Mouthshut, or MS as we lovingly refer to it, is a great user reviews site on the lines of Epinions.com in the US. It is a one-stop shop for reviews or advice on any product, service or concept. There are also comparison reviews between peers in various categories (e.g. Tata Sky vs Airtel in the DTH category).
Personally, I have benefited from MS twice in the past. Two of my issues got sorted out after I posted my experiences on this site. The companies happened to read my reviews, contacted me and got the issues fixed. Thanks a lot, MS! What would I do without you!!!
However, I must add that there are several improvements I would like to see on MS before I can consider it truly up there with the very best! I’m sure the MS folks must already be aware of many of these issues. Perhaps they need more funding or manpower to implement the much needed facelift.
– Some products are placed in multiple categories, which leads to distribution of reviews across the two. For example, Tata Sky is there both in the “TV & Cable Channels” category and in the “Media/Entertainment Employers” category. On second thoughts, instead of removing the extra category, perhaps both could ultimately point to the same list of reviews (like Wikipedia which has some pages redirecting to other pages with the same topic).
– Some categories are redundant and need to be merged. For example, there is a Hyundai Getz and a Hyundai Getz Prime category under “Cars/SUVs”. Both contain reviews on both products. Clearly both could be merged. Probably a drop down list can be added to allow the user to select the specific model. Similarly, there’s a Rediff.com and Shopping.Rediff.com under “Websites”, and Air India and Indian Airlines (now non-existent) under “Airlines”. There’s a division of reviews as a result.
– In some categories, the questions are not really relevant to the topic. For example, all the DTH providers are listed under “TV & Cable Channels”, so the questions like quality of programmes, anchors and hosts, etc. are not relevant.
– I think MS needs to remove its stars-based rating system and provide text based ratings (such as bad, average, good, etc.) with either radio buttons or a drop down menu. That’s because I’ve seen many reviews where the ratings are not at all consistent with the review of the product. Maybe stars are subjective. Textual ratings could be more objective.
– In all categories, overall ratings need to be displayed against the products (and also number of reviews). That way, just by navigating to the category, we can find out which company is doing well and which isn’t. Right now, we need to go to every company in that category to get an idea of who’s doing the best. For example, by going to “Business/Finance websites”, if we can see the ratings of all the Demat account companies on one page, we can straightaway get an idea of which company is better. There could also be a “sort by rating” option.
– In some cases, there is a need to extend the review beyond 7500 words. Instead of putting a blanket limit of 7500 words, perhaps MS can moderate reviews longer than that limit, upto a certain larger limit (say 10,000).
– The look of the site needs to be made more slick. This doesn’t necessarily mean making it more flashy and colorful (and hence slower to load). Simple but well designed sites can be more popular and effective than the flashiest of sites. See Wikipedia.com for example!
– Reviews that are incomplete or make accusations without providing details must be marked as “unreliable.” That’ll make the reviews more credible. Since it’s difficult for MS to monitor every single review, this must be done by members themselves. In addition to the existing review options (useful, very useful, etc.), a “Mark as unreliable” option can be provided for members to use if they find a review unfair. Such reviews’ ratings must not count towards the overall rating.
– Advertisements on review pages need to be better placed. They end up disfiguring the reviews. And anyway, research done by Google AdSense indicates that ads that stand out prominently or are “in-your-face” tend to be less clicked on by visitors.
– Also, the word editor for writing reviews needs to be made more comprehensive, like Blogger.com’s post editor. There should be options to add images, format text, add tables, etc.
– In addition to all-time ratings (which is the case now), reviews must also have recent ratings which can be the ratings over the last 6 months or 1 year or maybe even last 20 users or so. This is because performance of companies can improve or degrade over time, so old ratings shouldn’t influence the overall rating too much. I’ve already raised this issue long back in my diary post.
– MS points need to be made more useful. Right now there’s no use of your points except gifting silly virtual gifts to yourself or others. Perhaps MS can tie up with I-mint or some other such program so that points can be made redeemable. This would also be MS’s way of giving something back to its members, since it is also earning money from ads posted on reviews written by us! Not to mention that this would immensely increase members’ enthusiasm to write reviews and also comment on others reviews.
– MS also needs to improve its advertising. There is virtually no advertising in newspapers, TV channels, street hoardings or even on other websites! It’s just word-of-mouth advertising, so far. That can only get you so far MS, but to really make it to the big league and make big bucks, you need to invest on advertising too!
– Another way of increasing popularity is to have many more corporate members here, so many more people’s problems can be sorted out. That will really give a boost to word-of-mouth advertising.
Well, that’s all I can think of as of now. I’ll add more points as and when I remember them!