Choices, choices, choices. Whether you’re on the market for a new computer, an eBook reader, a pair of headphones, or just about anything else, the selection can be overwhelming. Each type of product has its own terminology and specifications, and you have to make sense of an entire alphabet soup to be able to tell the best apart from the merely okay. Also, every class of product has a different bunch of industry magazines and specialized review sites: What HiFi for audio gear, and LAPTOP Magazine for notebooks.
When it all starts to overwhelm you, fret not – just head over to FindTheBest.com. This ambitious website aggregates data from a range of sources about just about any product category you can think of, and then presents the information in a uniform, simple format. It’s not perfect, but it is useful.
First things first: What are you trying to pick?
Above is just a sampling of FindTheBest’s category page. Whether you need a nursing home, a new dog, or a laptop – FindTheBest will try to help.
Detailed category snippets roll along the side of the page, allowing you to peek inside and see the top-ranking products and services from each category:
Those ratings you see above (95, 93, 91) are aggregate reviews scores from specialist websites publishing reviews for that particular category. Not all FindTheBest categories have these scores: For examples, the table for comparing dog breeds looks like this:
That’s one of the interesting things about FindTheBest: The display is customized separately for every category, so it usually makes sense while still maintaining the site’s uniform look and feel.
Filtering and Comparing
When it’s time to pick a new product, the first thing you’ll want to do is narrow down your choices and map out the playing field, so to speak:
Each category offers different, custom filtering, based on the metadata and properties of its items. Above you can see the filter for the headphones category; when filtering dog breeds, you can filter by temperament, weight, height, grooming, etc.
The comparison chart for a given category looks like this:
Again, the properties shown are different for each category. You start off with just a few columns (four, above) but clicking the blue triangle at the top expands the table to reveal further categories.
Individual Product Information
Next, when you click through to a specific model, you get a product homepage with several columns of information about that product. Here’s the Basic Overview column for the Sennheiser HD25-1:
To make things sound a bit more human, FindTheBest also tries to take the basic metadata about the product and compare it with other products, in simple English:
This is interesting, because it’s almost like listening to an expert compare these headphones with their competitors. I also like the color coding, red is bad and green is good: Not an obvious distinction, because smaller values don’t always mean “bad.”
Garbage In, Garbage Out
Like any large database, FindTheBest is only as good as the information it contains. Specifically, the Smart Rating metric the site emphasizes so strongly doesn’t always work: Not all publications review the same products. For example, here’s the Smart Rating score breakdown for the:
And here’s the rating for the MSI Wind U160
At first glance, the Window U160 has a much worse score: 46 versus 60. But if you drill down into the details page, you will discover that the Acer was reviewed by just two publications (CNET and LAPTOP Mag), both of which gave it 3.5. Those same publications reviewed the MSI Wind, and both gave it the exact same score: 3.5. But alas, the MS Wind was unfortunate enough to be noticed by PCMag.com as well, which gave it a 3.0 rating, thus badly denting its overall Smart Rating. Doesn’t seem very fair to me, nor very scientific: Maybe the Aspire One simply wasn’t important enough to merit a review by PCMag?
If you avoid attaching too much significance to the Smart Rating, FindTheBest can be a valuable tool for tracking down high-quality products and services, and getting a feel for entire fields quickly. Its metadata presentation is slick, and it manages to maintain a predictable interface despite customizing each category uniquely. Now all it needs is more data.