Burn the land and boil the sea...you can't take the sky from me. Thrilled to have given birth to my new little boy at home. My little home birth baby is now an amazing 9 months old and I've decided to try dipping my toe back into review writing.
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While thereís no doubt that becoming a parent is a wonderful, fulfilling experience, itís can also be an experience full of must-haves and wonder products. There are so many different products on sale that claim to make a parentís life easier, or to help baby develop quicker, or that theyíre simply the best of the type. Some of these products are indeed fantastic, while others are simply useless while yet more claim to solve problems that do not exist and pander to our insecurities. So how do I navigate my way through this minefield? Well, if Iím looking to buy a new product Iíll often research it online, which means I read reviews, some of which are helpful, while others are sadly less-so. As well as reading reviews on this type of product, I love sharing my experiences of using baby and family related products, whether those experiences be good or bad. Thereís something very satisfying about warning others off the mistakes Iíve made. Over the last few years Iíve written quite a number of Kids & Family related reviews and now Iím going to share my feelings on what makes a Very Helpful and possibly even exceptional review on the subject.
The points Iím going to make in this section are relevant no matter which category youíre writing a review in, but Iím going to make them anyway because they are probably some of the most important if you want to get Ďpositiveí ratings. First off, make sure that the product you want to write about is on site. If itís not then youíll have to suggest it and then wait for it to be added. Please donít try to post in similar category or close match as this will make your review Off Topic and will be rated as such. Next, make sure you write your OWN review, copying somebody elseís work is cheating, theft, simply Not Helpful and you will be found out.
Although itís very tempting to simply start typing into the Ďwrite reviewí box, I would really suggest that you hold fire and open up a word processing program instead. I always write my reviews in Word but any other word processing program is just as good. This will allow you to write your review over a period of time, spell check, proof read and generally get your thoughts in order without worrying about losing your work.
How you format your review is entirely up to you, some people like to use headings while others donít. Personally I think heading are most useful with longer more in depth reviews that go into various aspects of a product and that shorter reviews donít really need them. However you format, try to use decent grammar with paragraphs and spacing, make your review as easy on the eye as possible. Remember we are being paid for these reviews so itís only right that we put as much effort into making it as easy to get the information out of them as possible. And whatever you do, donít use Ďtext speakí.
When writing about any product itís important to have relevant experience, but it can be especially hard to define Ďrelevantí when writing Kids & Family related reviews. Unlike, say, a mobile phone, we donít technically own the majority of the products in this section, so hereís my definition of that relevant experience.
Firstly, I would say that you need regular first-hand experience of using the product or watching the child use the product. This means that you would need to either be a main caregiver or see the child very regularly. By very regularly I mean at least several times a week, for a longish period each time. Why do I say this? Well as a parent, I know that Iíve often encouraged my children to play with toys bought by relatives when they visit, even though they really donít touch them any other time. Itís similar to dressing them in the awful old-fashioned clothes Granny bought, we do it because we donít want to offend. So the child may always seem to play with the toy you bought him during your weekly hour long visit, but this really isnít a balanced view of how they play with it. It may be that their parent says they play with it everyday but unless you see it, then itís not your first-hand experience.
But relevant experience goes even further than this, many baby products are regularly improved, reformulated and updated, with some of the changes being very significant while the product name stays the same. Letís take baby bottles as a case in point, in early 2010 many manufacturers changed the formulation of the material their bottles are made from to BPA free. Some of these changes were more successful than others, with at least one brand becoming almost unusable due to how cloudy the bottles were. So how helpful would it be to simply review the old style of bottle that you bought several years ago? Not very, in my opinion. So unless itís a very recent purchase, itís important to check that the product hasnít been changed since you bought it.
This is also the case with many toys and nursery items bought years ago or those boot sale bargains. Thatís not to say that reviews on those items wouldnít be helpful, because there are circumstances where they are, itís just theyíre not as helpful to someone trying to decide whether to buy new. As another example, there are toys still available to buy new now that I bought when my now 19 year old was a baby. But there have been a number of changes and improvements made during that time frame, so if I were to review those products now then the review simply wouldnít help someone looking at buying new, but it would be more helpful if someone was trying to decide whether to buy second hand.
The amount of experience required to write a helpful review obviously varies from product to product. But obviously the product has to have been actually used, so a review written for an item bought for a bump will not be helpful until the bump is born and has actually used it. Similarly, a review written about a toy thatís intended as a present that hasnít actually been given yet, is simply not helpful. Really I would say the item needs to have been regularly for at least a few weeks before you should even contemplate writing a review about it. Of course there are some exceptions with the occasional product being so terrible that youíll never use it again, but again the experience should be relevant to the product. So a review written after trying just one nappy in a pack, just isnít helpful, even if that nappy leaked.
There is one final aspect of relevant experience Iíd like to cover here that is quite important to me as a parent and unique to some Kids & Family products. And thatís when the products are not used for their original purpose. While I quite understand that many baby toiletries are multi-purpose and can be used by adults as well as children, if I was looking at reviews to find out what other people thought of a particular brand of wipes (for instance) and read a review that told me how great they were at removing make-up and cleaning leather settees but didnít tell me how good they were at cleaning dirty bums I really wouldnít find that review helpful. So while Iíve got nothing against these types of review, please bare in mind that I (personally) am unlikely to find them Very Helpful and definitely wonít find them exceptional (although others might).
Description vs. Opinion
No matter what the subject, there seems to be a culture on sites such as this to describe a product rather than share experience and opinion. I personally donít find this particularly helpful, if I want to know what a product looks like, well Iíll go and look at it. Thatís not to say all description is unhelpful, itís just the context itís used it. For example to say Ďthere are four buttons on the toy, the red one plays musicĒ is pure description, while ďThere are four easy to press buttons, but baby likes the red one best because it plays a lovely loud tuneĒ also contains opinion and experience. When reading a review about a baby toy, I want to know how baby actually interacts with it, does your baby actually play with it, is there one aspect that baby especially loves, does it hurt if baby throws it at you.
Of course the same principle applies to other products in the Kids & Family section. A description of a bottle of baby bath simply isnít helpful without some relevant experience. So stating ďthe bottle has a flip-top lidĒ is simply description, while ďI find the bottleís flip-top lid is easy to open even with one handĒ includes experience and opinion. With nursery furniture, description is, perhaps, a little more important, but experience and opinion is still the most essential part of any review. No matter what youíre reviewing think about what you wish youíd known before buying the product, good and bad, and then tell us about these aspects.
After writing your review, read through it. Does it say everything you want it to? Does it make sense? If not make any alterations and then read through it again. Once youíre happy then save your review and itís time to start thinking about a title, the advantages, disadvantages and summary boxes. Now personally, Iím terrible at thinking up a title, there are reviewers that can come up with witty titles, but I canít do that. My titles generally refer to some aspect of the product Iím reviewing, but as long as itís not offensive then itís up to you, I definitely do not judge a review by itís title.
With the advantage and disadvantage boxes, try to think of the products strongest positives and negatives. I know itís sometimes really difficult to say something positive about a product youíve hated (or negative about something you love) but nothing is all bad or all good. Something to definitely avoid, is putting Ďsee reviewí in either these boxes, this simply smacks of laziness and isnít at all helpful for anyone coming across your review.
Now itís finally time to post the review, so Ďcut & pasteí your review into the write review box, add your title, advantages, disadvantages, and star rating and press the preview button. Have another read through, check that everything makes sense and that the spacing is correct and then when youíre happy press the publish button and youíre done.
So thatís my opinion on what goes into writing a good Kids & Family review. Of course it is only my opinion and other people will possibly look for other things. Personally, I think the most important thing is to remember who it is we are writing for, the potential consumer, who is looking for information on other peopleís experiencing before purchasing an item for a child (whether their own or somebody elseís). So try to include opinion on the aspects that you would have found helpful to know about before you bought it. And remember you can please all of the people some of the time, or some of the people all of the time but you canít please all of the people all of the time.