For who do we review?

The internet is full of reviews both professional and personal on almost every product or service available. But why do they exist? It seems like a stupid question at face value; to inform the consumer of course. But is that their only purpose? No, it's not and the audience we intend to reach greatly changes how we write. Therefore, I ask the question; for who do we review?

The way I see it, review readers can be divided up into the following categories;

  1. Those who have not used the product
  2. Those who have used the product
  3. Those who worked on the product
If I were to write for each of these categories, I would do it in very different ways. For the first type of reader, those who haven't used the product, the review needs to be tailored for someone who doesn't have first hand experience. This requires that descriptions have a higher level of detail in order to achieve the same level of understanding. However, at the same time, too much detail will overwhelm from lack of reference. Therefore, when writing a review for this category, the objective is breadth not depth. Paragraphs should talk about distinct topics. For example, if I were reviewing a hotel, I would discuss the location, hotel facilities, room quality, the staff and food. 

Many viewers of reviews are those who have already used a particular service. Reasons for this can include seeing if their experience matches with others, to re-evaluate their experiences, or to catch out anomalous reviews and biases. Personally, I don't believe that reviews should be tailored for this type of person as either they'll be served just as well by one aimed for other readers or would be better suited to a discussion on a forum. 

Finally are the reviews for those involved with a product or service. These are the kinds that I prefer to write. Writing a normal review is implied to be a one way street; You write it, people read it and choose to act accordingly, which may have the result of a net increase or decrease in business for a particular company. However, if you write a review with the intention for it to be seen by someone who works on the product, then it can be used as feedback to improve. Many would argue that this is better done by providing feedback to the service directly, and that should be done wherever possible. However, if this kind of review is read by people intending to use a product, then it's in their minds and they're more likely to provide the same feedback, compounding the pressure on the company to take action.

While the initial spirit of a review is to educate and inform those who have not yet used a particular product or service, we should not discount that companies examine their own reviews for potential improvements to their business model and by taking that into account we can provide a better experience for everyone.