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I'm building a site with items that can be reviewed, and users can vote whether or not reviews are helpful to bubble the best to the top Amazon-style.

Amazon, Yelp, and almost everything else I could find shows the number of people who found the review helpful, often right next to the metamoderation button. (The one exception I found was Netflix, which I believe also uses "similarity" between the viewer and the reviewer to bubble reviews to the top, so I'm not sure how much "helpfulness" even comes into play.)

I'm wondering, if the site is already pushing the most helpful reviews to the top, what additional benefit providing the number of people who found a review helpful might have?

Screenshots of what I mean:

Amazon page

CNet page

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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I work at a reviews software company, and we've found that it's a matter of authenticity. User profiles, avatars, number of votes, comments, etc, are all indicators that real users are contributing. If the brand says, "we like this review!" it's probably because it's positive. Users don't want to trust marketing copy or advertising, and if user generated content appears to be from the brand, it can seem inauthentic and thus untrustworthy. A helpful review may actually be negative or critical, but helpful to other consumers to find relevant information.

I would say that showing the number of helpfulness votes might be unnecessary, in the sense that a user may not care if it was 2 votes or 3 votes. I think it's necessary, though, to distinguish between 1 upvote and 50 upvotes. It's a user-generated way to moderate quality, and if many people like a review, it is more informative and trustworthy. If you don't show the numbers (or "hotness" level with colors or size or something), your users lose the ability to distinguish quality.

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That's a great point, I've definitely seen sites that look like the reviews might be cherry-picked. I think it depends on the visual style, too, but transparency as to why certain reviews get stuck on top is probably a good thing. –  Pam G May 2 '11 at 16:32
    
It definitely depends on visual style, but without the transparency to answer "why", voting is somewhat meaningless. (Whereas a "featured" review would obviously be cherry-picked, but you're aware.) There's a lot of ways to display voting, and unfortunately the sites out there do it almost all the same. I'd love to see some unique styles for it. –  Elyse Holladay May 3 '11 at 19:37

The number gives you an idea of exactly how helpful or unhelpful by the sheer volume. For example if I see something on Amazon with 500 five star reviews and 10 one star, I feel much more confident that something with 2 five star reviews and 1 one star. Kind of like a strength in numbers thing I guess

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No, this is the metamoderation on the reviews themselves, not on the original item. I appologize if the original question was confusing, I'll add a screenshot –  Pam G Apr 29 '11 at 17:29
    
Sorry that was my oversight. Well in that case I would say that it is unnecessary to have the additional info. I personally never pay attention to this. –  Matt Rockwell Apr 29 '11 at 17:46

Users are more likely to trust a site and a product if there are signs of activity surrounding both. The numbers, for various reasons, help to create that sense of trust.

Two random additional thoughts:

  • At the product level. If you run your eye over an Amazon product page, you can quickly get an idea whether the comments thread is active or not. When comparing several products that are similar, a product with a much higher total vote count (and therefore the suggestion of more activity on the page) will draw attention because it is creating more commentary.
  • At the site level. It's been said elsewhere - highly regarded reviews are like having a friend guide you. Numbers reinforce the impression that the review is highly regarded, and reinforce the sense that (many) others have gone before you not just on the product but also on the site (reinforcing trust).
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