By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 1:56 am
Wize, a shopping research site that attempts to be a one-stop resource for finding out what folks think about products of all sorts, officially unveiled a major redesign on Tuesday. It’s a useful upgrade to a powerful reference tool, although I encountered a number of quirks as I explored the wealth of information it contains.
Wize reminds me of Retrevo, but that site goes deep on a specific range of consumer electronics products, and Wize covers stuff of all sorts, including a broader range of tech items, video games, home appliances, food and wine, toys, baby products, perfume, toys, and more. It aggregates millions of user reviews (and some professional ones) from all over the Web, coming up with overall ratings, letting you browse individual reviews and find merchants, and letting you see how products compare–including Wize Choices (well-reviewed items) and Unwize Choices (poorly-reviewed ones).
The site has a slick and intuitive interface and a nice selection of tools for filtering results by price and features; digging into user reviews for a given item is a snap., and you can save Favorites for later perusal.
Wize’s highly automated nature lets it cover lots of ground, but it also results in some rough edges. There are places where its recommendations simply don’t make sense–such as its picks for best overall laptops, which include a desktop computer (HP’s TouchSmart) and something that isn’t a personal computer at all (the SonicWall security appliance–which, to make matters more confusing, Wize says it doesn’t have any reviews for at all).
A feature that tries to recommend the best products for particular uses seems to be based on keywords in the reviews, but in many instances it’s just not smart enough. Here, for instance, it appears to have decided that a Gateway desktop is a good machine for designers because a review praised its design:
And I’m still figuring out how the site managed to come up with a section for…Toshiba Mac laptops.
I’m also not sure why Microsoft’s Zune HD isn’t the first result you get when you search for “Zune HD,” or why Wize hasn’t found any user reviews for the new Zune yet–there were 158 on Amazon alone when I checked. (To be fair, Retrevo didn’t have any Zune HD user reviews, either.)
One other thing: I like the fact that Wize’s tagline is “Reporting the best and worst products,” and that it picks Unwize Choices as well as Wize ones. Helping consumers avoid crummy products is at least as noble a mission as steering them towards winners. But Wize’s worsts aren’t anywhere near as easy to find as the bests. Wouldn’t it be cool if it could give you a list of the digital cameras which real people who paid their own money liked the least?