Every day we rely on comparative product reviews to help us make product selections. Whether it's from the general public on amazon.com or from a professional company, we use the info to help us in the decision making process.
|Apple or Orange?|
When someone asks to review our products for a comparison, I am always happy and worried at the same time. Comparative reviews normally take one of two forms. They are either feeling based or data driven. Feeling based reviews are based on things that are subjective and can't be measured and data driven reviews are based on things that can be measured. When you are reading comparative reviews on a product here's a list of things to keep in mind so the review stays honest.
Feeling Based Comparative Reviews
Feeling based comparative reviews are great because you get a personal account on someones feelings about two similar products. Since feelings are subjective, so are feeling based comparative reviews. If you keep this in mind and take things with a grain of salt, you can get a great idea about a product you are interested in.
|How do you feel?|
There are however things to watch out for when reading a feeling based comparative review. If it's feeling based then it needs to stick to feelings. A good example would be stating one wheel is faster then another because it feels like it is. Velocity (speed) is not a feeling it's a physical property that is measurable. In fact humans cannot feel speed at all. It's a combination of senses that allows us to perceive speed. Flying in an airplane is a good example. If you are in the middle of the plane and cannot see outside (no visual input) you really have no idea how fast you are going. If you are sitting in a window seat you can see how quickly the ground is moving and therefore get a "perception" of the speed. In my opinion, any feeling based review that makes a claim about something measurable that hasn't been measured is questionable. Here are a list of measurable things that a reviewer should not claim in a comparative review if they have not been measured.
"Wheel A feels lighter than wheel B." - Lighter refers to weight which is measured in grams.
"Wheel A feels faster than wheel B." - Faster refers to velocity and is measure in meter/second.
"Wheel A accelerates better than wheel B" - Acceleration is measured in meter/second^2
"Wheel A is smoother then wheel B" - Smoother refers to friction and is measured in grams of force.
"Wheel A feels stiffer than wheel B" - Stiffness is measure in grams of force. Note: Stiffness is commonly misunderstood. Wheel stiffness can be measured laterally, torsionally and radially. It's also important to take frame stiffness into consideration when evaluating a wheels stiffness. Slowtwitch wrote a great article about wheel stiffness if you want to read more about it.
If a company like ours were to make a claim that "our wheels feel like the fastest wheels in the world... so they are", people would shoot holes through the claims. Even though reviewers are normally third party individuals it doesn't make their claims valid. Good reviews will avoid this language. Make sure you watch out for it.
Data Based Comparative Reviews
Data based comparative reviews give us a lot of details that normally validate manufacturers claims. Good comparative reviews detail the testing protocol and display the results. The reader can then use that data to help them make a decision.
|Is A faster then B?|
Data based reviews can also get off track if they are not careful. Sometimes you will see a data based comparative review recommend a product because it is faster or lighter then another product. In my opinion this can be misleading. If you look at our front wheels, our FLO 90 is the fastest wheel. Naturally you would think this is our best selling wheel since most of our customers are focused on increasing their speed. The truth is the front FLO 90 accounts for about 5% of our front wheel sales. The reason for this is most riders will have a harder time controlling the front 90 in all wind conditions, so the front 60 makes a better "do it all" front wheel because it ends up being faster for your average rider.
Anytime a data based review recommends a product simply because one data set is better then another, be cautious. Make sure you take all elements of production selection into consideration, even the feeling based ones.
Using Comparative Reviews
Every day I am asked to recommend a wheels to someone. People present any combination of information about riding style and intended use. Someone may want the fastest, lightest, stiffest, wheel for racing, and other may want a small performance improvement for weekend riding. Each recommendation is as unique as the person it's made for. I do my best to use a combination of feelings and data to make the best recommendation possible. When you are reading reviews to help you with your next purchase, make sure feeling based comparisons compare feelings, and data comparisons stick to the data.