Are you interested in starting or sprucing up a review site?
Perhaps it’s for pleasure – you’re the kind of a person who feels that urge to share your opinion on you favorite restaurant, movie or game – or maybe it’s for profit but whatever your motivation, building a review site with WordPress is within the reach of even the most novice of WordPress users.
Here’s 8 WordPress themes and plugins to help you on your way to review stardom.
Putting together a review site on WordPress is, on the surface at least, relatively straight forward: it’s just a matter of picking the right theme, plugin or both.
Rather than providing a massive list of options for you to trawl through, I’ve done that for you and arrived at 8 themes and plugins that will allow you to build a review site.
First the bad news. There’s only one freebie here and that’s a plugin, the rest you will need to spend some of your hard-earned cash. I looked for free themes and plugins and all bar the WordPress Review Site Builder plugin weren’t up to scratch.
And whilst the free plugin is pretty good, the paid options are probably going to build you a better review site that is more engaging.
Things To Bear In Mind
Reviewing Paid-for Plugins Is About Trust
Obviously, when it comes to reviewing those products that are not free, there’s a strong reliance on demonstrations and trust in the supporting documentation and copy.
For themes, it is fairly easy to check the look and feel and how the theme works but for plugins this is much more difficult.
Support For Schema.org
Google likes and supports schema.org and so really every review site should be making sure that its reviews are marked up as per the Review schema.
If your reviews are marked up correctly then Google will show your listing in its search results with the rating, making it much more noticeable:
In fact, this IMDb page is prime example of the use of multiple schemas, not just Review, so if you are interested have a look at it using Google’s Structured Data Tool.
Despite the obvious benefits in having reviews marked up, disappointingly, only one plugin and one theme supported the Review schema, so if you don’t pick these then be prepared to undertake some modifications to add this important feature (or hassle the developer) if you want to maximize your chances with the dominant search engine.
WordPress Review Themes
ProProview is my personal pick of the themes listed here in terms of look and features. It’s just a shame it is compromised by the lack of support for schema.org.
The layout has a familiar review look and feel, is clean and to the point and comes with some pretty nice features such as:
- CNET style Editors and User ratings
- Pros and Cons
- Ratings by Feature
- Ribbons (top rated, recommended, etc)
- Top ratings widget
- Review slider
- Multiple layouts
The theme creates its own Review custom post type so there’s nothing else to add.
A quick and seemingly easy way to have a review site up and running with very little effort if you can live without the schema.org support.
Cost: $39 (single), $69 (multi), $119 (developer)
Swagger from Industrial Themes is a comprehensive if overly busy theme which supports schema.org but is potentially let down by the lack of user ratings.
All the features that you’d expect with a great looking rating widget, Pros and Cons, a product overview as well as plenty of options for laying out on the article.
It doesn’t have user ratings which may be significant depending on your situation. It certainly seems to be an important omission given the general consensus is that allowing users to also rate considerably increases engagement.
Cost: $50 (single), $2500 (extended)
InReview is what you’d expect from Elegant Themes: clean and good looking.
That said, the home page layout is a little conservative and the theme doesn’t immediately project “review site!” in the same way that ProReview and Swagger do.
There’s also no support for schema.org.
What it does have is Author and User Ratings, feature ratings, a slider and a couple of the essential widgets. The theme also comes packed with ET’s range of shortcodes which provides considerable flexibility when laying out an article.
ET’s themes are always well-written and easy to use and you’ll have no problem setting up a review site with this theme. It’s lack of support for schema.org and it’s slightly understated look, though, do require careful consideration.
Cost: $39 (unlimited) *
* this is the yearly membership fee and provides access to all (currently 87) themes.
The Reviewer from Design Crumb (via ThemeForest) is aimed more at entertainment reviews and provides a clean, if uninspiring, look with plenty of features.
Quite why this theme is entertainment only isn’t clear. The theme appears to include entertainment-related taxonomies (and the display of reviews based on those taxonomies) but the features list makes no mention of this.
What is does mention is recent ratings and featured reviewer widgets, shortcodes and social networks.
The theme doesn’t support user ratings nor does it support schema.org.
A good option, especially for those that want an entertainment review site and are not concerned about getting user ratings.
Cost: $45 (single)
Smart Reviewer from Umbrella Web uses a Pinterest-style layout to get plenty of reviews on the home page.
It has all the basic functions you’d expect including ribbons, user ratings, affiliate links and provides three really useful widgets for similar, best and latest reviews.
Also in its favor is the excellent documentation.
However, it does not support feature ratings. Nor does it support schema.org which pulls the rug a little from the claim that the theme is “SEO optimized”.
The copy claiming compatibility to WP 3.6 also dents the confidence.
This theme is definitely for those wanting that Pinterest look and feel.
Cost: $47 (developer licence)*
*could not find details on this licence
WE Review (via WP Eden) has a focussed look and feel that strikes the right balance of content and whitespace – even the slider works!
The theme isn’t standalone and requires the WordPress Review Site Builder plugin (available on the WP Plugin Repository). Such separation of visual from coding will please the purists.
Together they provide feature rating, user rating (although only individual ratings not overall) and a top-rated widget.
There’s no support for schema.org.
Cost: $32 (single), $55 (developer)
WordPress Review Plugins
A free plugin from the makers of WE Themes that adds a review custom content type to the WordPress admin interface.
The Review edit interface allows a separate review title and description to be set along with an affiliate link, price, editor rating and a ribbon.
Feature ratings can also be easily added.
The plugin provides two shortcodes: wp_review to list all reviews in a tabular format and all_reviews to list the views in a Pinterest style.
The plugin will work with any theme as it also provides its own templates for the review listings and review detail although there are no widgets.
A solid plugin that provides what you’d need for a basic review site and you can’t argue with the price.
UPDATE: A couple of readers have raised concerns about this plugin regarding bugs and support. Whilst, at present, we can’t verify these concerns it is certainly the case that major WordPress host, WP Engine, has disallowed the use of this plugin. All-in-all it seems reasonable to exercise caution when considering this plugin.
This is a comprehensive plugin and is the only product, both theme and plugin, that promotes the fact that it supports schema.org with both support for both hReview and RDFa Review.
The plugin is aimed at adding reviews to existing content types. For site owners this is achieved through “editor ratings” whilst on the user side it’s achieved via adding rating ability to comments.
It actually allows for feature rating by users which is a nice touch.
Other features include the selection of how to rate (stars, letter grades, percentage), post order control, comparison tables (vertical and horizontal), “was this review helpful?”, Google Maps integration, two widgets and one-click embedding.
Add to this an apparent “set up a full site in one click” and 8 built in themes and the plugin seems to be pretty good value for money even at the above average cost.
There’s a good list of sites using the plugin on the website.
Cost: $90 (single), $130 (unlimited)
WP Reviews from Author HReview is a premium product that provides good looking reviews that comply with the review schema.
The plugin adds a new Reviews option to the admin interface and has a strong focus on generating Google-friendly formats. It even has the link to the structured data testing tool and actively encourages the testing of its reviews. (They pass with flying colors, by the way).
The plugin provides author ratings and user ratings and, in fact, allows users to provide their own reviews both overall and by feature. It also includes the ability to create galleries and YouTube videos.
Three shortcodes provide the ability to embed a single review, a list of reviews and related reviews in a post, whilst three widgets provide options for embedding reviews and review listings directly into your theme.
WP Review works by adding metaboxes to the post type. My preference is for custom post types as I think it provides more flexibility but, that said, WP Review looks to be a comprehensive plugin with good-looking, clean output that would integrate well with most themes.
NOTE: You can download the related hReview plugin from the WordPress repository. This is a much simpler plugin that is focussed on providing a summary ratings box that is automatically displayed on a post page. This plugin is fine for adding very simple reviews.
Cost: $69* (single site), $139 (multiple sites)
* includes access to all plugins and SIX months support and upgrades. Additional support can be purchased in blocks of six months for $29.
The Pick Of The Bunch?
UPDATE: When I originally wrote this post, my pick was MyReviewPlugin. However, thanks to reader input – more proof, if we needed it, of the value of comments – there’s enough doubt about this plugin for it not to be the pick. In particular, it’s appearance on WP Engine’s disallowed plugin list is obviously a major concern given WP Engine’s reputation.
All the plugins and themes have their pros and cons and so there is no obvious choice. I would have picked Pro Review but for its lack of support for the review schema – an essential feature for any review site.
The strongest candidate, then, is the reader-suggested plugin, WP Reviews, particularly as it is highly focussed on ensuring that the reviews are review schema compliant. The use of custom fields rather than a custom post type is a drawback although if you’re building a dedicated review site then this will be less of a concern.
The payment structure, with support and updates only available in six month blocks rather than the more common 12 months is food for thought, though, as is how easy it may be to change the layout of the output.
Have you built a review site using any of these products? In particular, have you used the MyReviewPlugin? Share your thoughts below in the comments.