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How to Create a Review Website?

Are you planning to buy something today? Some new clothes, a gadget, or something for your dog? Or, are planning to engage the services of a business or services provider, for e.g., a legal consulting service for your start-up?

If you are then it is likely that you will need the help of an online review site to help you check up on the reputation of the brand or provider that you wish to buy/use.

Using review sites is an increasingly common behavior among today’s’ consumers. As a recent Statista report highlights, 17% of American internet users check product or service reviews online before they buy.

This trend is particularly high for certain age groups. With certain groups, as much as 40% of internet shoppers rely on online reviews, as this Statista report shows. When it comes to leaving feedback, some age groups see over 50% of users post reviews. Read this Statista report for more details.

These figures are very impressive and show just how important review sites have become.

In order to help you cash in on this market, I will explain how to create a review website.

Contents

What is a review website?
Example of popular review websites
Features that a review website should have
Make a review website using WordPress
Review website development with custom-coding
Cost of creating a review website using the custom development approach

What is a review website?

Review websites are platforms where consumers find reviews of products and services they might buy. However, that‘s not all. Review websites are increasingly becoming important for businesses as marketing tools.

Gaining enough good online reviews is now important for most businesses. Whether a restaurant or a software development company, these businesses are trying to get as many 5-star reviews as possible. What’s even more important is that they prefer these reviews to reflect on reputed review websites.

Review websites enable transparency, and consumers love it! Consumers can post their review and give a star-rating. Businesses need to acknowledge, take appropriate actions, and respond promptly to the reviews. Good review websites maintain a clear audit-trail that shows whether a business took the required action. This further adds to the transparency. No wonder that a HubSpot report notes that 1/3rd of their survey respondents acknowledged the importance of reviews.

Example of popular review websites

Let‘s analyze a few popular review websites. You can get ideas about design and features in your journey to create a review website.

Amazon Customer Reviews

One of the earliest websites to allow customers post reviews, Amazon Customer Reviews remains a very popular review website. Many consumers rely on the reviews ratings and comments on this website.

The website features a 5-star rating scale. Aggregate rating percentage, review comments from customers, recent customers reviews, etc. are the other key features.

Angie‘s List

Users need to pay a membership fee. The site focuses on US-based services businesses. Reviews are on an A-F scale. Customers can‘t post anonymous review comments. Companies can set up a review page for free, additionally, they can respond to review comments. Only members of Angie‘s List can post review comments.

Choice

Choice is based out of Australia, therefore, businesses having customers in Australia can take advantage of it. They test products and services independently. The company independently publish reviews and comparisons. They also create buying guides. It‘s funded by members, additionally, members can post review comments.

Trustpilot

Trustpilot is based out of Denmark. They are present in Europe, the US, and several other countries. Businesses can use this platform to collect customer reviews proactively. Customers write the product review, however, a 3rd party verifies them.

The company offers a limited free version. The premium version is powerful, where businesses can customize review invitations. Businesses can also share review and rating using social media.

TestFreaks

TestFreaks is based out of Sweden. They are like Trustpilot in many ways. Companies can proactively collect customer reviews. They can respond to customer review comments. This platform also has a Q&A form. Prospective customers can ask questions and the customer service team of the business can answer them here.

Features that a review website should have

Construction site crane building Web Design 3D words.

A competitive review website should offer the following features:

  • The website should allow rating moderation. Verification is required for reviews. This feature prevents spams.
  • ’Search Engine Optimization‘ (SEO) is important for a review website. It should use important SEO components like rich snippets.
  • Users need aggregate rating data. The data should be broken down to different star-levels, with percentage ratings shown for each star.
  • Consumers should be able to write review comments. Forms, where customers write a review, should be easy and intuitive. These forms need to collect relevant information. Customers might change their mind, therefore, an edit option is also important.
  • Users need to sort results by rating. They should also be able to see the most recent reviews. Filtering options are needed on the website.
  • Review comments should be clearly displayed.
  • Users of the website should be able to export results into CSV files.
  • An easy ’User Interface‘ (UI) with responsive design is important.

Read more about these features in “7 important features every WordPress rating / review system must have”.

Make a review website using WordPress

This is a no-coding option. If you are an entrepreneur in a hurry, and you don‘t have a development team, then this could be your option. You can quickly build a review website using the popular ’Content Management System‘ (CMS) WordPress.

WordPress removes the need for coding. WordPress themes control the look and feel of the website. The themes offer a customizer, therefore, you can change several aspects like color, font, layout, etc. Themes usually offer a range of widgets, for e.g., social media integration, which you can use.

For this project, I suggest you use the “Reviews” theme. You can install it easily and import their demo content. Subsequently, you can replace the demo content with your actual content. It‘s a responsive theme. It‘s easy to customize. Check out the pricing plan here.

WordPress plugins address the core functionalities. Using plugins eliminate the need to custom-code functionalities. I recommend using the “Reviewer” WordPress plugin. This allows inserting reviews and comparison tables. The website admin can create customized review templates. This plugin is suitable for creating a robust user review system.

You need to procure WordPress hosting in this approach. There are several reputed WordPress hosting providers. I suggest you use Bluehost WordPress hosting solution. This is a well-known provider with several pricing plans. Hosting, theme, and plugin make up your cost to make a review website in this approach.

Review website development with custom-coding

While using a CMS like WordPress can help you in launching your website quickly, sometimes this may not be enough. You might need to add customized features, and in such cases, custom development is a better option. I will now explain the approach to develop a review website using custom coding.

A high-level overview of the development

At a high level, following are what you should do:

  1. Assemble a skilled and experienced team to develop a review website.
  2. Obtain a ’Platform as a Service‘ (PaaS) account from a PaaS provider. This expedites development.
  3. Design and develop the website using the appropriate tools on the PaaS platform.
  4. Integrate ’Application Programming Interfaces‘ (APIs) for addressing core review website functions.

A proactive project management is needed. There are several modern project management methodologies. I had earlier described them in “Top 7 project management methodologies in 2018”. While you can review this guide and choose the methodology that best suits you, I recommend the Agile methodology. It‘s suitable for website development, which is typically an iterative development. You can consult our guide “How to build an Agile development team”.

Building your development team

You need the following skills in the team:

  • Business analysts;
  • Web designers with HTML and CSS skills;
  • Web developers with Java experience;
  • Testers;
  • A project manager (PM).

It‘s preferred that you onboard a co-located team. However, that may not be possible always. If you need to work with a remote team, then ensure that the PM is experienced in managing a remote team. Our guide “10 essential tips to managing remote employees” can help.

Obtain a Google App Engine PaaS account

PaaS providers can significantly expedite the development process. Cloud computing has provided us with several computing models, and PaaS is one of them. In this model, PaaS providers manage multiple aspects. This includes the cloud infrastructure, networking, middleware, operating system (OS), and runtime. Developers bring their code and data. For start-ups, this reduces the upfront investment on infrastructure.

I recommend you use Google App Engine, which is Googles’ PaaS platform. App Engine has all key PaaS features. It supports popular programming languages like Java, PHP, etc. This is a fully managed environment where the provider monitors and provide diagnostic support. Scaling, security, etc. are its’ other advantages.

Java, a powerful and proven language can be a good option for your review website. On Google App Engine, you can use their Java runtime environment. Google App Engine offers both standard and flexible Java environments. View their offering here.

Depending on your website requirements and design, you will need to select the appropriate database solution. Google App Engine offers both relational and NoSQL databases. Review their database offerings here.

A website development is an iterative process. Websites are ’Systems of Engagement‘ (SoEs). They require frequent changes. The release management process needs to keep pace with this. Build management, code deployment, and test execution need automation. A robust DevOps process is required. Google has its‘ DevOps solution, and you can review it here.

Check out the comprehensive Google App Engine documentation here. Google App Engine has a free trial period. Contact their sales team for their detailed pricing plan. Using this platform, you can design and develop your website UI. Now, I will explain how you can address the core functions.

Google “My Business” API for a review website

Google offers there “My Business” API. With this API, you can incorporate review data processing on your website. The API supports the following features:

  • The website can list all reviews recorded for a business/product/service.
  • Showing specific reviews on the website is possible.
  • Businesses can reply to specific review comments.
  • A company can delete a reply to a review comment.

The API is available in both HTTP and Java. You can review the API documentation here.

BrightLocal API for online review and rating

In some cases, you might want to obtain data from existing review websites and display them on your website. BrightLocal API enables you to get the online review and rating data from sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.

The API can monitor reviews on over 30 prominent websites. You can get review counts, and star ratings. BrightLocal API also lets you extract review comments, reviewer name, review date, etc.

You can access their API reference documents here. They publish their pricing plans on their website. You will need to contact them for additional questions about their pricing. Note that you need to buy their SEO Pro service, to get access to their APIs.

The approach to the project management

This is a complex development project requiring a structured approach. The ’Scrum‘ technique, a part of the larger body of the Agile methodology is the way to go. This supports iterative development. Iterations in this technique are called ’Sprints‘.

A ’Scrum team‘ is led by the ’Scrum master‘, i.e., the PM. It‘s a cross-functional team, i.e., consists of designers, developers, testers, and business analysts. The ’Product owner‘ documents the requirements or features in a document called the ’Product backlog‘. A ’Sprint planning meeting‘ is held to slot features into sprints.

The input to this process is the estimation done by the team. Project stakeholders indicate the priority of features, which forms the other input. The first iteration focuses on building the ’Minimum Valuable Product’ (MVP), i.e., the first version launched in the market. Based on the feedback from the market, there could be a revision to the plans for the other sprints.

There is a ’Daily stand-up meeting‘, i.e., a status meeting. The scrum master uses it to know the project status and resolve issues. The sprint is successful when the features are working per the specifications, and the project stakeholders approve it in a ’Sprint review meeting‘. The team also holds a ’Sprint retrospective meeting‘, i.e., a lessons-learned exercise. Read our guide “How to build a Scrum development team” for more details.

Cost of creating a review website using the custom development approach

I have explained how you can get the pricing plans for Google App Engine, and the APIs. You need to separately estimate your development manpower cost. Your features will drive that, additionally, the labor rates influence it. If you need to engage a development partner, check our guide “How to find the best software development company?” to know how to choose one.