to the top" link? Is the content area relatively large so that visitors don't have to read information in a squished div box?
- Quality of guide: For text-based guides (like this one), has he or she fully explained his or herreasoning? For more visual guides (like ones for graphics), have they included screenshots to help guide the reader?
- Professionalism in text: You'll want to look at spelling and grammar as well seeing as how guides and tutorials are more text-based. Also, is the site owner writing with an assertive and friendly tone? Or ir he or she being unprofessional and using multiple smilies everywhere?

Questions

  • If it's a more "visual" guide (like how to make buttons or banners), are there screenshots or visual examples to aid the reader? Are there any areas where there aren't any visual aids?
  • Is the navigation easy to use? Can visitors easily browse through the site or is the information all lumped together?
  • For the majority of the site, has the site owner used proper spelling and grammar? Be sure to also analyze sentence structure. Anything overly "wordy" or confusing should be looked at and corrected.

Link directories

While people might think this is an easy site genre to jump into, they'll be in for a nasty surprise. Link directories are very intensive in terms of updating and maintenance. When reviewing link directories, you're obviously not going to go through each and every link they've listed. However, it would be in your best interest to fully check at least one or two categories. One last thing to keep in mind is if they are properly crediting (many of link directories use things originally found at Soroptimist Directory, such as the idea of using grey links to signify inactive sites).

Important categories
- Convenience: These directories are meant to be a hub for visitors to get to other petpages so convenience and organization are key. Are the links separated into obvious categories (for instance, graphics, review sites, etc)?
- Quantity: Reviews on link directories should focus less on quality, and more on quantity (you can't really judge the quality of a link). One of the reasons why I still visit Soroptimist Directory is the sheer amount of petpages listed (even if the site is no longer being updated).
- General maintenance: For the most part, are they keeping broken links out of their categories? Are they aware of sites that have been closed? How often do they update with new listings?

Questions

  • How easy is it for visitors to browse through the site? Is the navigation in a suitable spot?
  • Based on how old the site is, are there enough sites listed? A link directory is a site type that relies on options, rather than quality.
  • Are the link categories clearly defined? Or are different categories lumped together like "requests" with "general graphics"?

General questions

These questions can be asked for all or most site types. Rather than list them in each category, I've just placed them here.

Sitely:
If the site in question has some sort of a "sitely" page, be sure to pay attention to quality (not quantity).

  • Are the link back buttons high-quality? Can the text on the button be easily read? Is the animation repeat speed too fast, making the button look tacky?
  • Are appropriate headers used to divide each category? (ex. link back, affiliate, credits, etc.)
  • Are there any broken links? Have the affiliates/directories linked back to the site you're reviewing?
  • Is the site owner properly crediting? Has he or she listed where he or she got resources, images, or textures? (Note: if you're reviewing a site that you think takes too much "inspiration" from another, don't be afraid to come out and say "Be sure to give proper credit where it's due").

Introductory paragraph:
This is the opening paragraph(s) at a site that introduces what the petpage is all about.

  • Has he or she used text styles appropriately? My general rule of thumb is to bold the site title and italicize what the site offers. For example: Welcome to Site Name, a page where you can request buttons!
  • Has the site owner introduced himself or herself and linked to his or her userlookup? For instance, My name's Turnip.
  • Is all of the key information included? (Site name, what the site offers, and link to the site owner's userlookup)
  • Is the site owner being overly wordy? Keep in mind that the longer the introduction, the less likely visitors will read through it.

Organization:
Organization can refer to where the site owner places his or her content, or how he or she has ordered the content on a specific page.

  • Is apce being used effectively?
  • Is there any rhyme and reason to how content is separated? For example, has he or she properly put banners and icons on separate pages or has he or she lumped everything together?



#6. Are your reviews in-depth or are they shallow?

Few people have the wisdom to prefer the criticism that would do them good, to the praise that deceives them. - Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Finally, the moment you've been waiting for! You've received a request and you're ready to start writing your review. Well, it's harder than it sounds, but hopefully the next few chapters will help you along the way.

Important topics...

What does "in-depth" really mean?

The most common misconception is that "in-depth" has some relation to the length of the review. This is a complete myth - just because a review may be pages in length doesn't mean it's in-depth. Alternatively, a simple "pro/con" review might be very in-depth but short at the same time. As a reviewer, the term "in-depth" means how far you'll go in explaining your opinions. A "shallow" review statement might be something like this:

I think the last button is your best one.
This is a "shallow" statement because it offers no explanation – it's skin deep, so to speak.

I think the last button is your best one because it's very high-quality.
Now, this statement is a bit better but it's still not very in-depth.

I think the last button is your best one because it's very high-quality. The animation looks absolutely spectacular.
Alright, you're getting there! You're making your opinion more in-depth by providing more explanation. Still, it's not as in-depth as it could be. Being in-depth is tougher than you thought, huh?

I think the last button is your best one because it's very high-quality. The animation looks absolutely spectacular because it helps fill in empty areas on the base image.
There you go – a much more in-depth statement than what we started with!

I think the last button is your best one because it's very high-quality. The animation looks absolutely spectacular because it helps fill in empty areas on the base image. This is important because empty space on a button draws a lot of negative attention and makes the overall style look lacking.
While the previous example is perfectly fine, you can go even a step further and talk about why a certain problem is a problem in the first place.

Don't tread in shallow waters

A review is meant to be informative, rather than being a simple list of what's "wrong" at a site. Sure, you're pointing out issues but remember to discuss the reasons as well.

Don't:
- (Insert issue here) / (insert points deducted here)

Do:
- (Insert issue here) / (insert why it's an issue) / (insert your explanation here) / (insert points deducted here)

In certain cases, you might want to go even further and write a brief explanation as to how the site owner can fix that issue. However, keep in mind that the "why" is always more important than the "how".

What is a review? It's an opinion that needs to be defended, not a list of facts or problems.

To summarize...

#7. The Key Ingredients

Too often we think we can act without explaining and take decisions without justifying them. - Peter Mandelson

If you've already read through How To Offer Great Service, then this chapter will feel very familiar. Since it deals specifically with reviews, I've copied and pasted the majority of the chapter over here.

I'll be outlining what I feel is the most important aspect a reviewer should keep in mind: explanation. It isn't enough to say that a layout is "low-quality" or that you "didn't like his or her graphics". When site owners apply for reviews, they are actively seeking opinions, suggestions, and comments about their sites. By making sure you're offering the best explanation you possibly can, you'll be giving them more help and things to think about!

Important topics...

Key ingredients to a helpful statement

Every statement made about an aspect of a site should contain three major ingredients which work together. Let's take a look at what they are.

What: This is the opening statement. Whether it's a broken link or mismatched colours on a layout, the "what" statement makes note of the issue that you're addressing. Most of the time, this observation is what constitutes your opinions. Thus, it can be debated.

Why: Follow up the "what" statement with a "why" statement. This reinforces your opinion in the "what" statement by giving the reader explanations as to why you made the statement that you did. This statement explains the problem and gives justifications as to why your opinions are valid.

How: Finish off your thought by telling them "how" to fix the issue in "what". The requirement of the "how" statement is debatable and in most cases, it isn't offered. Though the "why" statement is the most important, explaining how a problem can be avoided or fixed is also very useful. In essence, having a well argued why statement is enough. Still, for the sake of this guide, I'll include the "how" statement in the following examples.

Keep in mind, this formula works with both positive and negative comments. I'll show you some scenarios and apply these "key ingredients" to make review statements that are both informative and helpful.

Examples of how to use the key ingredients

Scenario #1: You're starting a new review on a site and beginning with the "First Impressions" section, you load up his or her petpage and the first thing you notice is the layout. Unfortunately, your first impression is quite negative. It seems that the image is too large and there's some side scrolling. Additionally, the image is low quality because it's quite blurry.

Building your statement(s):
In this scenario, there are two problems that are outlined: side scrolling, and the low-quality image. Because the issues are very different from one another, it's best to address these them separately to keep your thoughts organized and clear. First, let's deal with the side scrolling. I'm going to write as if I were the reviewer (note that in the "final" review, I wouldn't have "what" or "why" followed by a sentence. I'd just combine all three points into a structured paragraph).

First statement

What: When I first entered your site, I noticed that there was some side scrolling because your layout image is too large. My screen resolution is 1024 x 768.

(Side note: Clearly state the problem. Also, it's very helpful to the site owner if you include important details. In this case, you should include your screen resolution.)

Why: This is a problem because it makes your site seem less polished and the side scrolling will be inconvenient for people viewing your site. Make sure that your layout is optimized for display in all screen resolutions so that each and every one of your visitors can have the same positive experience at your site.

(Side note: In this statement, you're addressing why it's an issue in the first place, but also why this issue is important.)

How: My advice when designing layouts is to use a size of 1024 x 768 or less. This is the most common screen resolution for computers today so you'll be including a large percentage of your audience. If you want to be even safer, aim for a layout size that's 800 pixels wide or less. Older computers had screen resolutions of 800 x 600, but they're being phased out so unless your visitors have ancient computers, you can safely assume that your layout will fit.

Second statement

What: The main image for your layout is very blurry so you may want to consider changing it.

Why: Blurry images always attract negative attention and it makes the layout appear low-quality because there's no clear focal point for the visitor.

How: Whenever you choose an image for your layout, make sure that it's very clear and high-quality. Staying away from already blurred images will help. Additionally, avoid blowing up the image and making the original picture larger than it was. For example, if you find an image that's 500 pixels by 200 pixels, it shouldn't be resized any higher than that since this will degrade the image.

Analysis
As you can see, the "what" statement presents the issue, the "why" statement is the reviewer's explanation, and the "how" offers advice. In the first example, I did some extra research relating to the issue and found optimized screen resolutions and included this for the visitor. Note how in the second example, the "how" statement offers multiple ways to help the site owner.

This scenario dealt with a problem that may not be apparent to the actual site owner. For example, if they have a larger screen resolution, they won't have the same side scrolling issues. Because the problem is essentially "hidden" from the site owner, you need to be able to apply clear reasoning on why he or she should change a part of his or her site that he or she doesn't have an issue with.

Scenario #2: The owner of a relatively older graphics site has asked you to review them. The site has been open for about 4 months now, and the site owner has applied for an in-depth review. After going through his or her site, you realize that he or she doesn't have a lot of content (specifically, banners). However, you're very impressed with the high-quality content as it's some of the best you've seen.

Building your statement(s):
You should root out the key facts to focus on: older graphics site, not a lot of content, high-quality. From there, you can begin to structure your statements. In this situation, you can talk about all three issues in one large paragraph, or perhaps you'd like to separate them. Since the issues are very intertwined, I'll discuss them as a whole. See if you can identify the three statements: what, why, and how.

Statements: Your site has been active for four months, but you lack the amount of content that is normally seen with older sites. You don't offer a lot of content, and given that you state that you're a banner-focussed site, there isn't a lot to choose from. However, what you currently have on your site is very high-quality. The icons were well colourized, especially the second one because the sharpness makes the image "pop" out. All of the banners were well cropped, and the text placement is perfect because the focus is on the text. Because you've been open for quite some time, having a page that doesn't offer a lot of content with few updates in between means that you won't be getting visitors returning to your site. Though you may get new visitors from time to time, be sure to focus on giving people reasons to return to your site. Additionally, adding more content means more choice for visitors.

Analysis

Now, this was a pretty brief statement based on the issue at hand and you would definitely need to add a bit more to the "how" statement, but you get the idea. Discussing content amount is always a tricky thing because site owners do have outside lives and they get busy too (this is a true fact!). Keeping that in mind, you don't want to go out and bluntly say "Make at least two banners a week" because that would just discourage them. Instead, give them reasons as to why they might want to increase their production and nudge them in the right direction.

Scenario #3: You are currently writing the organization section of your review for a fellow review site. Completely impressed with the way they've handled the organization of their site, you have nothing negative to say at all.

Building your statement(s):
One of the most common mistakes a reviewer can do is not explain his or her positive statements. Remember that even though you have no problems with something you should still give your reasons as to why you think so.

What: I thought your site's organization was fantastic!

Why: It was very easy to navigate the site because you've organized your site's content in a meaningful way, dividing the content into appropriate pages for easy access. Also, I like how you put your site's portfolio on a different petpage. This just makes it much faster for the main page to load and since the portfolio isn't a majorly important part of your site, it makes sense to put it on another petpage.

How: In this case, a "how" statement wouldn't be necessary. You're already telling them why you think they're doing a great job, so you don't have to offer any suggestions for change if you feel it isn't needed.

Analysis

Writing down the negative aspects of a site is important because it can improve the overall site. However, spending time talking about the positive aspects can be just as useful. Even though you don't have any particular issue, you should still explain why you thought they did a great job. By telling a site owner what you thought worked well, he or she can keep on doing the right things.


What? Why? How?

The more you explain yourself, the more likely it is people will take your opinions to heart and make changes around their sites. Reviews are meant to be an analyses, rather than a to-do list of things to change. If you're a reviewer, be sure to "review your reviews". Ask yourself if you've fully explained your stance. Here's a simple exercise you can do. While reviewing a site, you're most likely going to be making quick notes on the side (the "what" statements). Every time you write an "issue" down, ask yourself why? Then write down your explanation. Read the new explanation and ask yourself "why" again. Keep on repeating this until you have something like this (drag and drop for full view):

The explanations "end" when you are unable to continue asking "why". By then, you've most likely fully explained your stance.

To summarize...

#8. Positives have a place

Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man's growth without destroying his roots. - Frank Howard Clark

Like I mentioned in the previous chapter, a common misconception about reviews is that they should only point out the negative things about a site. However, as a reviewer you should try to include positive aspects that catch your eye. In this chapter, the focus will be on positive review statements and their purpose in a review.

Important topics...

Why should I include positive things in a review?

A site owner requests reviews to know more about what to improve about his or her site but positive review statements will let the requester know what he or she is doing right so far, which is just as important.

Here's a few examples of a positive review statements:

- I really like how you've put all of your content using tables. This helps save a lot of room and decreases the amount of scrolling your page will have.

- Your layout made an excellent first impression. The colours really caught my eye and the textures were used perfectly.

- You have a very great eye for text placement on your buttons. There's nothing that needs to be changed!

A site owner works hard - why not give him or her some words of encouragement? If something catches your eye for positive reasons, take some time out and pat him or her on the back.

Why include positive comments in a review? Simply because the site owner will lose their confidence if the review is plain negative. There is no point of running a site that no one likes and a very negative review might encourage the person to close their site. If writing a pro & con review make sure you have about the same amount of arguments for each side. When someone is focused on how bad the site is, he tends to ignore the good side and vise versa! Each site has its positives, and if you dig deep enough you will find plenty.

- Madame

Is there such thing as an overly negative review?

The simple answer is yes. Though you don't want to blindly praise the site owner, you do want to include positive comments wherever possible. A lot of the time, you'll be reviewing new site owners and you don't want their first foray in the site community to be a depressing one. They've asked you for a review, not a list of "you're doing this wrong, your site stinks!" issues.

If you truly can't find anything positive to say, I usually like to include something like this in my final comments:

- Though there's a lot that still needs to be improved, keep up the hard work because owning a site is very rewarding.

- Best of luck to your and your site in the future! With more hard work, I can't wait to see what your site looks like down the road.

The key here is encouragement for the future or after he or she has made some changes to the site. You should definitely try to encourage the requester especially if he or she has received a low score.

Don't turn a blind eye in favour of praise

What's one of the worst things you can do as a reviewer? Blindly praise a site owner and try to stay away from presenting any issues. I've mentioned this a lot already but reviews are meant to help the site owner so you shouldn't be afraid to voice your opinions, even if they are negative. If the colour palette a site owner is using totally clashes with the main images of a layout, say it. If the animation on a button is way too fast and makes the image look strange, say it. How else is he or she going to improve if you keep quiet?

A lot of reviewers struggle with the question of "how harsh is too harsh" when it comes to reviews. Yet you don't want to tiptoe around a glaring flaw, either. Explain politely what the issue is, without using personal remarks.

- Lifaen

To summarize...




#9. A Compendium of Tips

Praise and criticism seem to me to operate exactly on the same level. If you get a great review, it's really thrilling for about ten minutes. If you get a bad review, it's really crushing for ten minutes. Either way, you go on. - Ann Patchett

This chapter doesn't really have a theme and is just a bunch of random tips that have to do with review sites. They didn't fit into any other chapter so it's basically a potpourri of tips! From service to site theme, you'll find a bit of everything here.

Put yourself in the mind of the site owner. Yes, you're reviewing his or her site from the eyes of a visitor, but you should also try to look at the page from the site owner's eyes. Why do you think he or she made the particular choices that he or she did?

Think you'll be busy soon? Close your requests immediately! There's nothing worse than having disgruntled people waiting weeks for their reviews. They should never have to wait that long to receive feedback.

Along the same lines, limit your waiting list to something manageable. When designing your waiting list, think about how long the last person on the list will have to wait. Unless you're finishing a review a day, a waiting list around 10 or more is too much. You're likely going to deliver poor service to those at the end of the line.

Give analogies and examples. References, screenshots of their layouts, links to outside guides and tutorials – these things will help them learn and is part of the "how" statement. Screenshots really help since the requesters may see their pages differently (for instance, if they're using a different browser or have a different screen resolution).

Your review site offers a service. Thus, you need to focus on providing high-quality service in addition to high-quality reviews. Your requesters should never have to wait more than seven days for their reviews. Any longer and you're either not reviewing fast enough or simply allowing too many people on your waiting list.

Don't be worried about "hurting the site owner's feelings" in your review. If you've written your review using correct language and an assertive tone, there's no reason to fear this. You're not here to blindly praise the site you're reviewing – you're here to offer your own thoughts, whether positive or negative. The requester should be fully aware of this when he or she requesting.

Keep old reviews for a few weeks after taking them off your site. Sometimes, a site owner may want to look back at his or her previous review so it would be convenient for him or her if you kept a copy of it on hand.

Make sure your site "theme" never extends to the navigation links. For example, take a look at Frequent Flyer, a review site that uses a travel theme. However, the main links have "normal" names like pick-up, request, and home. This is because it's easier for visitors to understand the links if you make them as simple as possible. They shouldn't have to guess what a link like "tickets" means (is this a link to rubrics? Requests? Rules?).

Always provide links where possible. If you're referencing a specific site, make sure that it links to that page. It'll be much easier and more convenient for the requester.

Format is important for your rubrics as well. Just like your actual reviews, don't squish your rubrics into a tiny div box and leave it at that. If you do want to put them in a box, make the height at least 200 pixels. At Frequent Flyer, I use Evan's style of "false anchoring". If you use a similar style for your site, be sure to credit (ex. Original code for rubric organization by Evan).

Having a "credentials" page is super nifty! A page of credentials is where you list your strengths and weaknesses. This allows site owners to know more about you as a reviewer before they request. Here's an example of a credentials page. If you decide to incorporate this idea into your site, be sure to credit Rika as she originally came up with the concept for her own review guide. For example: Credentials idea by Rika.

Try to keep your "final comment" section brief. It's not meant to be a complete summary of your review, but you can repeat something if you feel it's absolutely necessary or important. The "final comments" should help reiterate important things you've touched in the review so far, and may include some closing statement to finish everything off.

Is the site owner's work well represented? For instance, if you're reviewing a button request site, make sure that all of the link back buttons are made by the owner (i.e. he or she hasn't used any that are made by other people). Especially with button sites, using buttons that other people made is false advertisement. I've seen many request sites that use high-quality link back buttons but offer low-quality ones themselves.

Using premade layouts should never be a problem! Just because a site is using a premade layout doesn't mean you deduct points right away. If the site owner is using a premade graphic-styled layout (like those from Nienke's Premades), review it as you would a normal custom layout. In other words, look at the quality of the premade, the colour palette, and other aspects such as navigation design and placement. Do not take away points just because it's a "premade". However, if he or she is using a template like those from That Kills Me, then focus on how he or she has edited the layout to customize it. Here, points can be deducted if he or she is still using default colours like grey for the background and text styles. If he or she hasn't put any effort into making a template his or her own, that's cause for deduction.

Your rules should be short and sweet. Anything more than 10 bullet points and you're getting overly complicated. Requesters shouldn't have to read novels before sending in their forms, so be sure to cut down your rules so that you only focus on the important points. Less important issues should be moved to the "FAQ" section.

Should you have "award" icons/buttons at your site? That's completely up to you. Like attaching scores to a review, it's up to you as the reviewer whether or not you want to offer it to your requesters. There's nothing wrong with giving "award" graphics to those who get high marks since a high scores mean they've worked hard on their sites!




#10. Check your spelling

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. - Winston Churchill

Because the content at review sites is text-based, proper spelling and grammar are key issues. Additionally, sentence structure matters as well! These are things that are important not only in your own reviews, but can pop up when you're reviewing other sites as well.

Important topics...

Be the ultimate proof reader!

One mistake new reviewers make is posting their reviews straight after they've finished writting them. Wait a minute! What about proof reading? Be sure to read through your finished review at least once before pressing the "Save changes" button.

Here's what I do with my own reviews:

- Copy and paste my finished review into my coding
- Click "Preview Changes"
- Go to the page where my new review is
- Read through the entire review checking for formatting and spelling/grammar errors
- Close that window; go back to my coding and make necessary changes; click "Preview Changes"
- Briefly go through and note the fixes
- Click "Save Changes"

I cannot say enough about grammar and spelling. Once your visitor has decided to stay at your site, they will begin reading through it. Correct grammar and spelling make it easier for them to navigate your site comfortably and understand what you're saying. It's as important as a professional link-back button.

- Lifaen

Common errors

Here are some of the most common mistakes that even veteran reviewers can be guilty of:

- Writing "you" instead of "your" (Example: I like you layout. It's great!)
- Confusing "its" and "it's" (Example: Its a great layout. The code should be in it's textarea.)
- Not starting sentences with capitals (Example: your site needs improvement.)
- Comma splices (Example: My name is Turnip and welcome to my site, this site offers a lot of icons and graphics.)
- Overdoing the exclamation marks (Example: Your layout looked spectacular!!!)
- Writing in all capitals (Example: The rules are important. PLEASE read them!)
- Mixing their, there, and they're (Example: The rules are important. There their for a reason!)

One last thing to keep in mind is different spelling for certain words. You shouldn't be taking off marks because someone spells it "color" rather than "colour".

Sentence structure and fluidity

Analyzing sentence structure and how it flows requires a more skillful eye than catching a simple spelling error because it's much more subjective. Still, here are some helpful tips that you can keep in mind.

Short, abrupt sentences:

Example: Welcome to my site. My name is Turnip. I offer graphics and icons. I also have premade layouts.

Reading that can be quite tedious! Hopefully, you'll understand now what I mean by "flow". Here, the short sentences never really seem fluid. Here's a revised example:

Example: Welcome to my site. My name's Turnip and I offer graphics, icons, and premade layouts.

There are a few changes made. First, I changed "name is" to "name's" as it reads more easily. Second, I combined the last three sentences into one.

Overly wordy sentences:

Example: My name is Turnip and I'd like to welcome you to my site that opened in April 2012 and we offer graphics, icons, and premade layouts.

Sometimes, it's better to break things down. The sentence above is too "wordy" or long. It deals with so many different topics so let's simplify it.

Example: My name's Turnip and I'd like to welcome you to my site. We opened in April 2012 and provide graphics, icons, and premade layouts.

To summarize...




#11. Formatting your Review

Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance or a stranger. - Franklin P. Jones

Now that you've finished writing your review, it's time to post it on your site! You might think that formatting doesn't play into the quality of a review, but it actually does.

Important topics...

Using headers and text styles

One way to help separate your review into smaller "bite-sized" chunks is to use headers. For example, look at each chapter so far. The very top of the page uses a primary header (for this page it's "Formatting your review") but then secondary headers are also used (for example "Using headers and text styles" and the one below, "Tiny box is tiny"). These headers are used to draw attention to new sections of the page. From a visual standpoint, it also adds a nice burst of colour to your page! Here are the headers designed for this site:

Header one

Header two

Header three

Header four

When you are formatting reviews that focus on specific categories (such as the "classic" rubric), use headers to help segment your review into smaller pieces so that each section becomes more self-contained. For example:

Rubric: Classic
Date: April 28th, 2012

First impression

Write your blurbs here.

Score: 5/10

Layout design

Write your blurbs here.

Score: 5/10

Make sure that your headers aren't too large because then they will just add to the amount of scrolling and would look a bit awkward.

Moving on, text styles can also be used to highlight key words or phrases that you think the reader should remember or pay attention to. For example:

The base image appears poorly cropped. It appears that the character's face is too far to the left, meaning the button has no focal point.

Make sure that you're not overdoing the text styles though, like this:

Your layout was great! I thought it looked excellent because the focal image was very clear and colourful!

What a lot of new reviewers do is write important words in all capitals like this:

You need to add MORE SPACE between each textarea.

However, using text styles is much more effective because it catches people's attention. Also, writing in all capitals implies yelling, does it now? Try writing it like this:

You need to add more space between each textarea.

If you feel that bolding or italicizing aren't enough, try creating more text styles. For example, I use underline to really emphasize something important. Here's the basic coding:

Here is an example of that code.

Easy to read?

Don't even think about putting an entire review in this tiny div box. The height is only 150 pixels. You would not squeeze a review into here - it's just too small! Imagine if you wrote a lengthier review (like a "classic" rubric). That's a lot of scrolling!











































































































Thinking about squeezing your long review into a tiny div box? Think again! You'll only be doing a disservice to your visitors and requester. Easy readability should be one of your main focuses when formatting your review. Here are some quick tips:

General formatting tips

Here are some general formatting tips:

Use bullets or space out each review statement using paragraphs. The major problem that most review sites have is that they clump their review into one giant walls of text. Sometimes they use line breaks to create "new" paragraph, but this doesn't work because line breaks do not make a space like paragraphs. Here are some examples of "dos" and "don'ts":

Do this for a "pro/con" review:

Pro:
This is a pro comment
This is a pro comment

Con:
This is a con comment
This is a con comment

Or, use appropriate spacing if you don't want to use bullets.

Pro:
Talk about issue #1 here.

A different issue here (note the paragraph space between each topic).

Con:
Talk about a problem here.

Talk about a completely different topic here.

Don't do this for pro/con rubrics:

Pro:
Write a pro comment here. Write yet another pro comment here (even if you're talking about something totally unrelated!). For example, your layout looked great! I really liked the colours. The link back buttons are all high-quality.

Con:
Con comment here, followed by another con comment. Rinse and repeat. Don't write all of your comments into one giant paragraph, especially if you're dealing with various topics! It's just unorganized – used bullets instead!

Do this for "paragraph" styled rubrics:

Introduce the problem/issue and talk about it, blah blah. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas sodales neque, sit amet dignissim eros ultrices in. Donec molestie vestibulum dolor eget feugiat.

Introduce the second issue (note that this problem is totally unrelated to the first one), talk about it, blah blah. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas sodales neque, sit amet dignissim eros ultrices in.

Don't do this for "paragraph" styled rubrics:

Introduce your first issue and talk about it. For instance, your layout needs improvement as the main image looked exceptionally blurry. Try to sharpen the base picture to make it look crisper.
Introduce your second issue here. Note how there's only a simple "br" line break between each paragraph, rather than a "paragraph" or [p] code. This "squishes" your review together, making it harder to read.

Pro/con reviews should always be formatted using bullets or carefully spaced out paragraphs. Because you'll be talking about various different topics, putting them into one giant paragraph does the requester no help. It'll be harder to focus on each individual point and using bullets would make your review easier to follow. Now, "bullets" doesn't mean you have to use those images. What I mean is that each issue should take up its own brief paragraph. Some reviewers use image bullets because this is visually appealing plus it's much easier to follow each topic. However, you can also use dashes (ex. -).

Have a large screenshot or image example? Scale it down! Whenever you have a larger image in your review, make sure you scale it down so that it fits nicely in your div box without adding to the vertical or horizontal scrolling. Here's an example:

Here's an example of what the code will produce:

Are you correcting someone's spelling or grammar error? Make sure you separate each issue into paragraphs rather than lumping everything into a giant wall of text. For example (note that not all sites give an "explanation" for the issues and may only provide the edited version):

Do:

You wrote: welcome to ths site! my names Turnip.
It should be: Welcome to this site! My name's Turnip.
Explanation: You forgot to use capitals at the beginning of the sentence. Additionally, the word "names" requires an apostrophe.

You wrote: The graphics is good!
This should be written: The graphics are good!

In the introduction you wrote My fave item is the neo colo drinks. This should be written My favourite items are the Neo Cola drinks.

Don't:
In your introduction, you wrote "welcome to ths site! my names Turnip." This should be "Welcome to this site! My name's Turnip." instead. On the last "extras" page you, the last word in the top paragraph needs a capital. Also, don't forget to put a period at the end. In the "sitely" section, make sure to capitalize the "N" in the word "Neomail".


Each spelling, grammar, or sentence structure issue should be self-contained. In other words, don't pile every single issue into one giant paragraph. This will just make it much harder for the reader to follow and edit his or her site. Space each error into a separate paragraph.

To summarize...




#12. Common road blocks during reviews

Improvement begins with I. - Arnold H. Glasow

As reviewers, we'll all have pitfalls and experience various obstacles along the way. The important thing is not to panic because many of your fellow reviewers will probably have run into the same problem. In this section, I'll be compiling a bunch of "situations" that might plague your reviewing "career"!

I don't know what to write in this section!

This is a very common problem so you're not alone!

What to do: First, think about why you're having problems with writing a specific section. That can really help determine where to go from there and you find ways to work around this roadblock. For example, are you just tired of reviewing? Maybe take a break and come back in a few hours. By then, you'll be looking at the site with fresh eyes! In some cases, you might not be experienced in a certain area. For instance, if you're using a standard rubric to review a pet application, part of the review will undoubtedly involve some sort of "content" assessment. If you're not familiar with applications, then you'll probably want to think about offering a separate rubric for sites you're not comfortable reviewing the content for.

Lastly, if all else fails, just be honest. If you really couldn't come up with any suggestion (whether positive or negative) and if your mind is drawing a completely blank, leave that section and let the requester know that you didn't have anything to say. It's completely okay to admit that you need to leave a certain section blank. For example, you might write something like this:

I'm sorry for the inconvenience but I wasn't able to offer any helpful suggestions for this section. When looking through your site, I wasn't able to come up with anything useful that I could write down.

Don't think that this statement makes you a "bad" reviewer. It actually makes you an honest one. There's nothing worse than lying your way through a review and offering opinions that you don't stand by. At the end of the day, telling them you didn't have any suggestions or comments is better than giving them false information.

If you're absolutely determined to write something down, then this next bit of advice could be your last resort. In chapter 15 at the bottom of the page, I talk about referencing other reviewers and using their quotes as part of your own reviews. Give this section a read and perhaps it might help. This isn't to say that you should solely rely on other people's work so use quotations sparingly.

What not to do: Never, under any circumstances, deliberately copy another reviewer's work or paraphrase them. Though it's "just" words, stealing a review is like stealing graphics - you're taking something that you didn't come up with and saying it's yours. If you're ever stuck and you don't know what to write, never visit other review sites to "see" what they wrote about the page you're reviewing. Even though you may be thinking about getting "inspired", this is a very bad idea because you'll be predisposed to write down what the other reviewers said.

Ever since becoming a reviewer, I've limited my exposure to other review sites simply because I don't want to introduce any bias into my own work. When I receive a review request, I never visit other review sites beforehand to "see" what they have said.


The site I'm reviewing is perfect. I can't find anything wrong!

Just keep one thing in mind: no site is perfect as there's always something that can be improved. There are so many aspects of a site that it's extremely rare to find perfection in every single one of them. There will be, however, sites that come very close to being as "perfect" as you can be. When this happens, here's what you can do:

Like the previous "road block", if you truly can't find anything negative to say, try offering them alternatives instead. For example,

Your current layout is absolutely breathtaking! The colour palette works very well together, and the image is perfectly cropped. In the future, perhaps make the content area a bit larger to accomodate all of your content. I noticed in your updates that you upload a lot of content per day, so it would be helpful to have a larger area to display all of it.

While you may not find anything to change in the present, offer alternatives and suggestions for the future.

Additionally, rather than keeping each category blank or simply writing "No issues were found", you should focus on what positive features stood out. For example,

The way you've organized your icons is perfect. You're using space well by utilizing tables.

Remember: positive feedback lets the site owner know what he or she is doing right!


I want to add something "fresh" to my site. What should I do?

If you feel your review site's gotten a bit stale, here are some tips to help liven things up:

- Add a "theme" to your layout: Though not everyone likes having a theme or story element to their site, this is just one thing to consider. It really changes the atmosphere at your review site because the visitor becomes more invested in the narrative.

- Revise your rubrics: Perhaps you might want to add more rubrics! Having different rubrics is not only great for visitors, but as a reviewer, you won't be stuck writing the same "classic" or "pro/con" review every single time.

- Some new visuals: Change your layout, add some spiffy graphics around your page, get a new background - all of these things will help change the aesthetics of your site. Sometimes, nothing says "fresh" more than a completely new layout.

- Work on some "extra" features: Though this may increase your workload, adding "extras" to your site gives you something other than reviews to look forward to. Some common "extras" include featured sites and rankings.


Is it okay to go on a hiatus?

It's perfectly okay! If you think you need a break from reviewing, go ahead! Don't feel as if you're "letting people down" because this simply isn't the case. Sometimes taking a quick break from your reviews will allow you to come back fresher.

However, before you go on a hiatus make sure you do a few things:

  • Close your requests.
  • Somewhere on your front page, post that you're going on a hiatus. Include a date if possible.
  • Finish any of the reviews on your waiting list.
  • If you're unable to finish your reviews, contact the site owners on the waiting list and tell them the situation.



#13. How to deal with...

I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses. - Johannes Kepler

Continuing from the previous chapter, this section will focus on dealing with issues that will pop up along the way.


How to deal with reviewing other review sites

First, you might be asking yourself "as a reviewer, should I review other review sites?" The answers are definitely, absolutely, and of course! If you're uncomfortable with reviewing review sites, then it speaks to your own review site and perhaps your lack of confidence in understanding the mechanics of a review. If you're new to reviewing, then it's better to say something like "I don't review other review sites" in your list of rules. This is for the best since you're just beginning to understand what makes a review high-quality.

If you're a veteran reviewer, there's absolutely no reason not to review other review sites, especially when it's a newer reviewer asking for your help. When you critique a review site, it's like any other site that offers service and content. Just because the type of content offered is words doesn't mean you'll be doing anything differently. Look at the quality of his or her reviews (such as his or her explanations) and the quality of the rubrics. Don't focus on whether or not you agree with his or her opinion - that's not your job. Instead, focus on how he or she is writing his or her reviews (keep in mind what makes a review high-quality versus a low-quality one). There's a section for review sites in chapter 5 which helps you to begin your assessment of review sites.

How to deal with criticism

You work extremely hard on your site so chances are you'll be nervous about getting your site reviewed. "Criticism" isn't a word that should frighten you, but instead it should be something to help improve your site. If you request a review, expect criticism and, especially from more established review sites, expect them to take every account of your site into question. You'll undoubtedly read negative comments about your site which might make you feel as if your site isn't doing as well as you hoped. This is a good thing. If you go into a review thinking your site is "perfect", then that's a bit overconfident and blindly optimistic. There's always room for improvement. When you are dealing with negative criticism, take the reviewer's explanation into account. Has he or she fully explained his or her opinions?

How to deal with a complaint

Though this doesn't happen often, sometimes you may get a complaint from one of the site owners you reviewed.

If the complaint is about a low score, then it's likely the case that the site owner only wanted a review to win an "award" or get a high score (see the section "how to deal with getting a low score" below). The thing to remember is that you can't just change a score and make it higher just because the site owner complained. The score you give is based on the comments you wrote in your review. It doesn't make sense to change it afterwards. Just calmly tell the site owner that they shouldn't be worrying about the score (it's not the end of the world if they receive a 2/10). Even if you give them a 100/100, A+, and a gold star afterwards, it's not going to help improve his or her site.

If the complaint is about you being too "harsh" or "unfair", then be sure to listen to the comments. Why does that person think you were being too harsh or unfair? Be wary however, as this may be a sneaky way of complaining about the low score. If the person disagrees with your comments (for example, if you said something like "Your buttons need a lot of improvement because of so and so..."), calmly tell him or her that it was only your opinion and that it's not "fact".

How to deal with theft

If you strongly think that another reviewer has been copying your work, the simplest thing to do is to approach the person and ask directly. This doesn't mean going out accusing someone straight off the bat, but just send him or her a polite neomail and ask if perhaps he or she has read your review before writing there own (this is usually how reviews get copied - if ideas "stick" in the minds of a reviewer and he or she remembers yours while writing).

How to deal with getting a low score

The first thing to do is don't panic! Just because your review site (or any other site) gets a low score doesn't mean it's the end of your site-owning career. A review score should be treated as a guage instead. If you get a low score, then it just means that your site needs some improvement and fixing. Remember that a low score is only an indicator of where your site currently stands. A site that received 20/50 won't be the same site a couple of months down the road. Think of it this way: a site is like a movie, but a review score is like a photograph. One thing changes constantly, while the other is just a snap shot in time.

What you shouldn't do after getting a low score is complain about it to the reviewer. You asked the reviewer for a review and he or she has done his or her job. Whether or not they've provided a high-quality review is beside the point. At the end of the day, the comments and suggestions are what should matter most to a site owner - not the score. If someone is more focussed on getting a high review score, then his or her heart is in the wrong place and he or she is not serious about improving his or her site anyways.

How to deal with giving a low score

As a reviewer, there will be times when you give a low score to a site. If your scoring system is fair and consistent, then you shouldn't have to feel "guilty" or "bad" about doing so. Your final score given should reflect the comments you wrote. Think about it logically rather than say, "I don't want this site owner to feel bad". It doesn't make sense to write a whole lot of negative comments but then give a site 9/10.

How to deal with a major influx of requests

Usually toward the holiday and summer months, you'll probably get more requests than usual. This might be a bit of a strain since reviews don't exactly take 10 minutes to write - some longer ones take upwards of three or four hours! Dealing with numerous requests sent in might be overwhelming but here are some tips:
- Limit how many reviews you accept at any given time. Usually, site owners will have a set number of slots in a waiting list. I would recommend no more than three or four at a time (especially for new reviewers).
- If you anticipate being busy in the next few days, close your requests immediately (even if you aren't busy at the moment).
- Feeling a bit burnt out with all the requests? Take a break and set up a hiatus period.

How to deal with people who don't change their sites

One of the things that will irk many reviewers are people who read their reviews and don't bother changing a single thing on their site. Unfortunately, this is to be expected as sometimes owners care more about the score and winning an "award" than actually putting effort into their sites. There's really nothing you can do about this. After all, you can't go around and say "I wrote this review, so you have to edit your site". One to to try to get people to think more seriously about a review is putting something like this in your rules:

I put a lot of effort and time into a review. Please make sure you're completely serious about improving your site before requesting a review.

How to deal with being a reviewer

After owning a variety of sites, I strongly believe that being a reviewer is the most thankless in terms of being appreciated for the amount of sheer effort and time you put into your reviews. That's not to say that you won't find it rewarding, but more so than any other site, you'll get complaints, people not being happy with their scores, and generally people just disagreeing with everything you say even if you said something completely obvious (like there's a linked border on your site or "there's a broken image here"). To be a reviewer, you need thick skin because your requesters can be pretty brutal at times. Be prepared to deal with people who just don't understand how much effort a review takes. Just how does one deal with being a reviewer? By being prepared. Just know what no matter what you write, there will always be someone out there to critique it (whether good or bad), and there will undoubtedly be some who complain.


#14. A Review hypocrite

A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation. - Adlai E. Stevenson

When I review other review sites, one issue that pops up time again (especially with new reviewers) is the fact that the site owner ignores his or her own suggestions. The very problems that are pointed out in his or her reviews can be found at his or her own review site!

Important topics...

Practice what you preach

One of the things that makes a person an adept reviewer is if he or she can understand what makes something an issue at a site. A lot of the time it's new and inexperienced reviewers that don't know what to write or how to properly critique a site. While they may read other reviews to get "inspiration", chances are these issues are things they themselves will never catch since they don't understand why they are problems in the first place.

For instance, I often see this phrase in many reviews:

Some of your buttons have linked borders. Add border="0" to fix this.
However, when I search the reviewer's own site, there are have multiple linked borders as well!

My advice is to practice what you preach - take your own suggestions and apply them to your site. For every comment that you write down, ask yourself Can this be applied to my site? As an example, let's say you wrote this in your review:

Your layout didn't make a positive impression because of a few reasons. First, your site title isn't noticeable. It's simply plain text and doesn't stand out. Try using a faded shadow drop or even a glow effect. Second, the background looks very plain because it's just a solid colour. Perhaps find a nice patterned background to add some more accents to your page.
Now, look at your own layout. Is your site title visible and well designed? Does your background work well with your layout?

Checking your own site

Owning a site can be exciting but after a while, the lustre tends to fade as we get boggled down with boring site maintenance. However, it's these small things that really catch a veteran reviewer's eye. Take some time out now and then to check up on these minor issues:

Linked borders: Check any linked images around your site and add border="0" wherever necessary. Take care to also check your link back buttons and their codes. Supplying a button without the border="0" code is inconvenient for visitors. Additionally, I've found that new button makers tend to forget border="0" when supplying the code for pick-up.

Centering text: Probably the most common issue with newbie site owners (and regrettably, even some veteran ones), centering large amounts of text is a big problem. Centered text makes it harder to read but also makes the page look messy. Only small blurbs of text and graphics should be centered (large bodies of text should be left aligned).

Using smilies everywhere: It would get a bit irritating if site owners used smilies all over his or her page. It's not only a bit unprofessional, but there's also just no need for it.

Lastly, you may want to check out the Top 10 Common Mistakes guide that I whipped up a while ago. These represent the most prevalent issues that can be found but are often ignored by site owners.

To summarize...




#15. Dealing With Plagiarism

Originality is the one thing which unoriginal minds cannot feel the use of. - John Stuart Mill

While it's very easy to spot if someone is stealing graphics or other visual content (like layouts), spotting similarities in written content often goes by unnoticed and labelled as "coincidence". With reviewers, one of the increasingly common problems is plagiarism.

If you're a reviewer, how do you go about writing a review that is both helpful but original? In this mini-guide, I'll provide some tips on how to steer clear of plagiarism.

Important topics...

Staying away from other reviewers

If you're reviewing a certain site, never read other reviews for that site beforehand. For instance, if I was reviewing Frequent Flyer, then I wouldn't read any reviews for that site before writing one of my own. This helps in many ways. First, you won't be influenced by other opinions as you'll be looking at a site without any preconceived notions. If you read a review that says something like The image of the cupcakes on the top right were very blurry but the major issue was the bokeh texture. It was too harsh and obvious and wasn't blended properly into the image, then you might be inclined to agree. At the very least, this statement will still be on your mind and your attention will automatically be focussed there.

Unfortunately, here's a real example of plagiarism that I've come across. Note that all of the text is copied directly from the reviews and no changes were made to the order or wording (usernames have been omitted).

I wrote in my review:

Moving on, never center large bodies of text. Centered text is always harder to read because the edges are uneven. If you open one of your novels or textbooks, is the text centered? No, it's aligned to the left. The only time centering should be done is for images or small blurbs of text that you want emphasized. Centering large amounts of text (I.e. your entire magazine) makes your page visually unappealing and sloppy.

Be sure to make usernames link to their respective user lookups. For example, "Interview With Uber Usul Owner (username) - By (username)". The username should be linked to their lookup.

The AC Staff Tournament article was disappointing to read because it didn't actually tell me anything. As a new reader, I was completely confused by this brief article because it made no mention to what the staff tournament was, and how the winner was decided. It was less of an article and more of a random announcement.

The image for Autumn Looks is very low quality and there's quite a bit of pixilation and "blurriness". This is due to the fact that it was saved as a JPG. Instead, save images as PNG. Saving as a PNG means the image will retain its crisp quality.

They wrote in their review:

Be sure to link the authors of the features and articles to their user lookups. Where it says 'Usuki Adoptable - By (username)', link (username) to their user lookup instead of having to copy and paste that in to the Neopets search bar on the side. I would do the same with the rest of the usernames.

Another thing I would change in Blank Canvas Magazine's content is that you shouldn't center the text. Centered text can be quite hard to read. If you open a magazine or novel, the text isn't centered. It is aligned to the left. I believe the only time centering should take place is when you have a small blurb or image.

I was browsing through the content and I clicked on AC Staff Tournament. It's quite disappointing when I read it for it didn't tell me any information at all. Questions were racing through my mind. How was the winner determined? What IS the Staff Tournament? I find this more of an announcement rather than an article.

Also, the Autumn Looks images were very low quality. I checked the image file properties and found it was saved as a JPG. Resave that as a PNG to make that image higher quality.

See the major similarities? Is this a coincidence? Well, at first you might think that. They used different examples (in some cases), and the order in which they present each issue differs. But is that enough to distinguish the two? Take a closer look at how each one is similar and you'll end up with quite a list.

For instance, let's take a look at the first issue discussed about centered text. Key phrases (ex. "small blurbs") are copied and "real life" examples are used (ex. Novels, textbooks).

In essence, the plagiarised version is simply a paraphrased version that doesn't take the other reviewer's own views into account. It simply revises what I originally wrote.

So in the example above, you can definitely see how reading another review ahead of writing one can alter your perception, cloud your judgement, and put your focus on what another reviewer wrote about.

Go into a review with your own set of questions.

This is similar to the point above where you shouldn't rely on another reviewer to do your job. If you go into a review with a list of questions or areas to focus on, chances are it'll differ from other reviewers. For instance, the idea of "professionalism" can differ depending on who you ask so already there's less risk for plagiarism if you write your review based on your ideas.

Here are some starting questions that might aid in your review writing. These are very generic but they're supposed to be.

Going back to the previous section, if you read another review before writing your own, here are things that would stick in your mind:

In the first set of questions, you're allowing yourself to dictate your opinions - what do you think? How do you think the issue should be resolved. However, in the second set of questions, you're clinging onto someone else's opinions and focus - he or she pointed out this issue, so I "have" to say the same thing.

Spot the differences, spot the similarities

Paraphrasing is not how you write a review. Again, this section relates to the first one, but it's pretty much the basis for the more serious plagiarism problems.

Version 1 (example taken directly from site) In the organization section, you wrote "The only problem is that where you put your banner requests". Keep in mind that many sites put extraneous requests in their "extra" section, so this point isn't really an issue. Also keep in mind that the site is called Meow Buttons and in their introduction, they only discuss taking button requests. Take Illusion for example, which places their button requests in the "extras" as well. If it's not a major part of their site, why should they put it "somewhere more noticeable"?

Version 2 (example taken directly from site; spelling errors remain unchanged) Now to the review, you said The only problem is that where you put your banner requests.It's kind of hard to find, so I suggest you to put it somewhere where it is more noticeable.. It's a great what? why? how? statement. However, it's not appropiate to add. Some people add extra requests to the site. Take, Illusion for example. It solely focuses on graphics, so requests would be considered as extras. Meow's Buttons is a button request site that solely focuses on buttons, so banners would be considered as extras.

One of the major indications for plagiarism include using the same example. In this case, both sites reference another site, Illusion. You have to ask yourself, "there are plenty of other sites to choose from. Why did they choose that particular one?"

A more "hidden" way to spot for plagiarism is to look at the actual order the reviewers present their issues and keep an eye out for major similarities, such as the way they bold certain words or explain.

Introducing "referencing": an anti-plagiariser

Okay, so "referencing" has been around for a long time but it's not used in reviews at all. What I want to introduce to reviews is this simple concept of referencing your fellow reviewers. In the examples below, I created "scenarios" where referencing might be useful. I use my own site, Frequent Flyer, as an example of the site you're taking the quotes from.

Let's say you're reviewing "Graphics Site". In one scenario (example 1 below), you've read a review about "Graphics Site" ahead of starting your own and you agree with some of the reviewer's comments. Rather than copying them or poorly paraphrasing their review as your own, why not reference a particular quote and talk more about it?

Example 1 - agreeing with another reviewer:

For your content organization, I agree with what Frequent Flyer wrote when they said Using tables was a great decision and I thought that showed a lot of ingenuity on your part! I definitely think your organization was done well because all of the content looked very tidy and the spacing between each textarea is even.

In the example above, you expanded on what the original reviewer wrote by supplementing it with your own thoughts. Don't think that referencing makes you a bad reviewer, especially if you agree with the other person who wrote the original comment. It doesn't make you a "lazy" reviewer either. Just be sure to properly discuss the quote you've chosen. Don't just copy and paste their quote and expect your visitor to be happy with that. He or she already read the review. Now it's up to you to put your spin on it!

In some cases, you might want to take another reviewer's ideas and use them as part of your review, regardless of what site you (or the original reviewer) are looking at. For instance, you're reviewing "Graphics Site". However, you've recently read a review by another reviewer for "Button Site". Here's an example of how you might want to use their ideas:

Example 2 - taking another reviewer's idea and incorporating them:

Taking a look through your banners, I noticed that none of them are properly cropped. This is because you haven't chosen an appropriate focal point. Note that a focal point is an area of an image where a visitor's attention is naturally drawn to. For example, a character's face or an object. (Frequent Flyer). For your first banner, I would have chosen the aisha as a focal point because her image is much clearer than the other character, which is more blurry.

The point in the second example is that you're taking an idea and applying it to your situation (rather than agreeing with them like in the first example). In both examples, you're properly crediting the original writer by linking to the site (if you want to go a step further, you can directly link to the review you quoted from). Also, the examples highlighted the quoted sentences by italicizing them. You can use normal quotation marks as well. What you shouldn't do is not highlight the quote (i.e. don't just incoporate them into your own sentences. It should be crystal clear that you're quoting someone).

To summarize...




#16. The semi-reviewer

Writers write to influence their readers, their preachers, their auditors, but always, at bottom, to be more themselves. - Aldous Huxley

After reading through these chapters, there's nothing wrong if you step back and think "I don't want to be a reviewer". However, if you still want to offer your opinions, there are other routes you can take.

Important topics...

How to know when a review site isn't for you

Here are some signs that might indicate owning a review site isn't what's best for you:

You're not happy getting a review request.

If you give a long, exasperated sigh when you get a new review form, that's an indicator that your review site is becoming less fun. Writing reviews should be something enjoyable so when it feels more like "work" or a "chore", it might be time to step back.

You come up with excuses for keeping the requests closed.

There's nothing wrong with keeping the requests closed when you're busy – that's a completely valid reason! However, you might find yourself coming up with invalid reasons for keeping them closed which is an indicator that your heart isn't in reviewing at the moment.

You feel like you can't offer any "good" advice.

If you think your reviews are low-quality, that's not a reason to give up. Just keep trying because no one starts out writing great reviews! Practice will help improve your reviewing technique and strengthen your critiques. This leads into the next point...

You feel too tired owning a site.

Maintaining a site is extremely hard work that requires a lot of time, effort, and dedication. If you think owning your own review site isn't for you, perhaps team up with one of your friends and split the work. On the other hand, you can create topics on the neoboard to provide short-term help to other people.

What to do when you're burnt out

Sometimes, taking a break from your review site is what you need to get fresh again. Here are some things you can do:

Go on a hiatus.

Going on a hiatus is your best bet because it might be the case that you just need some time away from your site before you get back into the "reviewing" mode again. Before you go on hiatus, however, make sure that you either finish the reviews on your waiting list or contact the site owners to let them know you won't be able to write their reviews. Generally, you'll want to post a specific timeframe for your hiatus (for example: I'll be going on a quick hiatus from July 17th to July 25th.)

Revamp your site.

If you think your review site has gotten a bit stale, you can freshen it up by revamping! A new layout can work wonders for your site and create a whole new "atmosphere". Alternatively, why not revamp your rubrics? Go through each of them and maybe even come up with your own unique ones. Whether or not you take your review site down during your revamp is up to you. I would strongly suggest clearly marking that you're going on a revamp somewhere in your updates but still keep your site up so people won't think you're closed.

Go on an indefinite hiatus.

Unlike a normal hiatus, an indefinite hiatus is a more long-term and vague. Most site owners don't specific when they'll be back though it's generally the idea that it's a longer time period than a few days or weeks. As with normal hiatuses, make sure to provide information (for instance, in your updates you might want to write something like "I'm going on indefinite hiatus – requests are closed at this time"). Finish any lingering reviews on the waiting list, and of course, contact them if you can't.

Close your review site.

If you really think that owning a review site isn't for you, then closing it might be your last option. There's no point keeping a site that you don't get any fun out of. However, if you think you still want to review, there's always the option of going on the neoboards.

The alternatives!

While most review sites use a similar structure (like having rubrics, having a score, or a requesting area), there are alternatives! Here are some other "styles" of review sites that you might find interesting.

A quick "question and answer" site

This one is very rare but extremely helpful! I wish there were more of these sites around because it would be super easy to get quick help. An example of these types of sites is Ask Grace (which has been inactive for some time now). The premise is simple - send in a question and the site owner will reply. I would highly recommend checking that site out and reading through it. The set-up is simple and easy to follow. Best of all, it doesn't take much time to site owners (in other words, it's very low maintenace compared to a structured rubric-styled review site). Because visitors only send in one question at a time, you'll be able to focus on that particular inquiry.

Call 'em as you see 'em

The Gift Site Consulting is what inspired this chapter about "alternatives" to regular review sites. Rather than provide organized rubrics that visitors choose from, the reviewer simply writes down a list of suggestions (like a "pro/con" rubric, minus the "pro" and "con" headings). This is great because it allows the reviewer more freedom in his or her reviews. He or she can browse through the site as they normally would and write down anything that catches his or her eye.

I started The Gift Site Consulting in February 2011. I had always known that I wanted to provide a unique reviewing experience. I chose not to use rubrics because, although this sounds cheesy, every site is unique, and I want to provide a unique review experience to suit them. I think a rubric-less review really helps site owners improve their sites from the ground up, because it is able to go in-depth without the restraint a rubric can often impose.

- Lifaen

The occasional advice giver

Setting up a topic on the neoboards isn't a bad idea, especially if you want to give advise on your own terms. With a neoboard, you can quickly create a topic and you don't have to worry about things like formatting.

To summarize...

#17. Visitor contribution

Every compulsion is put upon writers to become safe, polite, obedient, and sterile. - Sinclair Lewis

Before we come to the end, I want to highlight some contributions made by visitors.

If you want to send in your own tips, fill in this form and send it in.

From a reviewer...

If you don't know what to say about the site, don't "copy" someone else's review because it is most likely they've already read the comment and taken it into account.
- Tina

Always start with a layout. This may seem simple, but the layout is truly the building block of your site, and will either attract visitors or urge them away. Choose a layout that is simple and easy to navigate. This will make layout changes that much easier, as well.
- Lifaen

It may be hard to start off so try asking some more establish sites or directories if you could practice a review on them.
- Tina

What's the toughest thing about maintaining your site?

Probably updating the updates. :) Sometimes I just want to work on my site or on a review, and then once I'm finished revising everything, I have to go back and rewrite exactly what I did. It's not a huge hassle, but it does get frustrating sometimes.
- Star

The owner's experience

My experience with The Gift has been a largely positive one. I notice that customers appreciate the individual attention, and I love providing it for them! I find that I get two types of customers: an experienced site-owner who just wants a touch-up, or a newcomer who wants me to address a specific issue they're facing with their site.
- Lifaen


The End!

However great a man's natural talent may be, the act of writing cannot be learned all at once. - Jean-Jacques Rousseau


Phew! Pat yourself on the back, because we're finally at the end. If you've read through all 17 chapter then I commend you!

There aren't a lot of active review sites in the community at the time of writing so hopefully this guide will inspire someone out there to become one - for the right reasons, of course! Having a review site is extremely rewarding to the site owner because you're actively helping someone else to improve his or her site. It's also a useful aid because people are putting their time and effort into critiquing your page.

However, at the end of the day let's not forget some important things. Reviewing should be fun for you! Offering your help to fellow site owners, composing your suggestions and arguments - you should find something enjoyable here. The moment it becomes more like "work" and less fun is when you take a step back and put your review site back on the shelf for a bit.

I hope that by the end of this ridiculously long guide that you understand the purpose of HTWGR. This page isn't here to say what sites are or aren't high-quality, it's not here to write your reviews for you, and it definitely isn't here to say what your opinion "should" be. At its core, this guide aims to do one simple thing: help you write great reviews. Whether that's through helping you with formatting or how to improve the depth of your reviews, your reviews should always be about your opinions!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this guide!





Extras

Is "originality" a fair category for a rubric? In my opinion, no, it's not. Here's why...

How an "extra" became another site This is just a short history of the site and how it began.

Pop Quiz After reading the guide, perhaps try your hand at acing this pop quiz? Add your name to the list of those who have "beaten" this test!

How you can contribute to this project I'm always looking for visitor input and one way you, demivolt, can help out with this project is by sending in your own comments and review experiences!

Peer Reviewed If you're a new reviewer, this might be a great resource for you. Peer Reviewed contains a list of veteran reviewers who are volunteering their time to help you out.

Going Undercover Researching a specific rubric, I go "undercover" to find out more about the "pro/con" reviews at multiple sites.

Find a review site! Looking for a review site? This "mini-directory" lists a bunch of them and gives a brief explanation of them as well.

F.A.Q. Questions? Here are the answers!

Gifts Here's where you can find special gifts that visitors have made for HTWGR!

Find a review site!

Looking for a review but don't know where to start? Below are some sites that you can check out!

Do you own a review site? Neomail me and get your review site listed below:

You don't have to link back to this site, but it's highly appreciated if you do!

Last updated: July 13th, 2012

Symbols
: My site
: Highly recommended

Site owner: Turnip ()
# of rubrics: 13
Summary:
- Includes special rubrics tailored to request sites
- The site has been open since August 7th, 2011.

Site owner: Rainbow
# of rubrics: 1
Summary:
- Searches for broken images and closed site links
- This site has been open since March 22nd, 2010

Site owner: Wendy
# of rubrics: 3
Summary:
- Provides proofreading and link sweep services only

Site owner: Lifaen
# of rubrics: 0
Summary:
- Critiques do not use rubrics (listed in list-form instead)
- This site has been open since February 2011

Site owner: Fish ()
# of rubrics: 14
Summary:
- Rubrics include in-depth, pro/con
- This site has been open since March 15th, 2012

Site owner: Fabregas
# of rubrics: 4
Summary:
- Includes link sweep and proofreading services
- This site has been open since November 5, 2012

Site owner: Becky
# of rubrics: 4
Summary:
- Well explained rubrics
- This site has been open since January 13, 2013

Site owner: Tiffany
# of rubrics: 8
Summary:

- This site has been open since February 16,2012
- Has a unique cafe theme throughout the site

Site owner: Autum ()
# of rubrics: 3
Summary:
- In-depth reviews
- This site has been open since November 24th, 2012

Site owner: Jackie ()
# of rubrics: 8
Summary:
- Wide variety of rubrics
- This site has been open since 2009

Site owner: Jenny
# of rubrics: 8
Summary:
- This site has been open since March 4, 2013

Site owner: Tina
# of rubrics: 4
Summary:
- This site has been open since June 23 2011
- Offers post-review comments

Site owner: Kitty
# of rubrics: 3
Summary:
- This site has been open since March 2008
- Offers proofreading

Site owner: Hannah
# of rubrics: 7
Summary:
- Includes semi-custom rubric
- No site opening date listed

Site owner: PF and Light
# of rubrics: 8
Summary:
- Includes a Pet application review
- This site has been open since August 8th, 2013

button

Site owner:
# of rubrics:
Summary:
- This site has been open since



Is "originality" a fair concept...

For a review category? In my opinion, no, it's not.

Yes, reviews are basically a list of opinions. You will occasionally get the rare "fact" statement ("fact" statements where what is said can be answered with a yes/no question. For instance, does your site have linked borders? Yes. The fact is you do or do not have linked borders. Examples of something that is not a fact statement include "are your buttons high-quality" because different people will have different opinions).

You might be saying that since the concept of "originality" is an opinion, it should be included in a rubric. Besides, the overwhelming majority of a review is opinion-based. Well, you're right, a review is based on a reviewer's opinion, except that doesn't mean we should throw any opinionated topic into a review because then what reviewers write becomes more of an opinion piece, rather than constructive criticism. The concept of originality (and "creativity") is a bit too subjective and restrictive. It takes too much of the reviewer's personal feelings and preferences into account and it's not focussed on the site or content they are reviewing.

Let's look at the Merriam-Webster's definition for the word "originality":

1: the quality or state of being original
2: freshness of aspect, design, or style
3: the power of independent thought or constructive imagination

First, I'm not saying that originality doesn't exist in the site community. It does. There have been many times (though less so nowadays) that I've come across a site and think, "wow, this site's pretty original and fresh". What I'm arguing here is that to include a highly prejudiced method of personal assessment in a review rubric is a mistake.

What I've often come to notice at novice review sites is this need to include "originality" (or "creativity") as a scored part of a rubric. While I have nothing against review statements that mention originality, having originality scored is, in my opinion, highly unfair and extremely subjective. I know that if I were requesting a review, I would not be comfortable with this as a scored category (I would probably ask in my form that the reviewer remove this from my review).

As reviewers, there needs to be a line drawn between critiquing someone's content based on quality and critiquing their content based on whether or not it's "original". In terms of quality, a site owner can fix it. You can suggest that they sharpen their images so that their banners won't be so blurry. You can advise them to improve their cropping technique so that their images have a clearer focal point. You can't really advise them on originality as it's something that the site owners themselves possess. For example, if you say "make your icons more original" in your review, what message does this send across to the site owner?

Rika (who owned the popular review site, The Teahouse) is a site owner that I deeply respect. In a neomail, she articulated the issue very nicely (quoted with permission below):

I mean, everyone has different ways of expressing their creativity, and naturally what they may think as creative may seem not as much to another person. I think it's far too much of a personal thing to assess on. I think mere advice or suggestions would probably be better; I mean, if every reviewer started to assess on creativity and asked them to "do this" or "do that", theoretically, we as reviewers are pretty much telling people how to run their sites and that's when people will lose respect for us. There should be a line between helping and dictating.
- Rika

A lot of the times, the "originality" category is never explained in a way that I find satisfactory or fair to site owners. It's all about comparing one site with everyone else. Again, as reviewers, we shouldn't be comparing sites to determine a score. It's perfectly fine to give examples as long as they are just that: examples. The concept of originality demands that a reviewer compare and contrast your site with others, in order to see where your site "stacks up" in the scale of originality. This is not what the site owner getting reviewed wants. They wanted a review that would help their site improve.

How far does the concept of "originality" go? Take my own site, The Lunch Box. While aspects of it could once be argued as "original", that time has since past. One of the unique things I created, like mini-updates for the rankings, have been borrowed by others so the concept itself isn't exactly original anymore. It's original to a specific site, but to give one site extra marks because they borrowed the concept seems unfair, as if to suggest that all sites should follow suit.

Here are a few more examples. TLB also offers Neopet icons, but so does every other graphic site out there. There's nothing inherently original in having Neopet icons at a site. When you go into the realm of discussing "style" and how a site owner designs, then you shouldn't be writing the "originality" category. You should be moving to the "quality of content" category instead.

Another example would be button borders that I created for Open Eyes. At one point, they were completely unique to my site. A while later, other button sites started to borrow it as well. Now, to deduct marks from a site because they haven't create "original" borders is completely unfair (off the top of my head, I can only think of two current sites that offer some fully "original" borders. Two). Instead, why not suggest? Advise them that creating original borders will make their site stand out from the crowd, but don't actually deduct marks because why should a site be penalized for something that isn't there? If there's an issue (like a linked border or spelling errors), then it's visibly something that needs to be fixed.

Another thing that Rika suggested during our neomails was this:

…I think creativity in a site is something that should be discussed between reviewer and reviewee (bouncing ideas off each other, talking about what may work or not), rather than reviewers telling people what they personally think is creative and that's that.
- Rika

There is not nearly enough discussion between the reviewer and the other site owner. It has always been "request review, write review, read review" and done. To discuss the issue of originality and creativity in private neomails is not only a fantastic idea, but something I hope more site owners take advantage of. Talk to your reviewer, ask them questions.

Let me get this out of the way: you can address "originality" and "creativity" in your review. I'm not saying you can't. All I'm saying is that including it as a scored category is unfair and unhelpful. In my own reviews, I've said things like "your method of doing this and that was very original. Great job!", but it never had any impact on the score.

To finish off this blog, here's an excellent passage from an article (I think it's absolutely brilliant):

When we are speaking about something as new, it is useful to ask ourselves for whom precisely it is new.

Subjective novelty is the apperception of something as being new by an individual person or a group of persons; objective novelty is something that is new for all humanity in its development through ages. It is unlikely, however, that even the most knowing and knowledgeable person boldly say that he knows everything that was before and take liberty to judge things from this standpoint.

Hence, it follows that we never can be fully confident that something is objectively new; thus, any forms of novelty are subjective or at least intersubjective, that is relative and probabilistic.
- "Novelty and originality" by Eugene Gorny (2007)



Gifts

Hover over each graphic to find more!




faq

This F.A.Q aims to answer your questions about the site and much more!

Have a question thats not listed below? Send it in!


How do I get "highly recommended" in Peer Reviewed?

To get a "pink star" beside your name, I need to be familiar with your work. Just send me a neomail with at least two of your most recent reviews. I'll give them a read and determine your recommendation based on that. Obviously, to be highly recommended you have to show that you're able to provide in-depth reviews. Proper formatting also plays a role.

I have a suggestion for a new chapter!

I love hearing visitor feedback so if you have any suggestions for anything at all, send me a neomail. I can't guarantee that it'll be added to the site, but I'll take a look at all ideas.

Even though the guide's completely finished, can I still contribute to the HTWGR project?

Absolutely! You can check this page out to see how you can be a part of the site. If you're a reviewer, perhaps join the list of peer reviewers? If you take a look at chapter 17, it's all based on what you send in.

I want to quote a part of your chapter for my own review. How do I do this?

You can use quotation marks and a linked reference to this page.

For example: "This is the phrase you're quoting from these chapters" (HTWGR).


How an "extra" became another site

At The Lunch Box, I began writing a small "how-to" guide for the extras based on how request sites can work on offering high-quality service. The "extra" soon became its very own site, How To Offer Great Service. Well, fast forward a year and with my review site, Frequent Flyer, I wanted to write a similar guide for reviewers. Again, it started off as an "extra". And yet again, this "extra" became something much larger.

How To Offer Great Reviews is a guide that's written based on my own personal experiences requesting and writing reviews. It might seem a bit counterintuitive for review site owners to get their review sites reviewed (try saying that three times fast!), but it's actually one of the launching points for this guide.

After my fair share of reviewing review sites, I've come to the conclusion that there's very little grey area - site owners either offer great reviews or they, well, need some improvement. There aren't a lot of active review sites in the community at the time of writing so hopefully this guide will inspire someone out there to become one.


Going Undercover

My goal was to focus on a specific review rubric found as many sites and see whether or not reviewers were able to deliver concise and in-depth explanations. In this section, I'll outline the methods of this "research", my expectations of both the reviewer and their reviews, as well as give some final tips.

Introduction:

This is probably the most "personal" chapter of this entire guide as it takes my own experiences (and grievances) and translates them into something that can hopefully be learned from. Since this section is more "experience based", it's not included as a main chapter. Instead, it's just something extra.

As part of the research, I decided to apply for reviews at various sites. I wanted to gather a lot of examples without having to wait weeks for a single review, so I was specifically looking at Pro/Con review rubrics. Another reason why I chose this review is because I often see many site owners failing to offer a "true" Pro/Con review and so, I wanted to address these issues. These are always shorter than your average review and most of the time the reviewers will offer a set number of points, such as five things they liked about a page, and five things they disliked.

I headed into this "mission" with many expectations, hoping that the reviews would not only be useful to this experiment, but also to my site. For all of the applications, the page to be reviewed is my graphics/request site, The Lunch Box. Here's a summary of the experiment.

The procedure:

- Starting the search. To begin, I was looking for review sites with specific things in mind. I went to many sites and probably looked through the entire list at Soroptimist Directory! First, I needed sites that actually offered some sort of Pro/Con rubric. I was a bit disappointed that many of the top review sites (i.e. those that are ranked at multiple sites) didn't offer this type of rubric, so I had to take my search elsewhere. Combing through the list, most haven't updated in months meaning I came upon a barren landscape of dead pages. In the end, I did manage to submit applications to multiple sites. Most of them were new sites so I thought it would be a win-win situation for both parties. They'll get to practice their reviewing skills and I'll be getting feedback on my site plus research data for this guide.

- Near the top of the waiting list. I wanted to be one of the top people on the waiting list. This lets me accurately gauge how quickly the site owners are able to put out a review, especially for a short one like the Pro/Con rubric. At most of the sites I requested from, I was the only person on the waiting list. At others, I was the second or third, which was totally fine. I frequently checked their updates, and if I wasn't first in the list, then I would keep note of how long the other people's reviews were taking.

- Blind testing. The most important part of the procedure was that I would not be telling the reviewers that their review may be used as part of this "experiment". This was done for a number of reasons. If they had prior knowledge that their review would be analysed on a more in-depth scale, this may alter their final score, comments, or review organization. I wanted to have the same final product that other people would be getting. In other words, I wanted the same "review experience" that other requesters would normally get. It was only after the review was received that I would contact them again to ask for their permission and letting them know that portions of my review may be quoted and that all comments will be made anonymously.

- Same content across all reviews. I made no major changes to my layout and all of the content that I was uploading on a daily basis were things like icons, and graphics. My daily routine wouldn't be a factor as there were no major changes at TLB. I wanted to keep the site as similar as possible for each person reviewing it. That way, I can accurately see how they're looking at the site, and whether or not they're discussing relevant details.


My expectations before sending in a review:

- Macro, not micro details. Since I know these Pro/Con types of reviews are much shorter than the regular rubric, I expected that the reviewer would touch on the major issues of the site. Rather than dwell on the tiny details that they'd spend more time on for in-depth reviews, my expectations for these Pro/Con rubrics is that they would see my site more as a whole. This is what I mean by "macro" details. It's the larger picture, so to speak.

- Being clear, without cutting the explanation. Probably the most important thing about these types of reviews is how to state your opinion and clarification without making the entire thing too long. Thus, I expected the reviewer to be able to make their points concisely. As these are quick reviews, they're meant to point out major issues without extra "fluff" sentences muddling them down. Still, the length of the review is a minor issue. The important thing is to identify and analyze. This bit relates to the next point.

- What, why, and how. Like in chapter 7, I expected that they would clearly explain their position whenever they made any remark on the site that could be argued or debated. I was definitely looking at whether or not they included the "what, why, how" explanations. Just because Pro/Con rubrics are shorter doesn't mean reviewers can skip out the explanation and offer their opinion as facts.


My thoughts during the review:

- Great communication. At all request sites, I received a prompt confirmation neomail letting me know that I've been put on the waiting list. It was great to see this and I was really impressed with how they opened up a line of communication between the reviewer and the requester.

- Easy to read? Or a big pile of words? A big expectation in terms of organization is that the reviewer would be using bullet points or clearly spaced out paragraphs. Unlike an essay or in-depth analysis that are often in letter format, Pro/Con reviews are often written in a more segmented style, meaning that each point takes up a paragraph.

- Quick service, please! Lastly, I expected to receive my review fairly quickly. Since this was a more casual rubric and took less writing on the site owner's part, I was hoping I wouldn't be waiting more than one week for a simple Pro/Con review. Though I understood that they would be taking their time, this type of review carries with it an underlying notion that the "quick and short" review will be delivered quickly.


My thoughts after receiving the review:

Now, let's get into the deep stuff and analyze the reviews (note that I kept the original quotes as is, even though there were spelling and grammar errors).

In a timely fashion? I received most of the Pro/Con reviews within days of getting a confirmation neomail from the site owner. Thus, I was generally satisfied with the time I had to wait. A review of this type shouldn't take any longer than seven days from the time the site owner sends out a confirmation neomail. Luckily, I had no major issues at most of the review sites. Still, there were some reviews that had me waiting almost a month.

Review sites offer a very important type of request, and I think more attention should be paid on the speed of service. Whenever a reviewer is busy or can't deliver a review in a timely manner, they should do two things. First, they need to contact people on the waiting list and tell them that their review is going to be delayed. Unfortunately, I never received any notice like this, so I was left in the dark. Remember to always keep a line of communication open with your requesters! Second, requests should be closed as soon as you think you can't deliver a review in a timely fashion. Leaving them open and putting people on waiting lists just so they can wait 2 weeks for their review is poor service.

Key ingredients are often missing. In many of the reviews, I found that they never clearly explained their opinions, or they failed to bring up that issue again once it was stated. Keep in mind that opinions are not facts. They are completely debatable and need to be explained. As a site owner, this doesn't help me at all. What should I change? More important, why should I change it? Here are a few examples. The italicised text is the actual quote from the reviews that I have received.

Compared to your past layouts, it was strange stepping into the 'new' Lunch Box. Considering some of your past layouts had poor quality, I definitely thought that this layout was one of your first steps, and a big step too, into 'high-quality'. I was impressed by the way you have designed your layout so the navigation looks polished. It really matches your banner on top, which seems pretty futuristic and city-like.

Now, I was hoping that they're going to explain what exactly made the past layouts lower quality, but since we were in the "positive" section, I let it go thinking that they'll bring it up again with a more detailed comparison between the present layout and previous ones. However, they didn't address this in the "negative" section either so I was at a complete loss. I re-read the comment above and was confused. How is my current layout a "big step" into a higher-quality layout? What exactly makes it higher-quality and specifically, what is the different between older layouts and the new one? How does the reviewer define "high-quality"? Does having a "polished" navigation mean high-quality?

As you can see, there's a lot of "what" statements without the "why" and "how". If they added specifically what they thought was "high-quality" about the current layout and what they thought was "poor quality" in previous layouts, then that means I would learn what works and what doesn't when designing a layout.

To be completely honest, I would remove your pixels all together. They take away from the extremely high quality theme of your site. The "Lunch Bunnies" are not the highest of quality, and seem to be quickly made.

The first two sentences are the "what" statements. The last sentence is trying to work as a "why" sentence but it doesn't quite get that far. Whenever something is "not the highest of quality", explain, explain, explain! What specifically made it low quality? There's no explanation here. On the other hand, a different reviewer wrote: Your regular pixels too, seemed quite unimpressive. They weren't shaded properly and the animations could be made differently. The shape and drawing didn't seem high-quality, and this was one section of the site I wouldn't like to visit. Now, this is a step in the right direction. They offer a "why" statement in the second and third statements.

In both examples, they're still missing the "how" statement. In chapter 7, I noted that the "how" statement wasn't needed if the "why" statement is strong enough to support their views. The second reviewer has a "why" statement, but it could have been much stronger. For example, "the animations could be made differently." Differently how? What does it mean to do something "differently"? What is "proper" shading? As you can see, what I'm doing is constantly asking "why" in response to their sentences. Review statements need to be thoroughly explained.

Macro versus micro details
For the most part, many of the reviewers focussed on the macro, and not the micro. It definitely met my expectations for a broader site inspection. For instance, in one review they wrote I noticed your layout and title of your site right away. I thought your layout was phenomenal! I really love the mix of the shades of blues and shades of light pinks. You're navigation is definitely easy to access, which is very good. Unlike some other sites I've been to, the first thing I look at when I come to your site is the title.

Every single statement made here is a macro detail but at the same time, they've explained themselves. Another example of macro details in a review was this: I definitely had thought that was a pretty creative idea, the way you constructed your headers and fonts. In colors of your fonts, for example, you had not made your regular text black or grey, but rather blue throughout the whole layout. To match it, you had a blue divider which I thought went very well with the layout's general color scheme. In both of these examples, the reviewers are referencing things are that basic at every site you go to – layout, header, site title.

Still, sometimes reviewers lapsed into the micro details, which was the type of information that Pro/Con rubrics aren't meant to analyze. An example of a micro detail is this: At the bottom [of the layout], I did notice a bit of grey/white-ish look, but that doesn't really matter. It usually happens when you make something transparent. (sometimes it will make the corners a bit grey). and here's another example: On the side of your layout at the top, there was a blue line which my eyes kept going to on the right side. It isn't nessesary to change this. These statements would be more suited to in-depth reviews because it's focussing on a very tiny detail that doesn't affect the functioning of the site as a whole. Also, if something isn't "necessary" for change, then it shouldn't be included in a Pro/Con review since the idea is to immediately point out major issues instead of the small details. A Pro/Con review also requires a more assertive tone because it's not as in-depth and the point is to say, "look, here are major issues that stood out".

Though micro statements are completely valid opinions, be careful when including them in a Pro/Con. Most of the time, micro details are things that are irrelevant to the normal functioning of a site. For example, my latest layout for The Lunch Box was a theme that I knew a lot of people would might not understand. Since I'm a gamer, I choose Mass Effect as my theme and put in several references, such as quotes and logos that other fans would spot right away. For every aspect of my site, I always look at it from the perspective of a visitor, but seeing as how theme shouldn't affect how visitors view the site, I made the decision to go with a more "obscure" theme. One of the reviews stated:

On your layout, it says, 'My name is Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite lunch box'. I didn't quite get what this meant, so it looked like a random quote. and I noticed that when I was browsing your content, I kept seeing "N7" at the bottom of the navigation. I don't know what it was for, so I was quite confused. Perhaps saying what it's for would make more sense.

These opinions are completely valid, but ask yourself this: Does this really affect how a site functions? Will this inhibit the visitor from accessing the content in anyway? If a visitor doesn't know the theme of a site, does this somehow make the content low-quality? Now, I'd understand if there was an issue and it was something like "The quote on the layout was a bit too faded and I couldn't read it properly. Try making it a little darker" or "The N7 logo interfered with the navigation and I couldn't use the links at the bottom".

As it is, the statements above from the reviewer didn't add anything to the Pro/Con review. The layout theme doesn't matter because it doesn't interfere with the content provided to a visitor, or the service provided by the site owner. In Pro/Con reviews, stick to things that are more basic, such as organization, layout and navigation, and quality of content. Focus on larger issues that impact the general visitors, such as faulty coding, poor quality in content, or lack of visible menu links.


Were my expectations met?

Yes and no. There were aspects that I thought the reviewers were great at, and other categories where there needs to be improvement in order to better serve site owners who want a review. For example, I've been constantly talking about macro details but most of the reviewers missed an important part of my site: requests. I thought it very strange that barely anyone made comments about the graphic requests offered since it consists 1/3 of my site. Though some reviewers did spend some time talking about the requests, this is a major macro detail that was overlooked on more than one occasion.

For instance, none of the reviewers took into consideration whether or not I offered fair service. What if one of my rules was Only send in a form if I'm in a good mood. If I'm not in a good mood, don't bother sending me a form. Now, that "rule" pretty much breaks every point I've made for positive toning and professionalism. I had that as an actual rule? Many of the reviewers focussed on graphics and resources, which is a great thing. However, more attention is needed in terms of looking at a site from the perspective of a visitor and really being "in the shoes". It would be completely understandable if I requested a "classic" rubric which might not take professionalism and "rules" into play, but seeing as it's a simple "pro/con" rubric wich no set categories, major areas of the site should be covered.

Final comments:

Now, I've talked a lot of receiving the Pro/Con reviews. Why not write one myself? Let's summarize this long chapter - Pro/Con review style!

Positive aspects that stood out for me:

Things to be improved:

Final tips:




Peer Reviewed

If you're a new reviewer then one resource that you can look to are your fellow reviewers. Below is a list of well established review sites and their respective site owners. This is basically a list of volunteers who have previous or present experience with owning a site and writing reviews. Since they're listed below, feel free to contact them if you have any questions or concerns about your own site/reviews. This list is here to help you so please do not neomail them numerous times as they may be busy.

Symbols:
: My site
: Highly recommended

Sites Owners

Do you own a review site and want to volunteer to be on this list? Fill out this form and send it in.



If your name is listed above, feel free to take a special icon or button for your page:





How you can contribute to this project

One of the things I hope to add to HTWGR is visitor contribution so I'm reaching out to you, demivolt, and asking for your opinions. Of course, you don't have to answer the questions below - they're just a starting point!

Are you a reviewer?

If you own a review site (previously or currently) I'd love to get some of your experiences both in maintaining your site and writing reviews for other people.

Do you often request reviews?

If you don't own a review site but frequently request reviews for your own site, it would be great to get some of your personal experiences. Here are some things I'm interested in knowing:

Your comments can be anything related to reviews or review sites in general.




Time for a pop quiz!

After reading through this massive guide, here's a chance to see if you remembered it! For each question, you have a set of possible answers. Click whichever one you think is correct. If it's the wrong answer, don't worry! You'll get a chance to go back and try again. If it's the right answer, you'll get another question. There's 10 questions so try to see how far you can go. Remember: no cheating! If you want to quit the quiz, just click the "back" button at the bottom of the page.

Who has finished the quiz?

squishymichy / July 31, 2012
izmyname / August 1, 2012
msclvr33/ August 7, 2012
zomgmad / August 10, 2012
7birdie14 / October 21, 2012
flotsam43 / May 6, 2013

Have you finished the quiz? Neomail me! All you have to do is say the word and I'll add you to the list.


#1) Which of the following is an example of an assertive review statement?
a) I think that perhaps you should chance your headers. You don't have to change them though.
b) Your headers are a bit annoying to look at. You need to change them.
c) Changing your headers would help improve the visuals of your page.
d) None of the above.


Time for a pop quiz!

#1) Which of the following is an example of an assertive review statement?
a) I think that perhaps you should chance your headers. You don't have to change them though.

Darn, not the right answer. This is actually an example of a passive statement where your opinion doesn't really seem that strong.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#1) Which of the following is an example of an assertive review statement?
b)Your headers are a bit annoying to look at. You need to change them.

Darn, not the right answer. This is an example of an aggressive statement. Reading the review statements, it seems a bit rude and harsh.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#1) Which of the following is an example of an assertive review statement?
c) Changing your headers would help improve the visuals of your page.

Correct! This is an assertive statement because you're calmly stating your opinion without being too passive or aggressive.

#2) What are the most important aspects of a review statement?
a) The "what", "why", and "how" statements
b) The "what" and "how" statements
c) The "what" and "why" statements
d) Both A and B are correct
e) Both A and C are correct


Time for a pop quiz!

#1) Which of the following is an example of an assertive review statement?
d) None of the above.

Darn, not the right answer. Here's a hint: D isn't the answer. Okay, that wasn't really a hint. *shuffles away*

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#2) What are the most important aspects of a review statement?
a) The "what", "why", and "how" statements

Seems pretty obvious that this is a correct answer! However, it's not so please...

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#2) What are the most important aspects of a review statement?
b) The "what" and "how" statements

No, that's not quite it. Actually, this answer is missing the most important aspect of a review.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#2) What are the most important aspects of a review statement?
c) The "what" and "why" statements

Hmm, you're on the right track, though there is another possible answer.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#2) What are the most important aspects of a review statement?
d) Both A and B are correct

No, not the right answer.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#2) What are the most important aspects of a review statement?
e) Both A and C are correct

Correct! Both A and C are the most important aspects of a review statement. Remember that the "key ingredients" of a review statement are the what, why, and how explanations. However, also remember that the "how" isn't needed in many cases. Sometimes, a review statement is perfectly fine with just the "what" and "why".

#3) Which of the following is the most requested type of rubric?
a) Q & A
b) Custom
c) Classic
d) All of the above


Time for a pop quiz!

#3) Which of the following is the most requested type of rubric?
a) Q & A

In the list, this is actually one of the least requested since it's not offered at all types of sites. *cough* Hint in the last bit of the sentence there... *cough*

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#3) Which of the following is the most requested type of rubric?
b) Custom

Very few review sites offer this type of rubric, so it's not really requested.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#3) Which of the following is the most requested type of rubric?
c) Classic

Correct! The "Classic", otherwise known as "In-depth" is intended to be the most comprehensive of all rubrics. As such, requesters usually want this one. It's also very common and seen at almost every review site.

#4) Which of the following statements are false?
a) The "sitely" section of a review may include an assessment of the link back buttons.
b) If they are using a premade template, you could potentially dock them marks.
c) Not all sites will have affiliates or be listed at directories.
d) For every one spelling error, you should take off 0.5 marks from their score.


Time for a pop quiz!

#3) Which of the following is the most requested type of rubric?
d) All of the above

Nope! From the list given, there's definitely one that's a major stand out in terms of how often it gets requested.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#4) Which of the following statements are false?
a) The "sitely" section of a review may include an assessment of the link back buttons.

This is a "true" statement, so it's not the correct answer. Remember: you want the false statement.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#4) Which of the following statements are false?
b) If they are using a premade template, you could potentially dock them marks.

Not the right answer, but it's a tricky question, huh? If they're using a graphic-style premade layout, then you can't dock them marks just for that reason. However, premade templates require much more customization. Thus, if they haven't put in any effort into making a template their own, then you have cause for deductions.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#4) Which of the following statements are false?
c) Not all sites will have affiliates or be listed at directories.

No, try again. It's true that not all sites need affiliates or directories in their "sitely" section. For example, some guides might not bother getting affiliates.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#4) Which of the following statements are false?
d) For every one spelling error, you should take off 0.5 marks from their score.

Correct! This is a false statement because taking off 0.5 marks for every single spelling mistake is too harsh and doesn't really help the site owner get a true sense of their spelling. Instead, you should be focusing on the overall amount of errors versus their site type. Sites heavier on text will no doubt have tons more errors than sites like premade layouts. For example, having 10 spelling errors at a heavy-text guide is better than 5 errors at a premade layout site (they don't rely heavily on text anyways!).

#5) Which of the following is the best explanation of a "first impression"?
a) In this category, I will be writing about my first impression of your site. This will include things like what visuals I may see first, what your introduction talks about, and perhaps any other obvious issues like coding errors.
b) The "first impression" is a category where I will talk about what I see first at your site (score: /10)
c) This section deals with what visitors see when they load up your site.
d) All of the above


Time for a pop quiz!

#5) Which of the following is the best explanation of a "first impression"?
a) In this category, I will be writing about my first impression of your site. This will include things like what visuals I may see first, what your introduction talks about, and perhaps any other obvious issues like coding errors.

Correct! Out of all three examples, this one was the highest quality and was the best explanation for a "first impression" categofy of a rubric. It gave examples and clearly outlined what the reviewer would look like.

#6) Someone forgot to link back to your review site. What should you do?
a) Write "Please be sure to link back to my site. This is a part of the rules." in the "final comment" section since it didn't fit into any other category.
b) Block the person since they didn't read the rules.
c) Neomail them before you start your review and ask them to link back.
d) Calmly tell the person that they forgot to read the rules since it said they needed to link back. Delete their request form.


Time for a pop quiz!

#5) Which of the following is the best explanation of a "first impression"?
b) The "first impression" is a category where I will talk about what I see first at your site (score: /10)

Out of all the answers, this is actually one of the worst explanations. Sure, it has a "score" but that doesn't explain the rubric's category.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#5) Which of the following is the best explanation of a "first impression"?
c) This section deals with what visitors see when they load up your site.

Nope, not this answer. The idea of a "first impression" category is self-explanatory, right? That's why you should explain so that some visitors don't have different ideas than others.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#5) Which of the following is the best explanation of a "first impression"?
d) All of the above

Sorry, this isn't the right answer...

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#6) Someone forgot to link back to your review site. What should you do?
a) Write "Please be sure to link back to my site. This is a part of the rules." in the "final comment" section since it didn't fit into any other category.

Nope, not it! A review is not the appropriate place for this type of matter. This is a personal issue between the reviewer and the site owner. Keep this sort of thing away from reviews. Don't even write it in the "final comments" because it's a private issue and reviews are public.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#6) Someone forgot to link back to your review site. What should you do?
b) Block the person since they didn't read the rules.

Definitely not the right answer! Blocking them's a bit extreme, wouldn't you say?

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#6) Someone forgot to link back to your review site. What should you do?
c) Neomail them before you start your review and ask them to link back.

Ding ding ding! Correct answer! This is the most professional and mature way to handle the issue.

#7) Which of the following statements are true?
a) Professionalism in text means that site owners shouldn't be using words like "awesome" or "spiffy" around their site.
b) A review site should never review a fellow review site.
c) A site that has 5 affiliates will score less than a site that has 8 affiliates.
d) The most important part of a button is text.


Time for a pop quiz!

#6) Someone forgot to link back to your review site. What should you do?
d) Calmly tell the person that they forgot to read the rules since it said they needed to link back. Delete their request form.

Nope, not this answer. Deleting their form outright is a bit harsh, though unfortunately some site owners still do this. It might be the case where the requester honestly forgot to link back (perhaps their petpage didn't save properly or another issue).

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#7) Which of the following statements are true?
a) Professionalism in text means that site owners shouldn't be using words like "awesome" or "spiffy" around their site.

Nope, definitely not a 'true' statement. Using words like "awesome" to describe something is perfectly fine and has nothing to do with professionalism in text. For example, writing "Welcome to my awesome site" is completely fine. Professionalism in text is supposed to deal with things like spelling, grammar issues, sentence structure, and the use of smilies around the page.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#7) Which of the following statements are true?
b) A review site should never review a fellow review site.

As a reviewer, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your fellow review sites is review them. This not only helps you with your own reviewing technique but you'll be giving advice to your peers. While new reviewers might not be comfortable critiquing review sites, veterans have no excuse not to review review sites.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#7) Which of the following statements are true?
c) A site that has 5 affiliates will score less than a site that has 8 affiliates.

The number of affiliates (or link back buttons, directories, etc.) should never factor into a score. Rather than focus on sheer quantity, look at the bigger picture. Are the affiliates actually linking back? Have they moved to a new petpage? Never deduct marks just because "someone could use more affiliates".

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#7) Which of the following statements are true?
d) The most important part of a button is text.

Correct! While a lot of us like to focus on the design, image, and animation of a button, the truth is this: nothing else matters more than text. A button is meant to advertise a site and how can it do that if the text is hard to read? When reviewing buttons, always pay attention to text.

#8) You're writing a review for Awesome Directory. Prior to writing it, you've already read one of their previous reviews from Frequent Flyer. They wrote:

The banner at the top looks quite low-quality. This is because of two major issues. First, the focal image is not very crisp. The blurriness makes it hard to focus on the banner and it's a bit eye-straining to say the least! Second, the font choice wasn't the best, though I do have some examples of ones that are. Verdana would have been a top-notch choice seeing as how your site is meant to be more simplistic in design.

If you wrote one of the statements below in your reviews, which of the following is plagiarism?


a) Upon loading the site, I noticed the banner at the top which was a bit low-quality. First, the image is too blurry, to say the least! The second problem is the font which didn't work well with the banner. I would suggest Times New Roman because it's more simple.
b) The banner at the top didn't make a positive first impression on me because it seemed low-quality. Your choice of font was strange, because it seems like your layout is meant to be more minimalistic in terms of style. Thus, I would have chosen a much simpler font like Verdana, which not only suits your site's theme, but would look visually impressive.
c) I agree with that the Spiffy Reviews site owner when they said "the font choice wasn't the best". I think Verdana was a right choice because it's easier to read.
d) In your previous review, the review said "The banner at the top looks quite low-quality. (Frequent Flyer). I agree with this and would definitely recommend their suggestions.
e) All of the above are considered plagiarism.
f) None of the above are considered plagiarism
g) A and C are considered plagiarism.
h) A, B, and D are considered plagiarism.


Time for a pop quiz!

#8) You're writing a review for Awesome Directory. Prior to writing it, you've already read one of their previous reviews from Frequent Flyer. They wrote:

The banner at the top looks quite low-quality. This is because of two major issues. First, the focal image is not very crisp. The blurriness makes it hard to focus on the banner and it's a bit eye-straining to say the least! Second, the font choice wasn't the best, though I do have some examples of ones that are. Verdana would have been a top-notch choice seeing as how your site is meant to be more simplistic in design.

If you wrote one of the statements below in your reviews, which of the following is plagiarism?


a) Upon loading the site, I noticed the banner at the top which was a bit low-quality. First, the image is too blurry, to say the least! The second problem is the font which didn't work well with the banner. I would suggest Times New Roman because it's more simple.

This is definitely a case of plagiarism! Note how they point everything out in the same exact order, but the kicker here is that they use similar phrases (ex. "to say the least"). Even if they tried to give a different example, this is simply a re-phrased version of the original. Still, it's not the only plagiarised statement...

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#8) You're writing a review for Awesome Directory. Prior to writing it, you've already read one of their previous reviews from Frequent Flyer. They wrote:

The banner at the top looks quite low-quality. This is because of two major issues. First, the focal image is not very crisp. The blurriness makes it hard to focus on the banner and it's a bit eye-straining to say the least! Second, the font choice wasn't the best, though I do have some examples of ones that are. Verdana would have been a top-notch choice seeing as how your site is meant to be more simplistic in design.

If you wrote one of the statements below in your reviews, which of the following is plagiarism?


b) The banner at the top didn't make a positive first impression on me because it seemed low-quality. Your choice of font was strange, because it seems like your layout is meant to be more minimalistic in terms of style. Thus, I would have chosen a much simpler font like Verdana, which not only suits your site's theme, but would look visually impressive.

Tricked ya, didn't I? This is actually not a case of plagiarism - just two reviewers noticing the same things. Note that in the second statement, the reviewer talks about the style of the layout in more depth and spends more time linking font choice back to that.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#8) You're writing a review for Awesome Directory. Prior to writing it, you've already read one of their previous reviews from Frequent Flyer. They wrote:

The banner at the top looks quite low-quality. This is because of two major issues. First, the focal image is not very crisp. The blurriness makes it hard to focus on the banner and it's a bit eye-straining to say the least! Second, the font choice wasn't the best, though I do have some examples of ones that are. Verdana would have been a top-notch choice seeing as how your site is meant to be more simplistic in design.

If you wrote one of the statements below in your reviews, which of the following is plagiarism?


c) I agree with that the Spiffy Reviews site owner when they said "the font choice wasn't the best". I think Verdana was a right choice because it's easier to read.

This is a case of plagiarism and here's why. Even though the writer has clearly quoted and stated where the quote came from, they failed to link back to the appropriate site.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#8) You're writing a review for Awesome Directory. Prior to writing it, you've already read one of their previous reviews from Frequent Flyer. They wrote:

The banner at the top looks quite low-quality. This is because of two major issues. First, the focal image is not very crisp. The blurriness makes it hard to focus on the banner and it's a bit eye-straining to say the least! Second, the font choice wasn't the best, though I do have some examples of ones that are. Verdana would have been a top-notch choice seeing as how your site is meant to be more simplistic in design.

If you wrote one of the statements below in your reviews, which of the following is plagiarism?


d) In your previous review, the review said "The banner at the top looks quite low-quality." (Frequent Flyer). I agree with this and would definitely recommend their suggestions.

This is an excellent example of not only proper crediting, but a perfect example of how reviewers should use referencing in their own work. This is definitely not an example of plagiarism since they've used quotes to emphasize what they're copying from the other reviewer. They've also linked back.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#8) You're writing a review for Awesome Directory. Prior to writing it, you've already read one of their previous reviews from Frequent Flyer. They wrote:

The banner at the top looks quite low-quality. This is because of two major issues. First, the focal image is not very crisp. The blurriness makes it hard to focus on the banner and it's a bit eye-straining to say the least! Second, the font choice wasn't the best, though I do have some examples of ones that are. Verdana would have been a top-notch choice seeing as how your site is meant to be more simplistic in design.

If you wrote one of the statements below in your reviews, which of the following is plagiarism?


e) All of the above are considered plagiarism.

There are some that are perfect examples of "referencing", so this isn't the correct answer.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#8) You're writing a review for Awesome Directory. Prior to writing it, you've already read one of their previous reviews from Frequent Flyer. They wrote:

The banner at the top looks quite low-quality. This is because of two major issues. First, the focal image is not very crisp. The blurriness makes it hard to focus on the banner and it's a bit eye-straining to say the least! Second, the font choice wasn't the best, though I do have some examples of ones that are. Verdana would have been a top-notch choice seeing as how your site is meant to be more simplistic in design.

If you wrote one of the statements below in your reviews, which of the following is plagiarism?


f) None of the above are considered plagiarism

Oh, there are definitely some plagiarised statements up there. The question is how many and which ones are they?

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#8) You're writing a review for Awesome Directory. Prior to writing it, you've already read one of their previous reviews from Frequent Flyer. They wrote:

The banner at the top looks quite low-quality. This is because of two major issues. First, the focal image is not very crisp. The blurriness makes it hard to focus on the banner and it's a bit eye-straining to say the least! Second, the font choice wasn't the best, though I do have some examples of ones that are. Verdana would have been a top-notch choice seeing as how your site is meant to be more simplistic in design.

If you wrote one of the statements below in your reviews, which of the following is plagiarism?


g) A and C are considered plagiarism.

Correct! Both A and C are considered plagiarised! Wow, you've made it quite far! Here's the second last question...

#9) Which of the following explains proper formatting?
a) For a pro/con list, you should divide all of your statements into a "pro" category and a "con" category. Using bullets for each point isn't mandatory since you already have the specific categories of "pro" and "con".
b) Though using plain text for category headers is okay, you should always put a full paragraph space above and below that header.
c) It's completely fine to center your review, provided the div's width is a manageable size.
d) When you correct someone's spelling, always copy and paste what they wrote. In the line below, re-write the sentence with edits. Never lump spelling or grammar issues into one paragraph.


Time for a pop quiz!

#8) You're writing a review for Awesome Directory. Prior to writing it, you've already read one of their previous reviews from Frequent Flyer. They wrote:

The banner at the top looks quite low-quality. This is because of two major issues. First, the focal image is not very crisp. The blurriness makes it hard to focus on the banner and it's a bit eye-straining to say the least! Second, the font choice wasn't the best, though I do have some examples of ones that are. Verdana would have been a top-notch choice seeing as how your site is meant to be more simplistic in design.

If you wrote one of the statements below in your reviews, which of the following is plagiarism?


h) A, B, and D are considered plagiarism.

Nope, not it!

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#9) Which of the following explains proper formatting?
a) For a pro/con list, you should divide all of your statements into a "pro" category and a "con" category. Using bullets for each point isn't mandatory since you already have the specific categories of "pro" and "con".

Wrong! Especially in a pro/con review, always separate each of your issues into smaller chunks. Using bullets is an excellent way to do this. What is you shouldn't do is write all of your "pro" comments into one giant paragraph. Since you'll be discussing different topics, putting them into bullet points makes each issue much more clear.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#9) Which of the following explains proper formatting?
b) Though using plain text for category headers is okay, you should always put a full paragraph space above and below that header.

Nope, not the right answer! Using simple plain text for category headers is not okay because these titles are meant to stand out. For example, this is an example of what you should do:

First impression:

Blurb here

At least bold or italicize your different categories or better yet, use headers.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#9) Which of the following explains proper formatting?
c) It's completely fine to center your review, provided the div's width is a manageable size.

Never center your reviews. Not only does it make your page look messy, but centered text is hard to read. This is a very common rookie mistake, so be sure not to commit it! The part about "div size" doesn't factor in - it's written to throw you off! Regardless of div size, centering is not a good idea.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#9) Which of the following explains proper formatting?
d) When you correct someone's spelling, always copy and paste what they wrote. In the line below, re-write the sentence with edits. Never lump spelling or grammar issues into one paragraph.

Correct! With spelling/grammar errors, you always want to give an example of where you found the mistake. Otherwise, the site owner could be searching forever! Additionally, you don't want to simply give a list of errors and then fixes because the reader will be constantly scrolling up and down. Here's an example of what you should do:

You wrote: wlecome to my site!!!!
It should be: Welcome to my site!

You may or may not want to give a brief explanation (this is definitely helpful in cases where errors aren't very obvious).

Wow! You made it to the last question! Here it is...

#10) What makes a review great?
a) Providing the site owner with a list of problems that they can fix
b) Giving the site owner reassurance that their site is very high-quality
c) Explaning your opinions for every issue you point out
d) All of the above


Time for a pop quiz!

#10) What makes a review great?
a) Providing the site owner with a list of problems that they can fix

A list of "issues" is not a review - it's simply a list of things a person thinks is wrong. A review is meant to be more comprehensive and much more in-depth.

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#10) What makes a review great?
b) Giving the site owner reassurance that their site is very high-quality

Praising the efforts of a site owner is great! However, blindly trying to get on their good side and ignoring the fact that the site has issues is not a review. What if you run into a low-quality site?

TRY AGAIN?



Time for a pop quiz!

#10) What makes a review great?
c) Explaning your opinions for every issue you point out

Correct! A review is simply your opinion and the most important thing about writing great reviews is explaining your perspective.

Congratulations, demivolt! Looks like you've made it all the way to the end! I see reading through this guide has helped a bit.

I suppose the only word left to say: Lemongrab


Time for a pop quiz!

#10) What makes a review great?
d) All of the above

Nope, not the right answer!

TRY AGAIN?



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Dare to risk public criticism. - Mary Kay Ash

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Guide posted on July 6th, 2012






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