Friday, February 11, 2011

Tips for Writing an Accurate and Useful Review

This may turn into a bit of a rant... but I'm going to try and keep it as concise as possible. I am not trying to offend anyone reading this and I refuse to list names, but these are things that I've identified over my time of reading beauty blogs as being a real annoyance.

I'm not saying I have perfect reviews, perfect FOTDs or anywhere close. I am simply going to pass along tips that I use to try and ensure that all of my posts meet a certain level of concise and accurate writing.

If you have anything to add, please feel free to comment! This could be an interesting discussion.

1) Please post clear and accurate photos: This seems like a no brainer, but you'd be surprised at how many blogs I come across that have either blurry or overexposed (or both) photos of color swatches. It is really important when someone is looking for a swatch of something for said swatch to be clear and accurate in color. I understand that not everyone has the macro function on their camera, but if you don't... at least hold the camera steady or use a tripod to keep the photos from blurring. I don't mind so much if an eyeshadow swatch is blurred a little, sometimes it actually helps to show glitter or shimmer. As for color accuracy, I also understand that some photos are difficult to catch in the correct lighting (reds and purples are notorious for being tricky buggers), but at least SAY that the swatch is slightly off. No one is going to fault you if you took 100 pictures of a purple eyeshadow and it appears slightly blue... so long as you say it's off in color a little, and explain how so. If I'm looking at a swatch of Mac Russian Red, it should not appear orange... because it's NOT ORANGE.

2) Learn your camera and how to use it properly: You know those manuals that come with your camera? Try sitting down and reading it. Take some test photos. You'd be surprised what your "dinky" little $150 Sony Cybershot can do. Most cameras now, even cheap ones, have color, flash and ISO adjustments. Set the ISO to the lowest possible number when using flash, it will help to prevent overexposure. If you don't have the paper manual anymore, try looking online. There are camera specialist forums that have tips listed for most popular models of cameras on the market.

3) Make sure your information is accurate: If you are making a simple observation that is not confirmed by the company (such as me saying the WetnWild 6 pan palettes were discontinued), simply state that it was YOUR observation and it is not confirmed. Please stop spouting untrue verbal diarrhea onto the internet. It's really a pain when someone is trying to find information and 6,000 people have a different story to tell. Also, ensure your pricing information and product availability is accurate. My best tip on this is that if you're unsure of something, and you can't find the answer anywhere, don't say "I don't know"... for example, I cannot tell you how many times I've come across a Mac review that says "this is a repromote, but I don't know from what collection." Either don't mention the repromote part, or use Google as your buddy. Seriously. It's irritating. It will also make a reader Google it themselves, and when they find that other blog that has said information, plus more, they will inevitably leave yours to read that one instead.

4) Make appropriate post titles and tags/labels: The next blog that I click on where a post is titled "X Foundation Review and Swatches" where there is not a single fricking picture of the product packaging or a swatch of the product, I will comment on that person's blog telling them to edit their post title. A review is just that -- a review of the product's positives, negatives, uses, price, availability... to be quite honest, I don't give a flying eff if you write that the foundation is "really nice on the skin, lasts a long time and covers up all of your pimples". I want to see the packaging (is it useful, bulky, etc?), a swatch including how well it matches your skin, and a picture of you wearing it. I want to see the coverage as that is the most important thing in a foundation. HOW long does it last? HOW well does it match your skin? You've got to be more detailed. If it's a creaseless cream eyeshadow, is it indeed creaseless? Take one for the team and wear it without primer... it'll be okay. You will NOT die. Try it on the weekend when you don't need to be anywhere. Your review on an anti-crease product is USELESS if you don't talk about wear time or whether it does indeed crease.

5) Quit posting new products just to get blog hits: If you are going to post promotional images, say IN THE TITLE that they are promo images and it is NOT a review. I see so many websites getting Google hits from appearing like they have swatches or a review, and all it is, is a slew of promo images we've seen 1,000 times this week.

6) It's not bad if you get sent a product for free, but at least respect the company who sent it to you: This is a touchy subject for me. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know I was complaining the other day about bloggers, small and big, getting products or entire collections for free and then writing up a 5 minute review and calling it a day. If I get a product for free, ever, to review, I am going to do a detailed review just as if I paid for it myself. BUT, it is completely and insanely disrespectful to say, get a BRAND NEW collection of anti-crease products from a company and then literally type up 4 sentences and post it on the internet.
I'm going to take the new Urban Decay Shadow Pencils as an example. One very big blogger did a pretty excellent review on them... it was detailed, she tested the wear time, she also had very detailed color representations and even went so far as to compare them to the original Urban Decay eyeliners. On the release date, I noticed a literal slew of bloggers posting reviews on the very same product and literally slapping up a packaging picture and a swatch picture, saying they were pretty colors, the retail price, and that was it. COME ON... are you forgetting that this product is meant to be used on it's own? You need to test that! Your review is useless to me if I want to know whether or not they last without a primer. But hey, the blogger was successful... they got Google hits, and that's what matters, right? (Wrong.)
The same thing happened with NYX's new HD line, by the way, which is what sparked the ENTIRE above rant. Even if an item is too dark for you, at least still test it (if you got it for free) as it will be helpful to those reading your blog. I don't care if it feels nice on the back of your hand.

7) Stop photoshopping swatch pictures: Believe it or not, I see this quite frequently. I obviously can't spot it on products I haven't used myself, but I've seen too many review posts where there is no way the person got the colors of x item to show up in such a way. It's quite blatantly photoshopped, and I can tell because most of the time, the person isn't good with photoshop. I don't really need to say more on this... this sort of goes with the "post accurate and concise pictures", doesn't it? Why would you photoshop something that a person is relying on to make a buying decision?

8) Use spellcheck: Added on request by Jade. Nothing more needs to be said.

9) Don't be afraid to post a long review: If it takes me 10 minutes to read a darn good review, I don't mind. If I read a terrible review that blathers on for 10 minutes, then yes I will be a bit miffed. Longer isn't always better but the more information you pack into a review, the more beneficial it's going to be... and most importantly, the more your readers are going to keep coming back to you knowing you have a talent for posting good reviews. If you go through all the trouble of doing comparisons to other posts, and pictures of it on other people just because... post it! Any extra information is always useful. I appreciate the work that goes into a review.

Hopefully this helps you guys... and maybe it will allow you to vent some of your frustration as well!

24 comments:

  1. You hit up some great points girl! Great post :) Now this post is making me think what's lacking in my reviews hmmmmm :)

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  2. you just gave me a lot of tips on how to write my blog and I appreciate it! Thank you for the help. I was looking for something like this when I first starting one and nothing was as detailed as this!

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  3. @Ebru: You're good, I like your reviews! I can honestly say I have no problems with anyone I follow really.
    @Siera: Good luck :) will follow your blog!

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  4. awesome post....Truly important information and makes me think about how my own reviews are. good stuff :)


    Vonnie
    http://www.socialitedreams.com/

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  5. AGREED! and those NYX HD reviews by some people are sooo annoying, they say one or two things about it and then say they love it..I also hate when ppl say they LOVE everything or only give the positives but never any negatives. You can not possibly love every single thing you buy..idk..when that happens it makes me think they are not honest..

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  6. I'm glad you wrote this, if I'd done it I probably would have abused the hell out of the capslock key. And used far too many exclamation points.

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  7. @socialitedreams: thanks, glad it helped :)
    @Jess: Yeah the NYX HD reviews are THE reason why I wrote this. Did no one think to compare it to MUFE HD? Come on... really? No, they just wanted to get hits and quickly post a review, knowing people would be looking for others' thoughts on the product. I have not seen a single review of their new foundation that was suitable. The sad part is that NYX sent most of these people the products for free... why are they wasting marketing tools on people that aren't going to get them sales, you know? I won't buy it based on what I've seen...
    @Jade: I tried not to abuse it too hard, poor little guy... ;-)

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  8. You hit on some great points for us readers. I don't have a blog, but I find it very hard to read and follow what they are talking about. The only other thing I would add is how some of these bloggers set up their pages. I know they are not professional web designers, but GG...less is more sometimes. I can't find what I want to read about. JMO :)

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  9. Excellent post.

    One thing that rubs me the wrong way is people who soften/blur their face under the delusion that it makes their skin look better. It doesn't. You look ridiculous. There. I said it.

    Beyond that, my tip would be to learn more about actual blogging. Writing for the web is not the same as other forms of writing, learning the difference can help you to create better content. Dear god don't put several weeks (or months) worth of posts on the front page. Don't pile your sidebar up with so much stuff that it takes a week for the page to load fully. Learn what a jumpbreak is, and how to use it.

    None of these are a huge deal, I say this while the web designer in the back of my head is screaming and smashing things. But they are the difference between looking like a part-time blogger who doesn't really give a damn and a more sleek feel of a person who actually cares about what they're doing.

    I realize most beauty bloggers get into blogging because of the beauty, so to speak. So often the community just accepts the above ... err ... bad habits. But like anything, when you're into it you hone your skills and learn better techniques. Blogging is really no different.

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  10. oh another thing I thought of! I hate when people use pictures pics of the product off the internet. I could see if the product is not released yet, but it you own it, I want to see your pic of the product not a sopheria stock photo..that really bugs me and it does take much time to take your own pic..oh and yeah I know why didn't anyone compair it to MUF HD..that was honestly my first thought when I bought it and that is how I plan on doing my review..it just makes sense!!! and I agree with lolli's point..I hate photoshopping and if u do it, just say it cuz we can tell anyways..urgh..I hope I am not back with another point..lol

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  11. i know there are haters everywhere, for any reason so i'll just say.. i hope no one takes this post personally because they feel guilty for having done any of the above, and i hope you don't get any shite comments for it. this was a very helpful post and i hope to the universal creator that every blogger will take these tips and turn them into rules for themselves. thank you for posting what i always think.

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  12. @Lolli: I consider myself a casual blogger as well. Sure, I've considered trying to hook up with a PR firm but it's really because I actually enjoy doing reviews. I like testing things out even if something sucks, because that happens. Some products just don't work. But mostly I like showing swatches and (hopefully) giving color inspiration to my readers. I just get so frazzled when I'm trying to do research on a product for myself and can't find ANY useful info on the product amongst the thousands of beauty blogs out there... thanks for your opinion!

    @Jess: I totally agree with you and Lolli! I see it a lot on FOTD sections of forums. No one's skin is that perfect, and certainly not so under a macro lens and serious zoom in. I stopped posting on forums because I felt so self conscious about any freckles, blemishes or out of place eyebrow hairs that I may have... I don't photoshop my pics. The only time I ever have was one time where I had a mascara smudge right on the center of my lid, and all I did was blur it slightly and replace the lid eyeshadow color over top of the little dot of mascara! I felt weird even doing that.

    @MartianDelights: Any time :)

    @prettybottles: I really hope none of my followers take offense. I didn't mean it for anyone here specifically... I'm sure I've come across some bad blogs but the ones I follow I genuinely enjoy, and look forward to finding more good ones. I posted it more as a guideline and maybe hoping that some of the people I did actually aim some of the tips to see this and realize what they're doing... but, they won't, such is life.

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  13. Good post, and I definitely agree about how annoying crappy photos can be - if you can't see the product properly, why bother?! There's an Irish youtuber who I watch a lot and really enjoy her reviews/recommendations, but her blog photos are awful sometimes even though she has tens of thousands of followers! I hope I'm not the one with the creaseless shadows (although they weren't sent to me)! I did one on my little Benefit collection and completely forgot to mention that they are in fact creaseless! Thankfully someone asked in the comments. If they weren't it would have been the first thing I mentioned, a bit like with my review of the Sleek Molten Metals :) I can't believe people would photoshop swatches - it totally defeats the purpose! They must be getting compensated by the company for making the products look good. It's as important to highlight the crappy products as it is the good ones as it can save people money.

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  14. This topic is being brought fairly often now! Good post, I like the points you touched on. It does make me take another look at my reviews though...I think I'm doing ok....

    And seriously photo shopping swatches...that's lame!

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  15. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by don't photoshop your pictures, because I appreciate it when bloggers know how to resize, crop, paste inserts of close-ups, even retouch color. Like G over at Nouveau Cheap will retouch color on a purple nail polish that looks cobalt, so that it looks purple. She doesn't care that it makes her hands red or green when she does this, she wants people to make informed choices about the product.

    Also, about spellcheck, most of the errors I notice spellcheck wouldn't catch, like "there, their, and they're" since they're all spelled correctly but the blogger is using the wrong one. The one that drives me nuts is when this one blogger uses "of" instead of "have". Example, "I loved this polish so much, I should OF bought the whole collection." The reason this makes me insane is really petty...when I first got online I joined this one chat, and there was this mean-spirited ignorant bitch who always made that mistake. It makes me think of her when I see anyone do it.

    Oh man, I've seen number 6 ALL THE TIME. There are so many bloggers out there for the freebies, but they post a picture or two and all you get is the promo copy from the manufacturer or PR company instead of a real review.

    And THIS..."Dear god don't put several weeks (or months) worth of posts on the front page. Don't pile your sidebar up with so much stuff that it takes a week for the page to load fully. Learn what a jumpbreak is, and how to use it."

    Because not everyone has a super top of the line computer, mine is crap. I can't stand when a blogger has java applets on their page that freeze up my computer. I especially hate that spinning world applet that shows where hits are coming from. I also hate when music automatically plays on a page. I don't have the same taste in music as you do, I do not want to listen to your favorite obscure musician that proves how cool you are compared to me and my crap pop and rock. (It is always music no one has ever heard of but the blog owner...)

    Lastly, none of you will want to follow me. Not only is my computer a dinosaur, but my camera is too. And I totally suck as a photographer to boot. It's one of the reasons I haven't actually posted much on my blog yet. I dread having to deal with my photos and how awful I know they will be.

    Although this post reminded me of one I wrote and you might like to read that rant too: http://cheapthrillss.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/haul-video-rant/

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  16. @Kat: No no, wasn't you, haha! I enjoyed your review on those, I could get from your writing that the products were creaseless as (I think?) you said at one point you could pop just the shadow on and be done on the eyes... that was a clue for me, lol! And yeah, I've seen the same -- 50 comments every hour and yet the review/photos are a joke.

    @Kimmie: You're getting even better! I really enjoy reading your indie reviews because you're dead honest, which I totally appreciate.

    @Donna: Yep, I agree with you. I'm going to check out your blog when I'm not at work :). As for the photoshopping, I'm more referring to upping the saturation and contrast so that the product appears more pigmented than it is. Another way of doing it is when I see swatches where the person MUST HAVE swiped on the product 15-20 times for it to be that vibrant. The biggest culprit I've seen for that were the few Kat Von D Tattoo Chronicles palette reviews I've seen... Solitude is not pigmented, at all, and I kept seeing these vibrant and smooth swatches... uhhh, no way! I also was referring to photoshopping FOTDs, which irritates the piss out of me, because guess what? Your skin has pores. It doesn't look like a watercolour painting...
    I try to warn people if something is pic heavy, and generally only 3-4 posts show on my front page. I should invest in some jumpbreak coding, I'll have to get my husband to look at that. I'm guilty of that =/
    OH GOD MUSIC ON A PAGE SHOULD BUUUURN. I mean, I won't lie, I look at blogs at work sometimes and the music blaring at top volume is a great way of getting caught -_-

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  17. I really appreciate this post and I think tips like these are what help make us all better bloggers! I know I'll definitely take a few tips from this! Thanks for posting this. :)

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  18. Number 6! When I get sth to review, I write an awfully long post for it (just feel that I owe them a more thorough review than usual) then I see other blogs pop up with the same thing but perhaps a quarter of the length and it's copy-and-paste material.

    I don't understand number 7 though. I ALWAYS photoshop my photos as the colour is off. My camera just doesn't capture the same colour I see with my eyes. I dislike yellow+dark swatches where all the colours look the same even though I own the products and they don't look alike at all. Please.. If you're not gonna post accurate/moderately good photos, just don't bother.. Or at least correct them before posting..

    Sorry hope you don't mind me replying to your readers lol!

    @ Donna
    Absolutely agree about the music! I like to open multiple pages at once so they can load while I go do other stuff and some would be blasting music. Then I have to scroll through each blog to find the player to stop it. Grr..

    @ Lolli's comment
    I think you're talking about air brushing? Yes, sometimes I see people with perfect skin then realise it's just photoshop =_=

    As for the jumpbreak (if it's what I think it is), I personally dislike it as I have to open a new window just to read the post or press back to go back, which eventually uses more time to load. Unless you're writing enough before the jumpbreak to help me decide to read on or not, don't use it! Don't freaking write one sentence, put a jumpbreak then make me open a new page and realise I'm not interested at all.

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  19. @ Jess
    I'm really looking forward to hearing about the HD foundation. And I agree with your comment about people grabbing generic pictures off the net. I read beauty blogs for opinions, swatches, and pictures of products actually in use. If I want generic promo photos I'll surf Google images.

    @ Cydonian
    I enjoy your blog. The posts aren't just well written, they're well formatted for easier reading. The photos are clear, but more than this you take excellent angle shots and eye close ups, I like the addition of photos showing the displays, and your swatches are fantastic. I think this kind of thing shows care for your craft, so to speak, and in my mind it makes for a far sleeker looking blog.
    A jumpbreak button which inserts a snippet of code where ever your courser is in your post is a basic function in almost all blogging platforms. Usually up where the formatting buttons are.

    @ Donna
    Exactly! I have a good laptop, and I also happen to have one of the fastest broadband connections in NZ, and yet often I'm left with a blog still loading after several minutes. To be honest, I've even had blogs not fully load after an hour. That's just not cool.
    I also agree about the music. I listen to music on my laptop a lot, and having someone else's music blaring through my stereo (as I often hook my laptop up to it to listen to music) or deafening me through headphones is really, really annoying. I will not bother scrolling to turn off music, in fact I wont even bother looking for an off button. I simply close the tab and don't go back.

    @ Isabel
    No, not airbrushing. I actually don't mind if someone wants to airbrush out a pimple or whatever. I also, just saying, don't mind if people want to take their valentines photo and make their eyes shaped like hearts, or retint their eyes into different colours to give an idea of how a look might end up looking with different eye colours. What I'm talking about is when they use a soften or blur filter on their whole face. It ends up making it look really blurry and weird.
    While I prefer people use jumpbreaks, I do actually agree with you on the point of what's written above the jumpbreak. It's important for people to write enough to give a person a clear idea of what the hell is on the rest of the page, and a single sentence isn't going to make me bother.

    Also, a note for bloggers on the issue of jumpbreaks ... if you have some kind of tracker which lists the pages people actually visit on your blog, then using jumpbreak to get people to click through to your actual post page rather than read it on the main page will help you collect information on what posts are popular even if they aren't being commented on. It can also help you find out all sorts of other information, seems you'll be better tracking your readers. Which you can then use to help produce more popular content, so on and so forth.

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  20. Excellent post babe!! :) Quite many "reviews" popped up all at the same time like an epidemic or something on a Juicy Couture solid perfume ring (or something like that, I didn't pay a lot of attention). I didn't read a single one of them.

    And I really don't like blogs that all they do is posts with promotional pictures. Doing some is fine, I've done this myself, but having your whole blog based on this type of posts is a big no-no I think!

    OMG I had no idea people would photoshop swatch pics!!

    xxx

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  21. Well said, chicken. I don't understand WHY people photoshop swatch pictures. Sometimes, you just can't capture something properly. Some colours scare cameras. Sometimes you live somewhere where it rains every freaking day of the years and the lights not the best, but you want to write your review anyway. That doesn't mean you can 'shop away! You can just SAY it's not really accurate, try your best to get it as near as you can, and say that it has a little duochrome, or it's slightly more blue, or that Bob has a more accurate picture here, on his blog, or.... agggh! Just... stop being shit. I think of myself as a pretty slack blogger, and I try my best to do that so what's everyone else's excuse?

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  22. Great tips!! I must go review my reviews.. =)

    I really didnt think people would go as far as photoshopping their swatch pictures. If you want perfect swatches then invest in a good camera, lighting, and whatever else instead of investing your time on photoshop creating misleading swatches. Ugh, I hate when people photoshop their skin. There are tons of people who dont photoshop it and they get no freaking credit for putting themselves out there. The fakers always get asked how they keep their skin so nice and they actually go and give a list of products they use. Are you effing serious? Why dont you just say.. I use this really good product called PHOTOSHOP! sheesh.

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