Monday, July 21, 2014

Playground Reviews: Star Ratings

When it comes to online reviews, most websites use a "star" system; e.g. 5 out of 5 stars. I think it's time I follow suit with my playground reviews and confirm with the rest of the internet.

Before I get into that, I'm taking this opportunity to tweak my scoring system a little, as follows:
- I've long thought that the "Things to do" category, even though it's always carried the most weight out of all of the categories, still didn't carry enough weight, really. So, I decided to change the "Things to do" score so that it's out of 20 instead of out of 14. All the existing scores have been rescaled accordingly.
- I also rescaled some of the Uniqueness, Crowd, and Upkeep scores, so that a) the average score is closer to 5/10, and b) there's a wider distribution of scores. I did not adjust any of these scores by more than 1 point in either direction.

My scores, which are now out of 55 points, will directly translate into an out-of-5 star rating, as follows:

40-55: ★★★★★
36-39: ★★★★½
32-35: ★★★★
29-31: ★★★½
26-28: ★★★
24-25: ★★½
20-23: ★★
0-19: ★

The star ratings are now featured prominently on my master playground review spreadsheet. There are three 5-star playgrounds, and one 4½-star playground:

Marla Dorrel Park, Cary (★★★★★)
Pullen Park, Raleigh (★★★★★)
Knightdale Station Park, Knightdale (★★★★★)
Kelly Road Park, Apex (★★★★½)

I think I like this better than the rankings, especially since the middle half - the 3- to 4-star playgrounds - was getting kind of muddled. General categories such as these are more meaningful than saying that playground X is the 20th best, for instance.

Let's try this out, shall we?


Cedar Falls Park - Weaver Dairy Road, Chapel Hill, NC
Visited: Sunday, July 20, 2014
| Google Satellite

Summary: I know this part of Chapel Hill well from my bike rides as perhaps the hilliest part of the Triangle, or at least that with the steepest hills. But how good are the playgrounds up here? (Literally, "up" here.)

(Note: The individual scores are calibrated so that 50% is an average score. "Perfect" scores are rarely given. The star rating system takes all this into account, such that an "average" playground corresponds to about 3½ stars.)

Things for Marla to do: 11/20. Swings, slides, big kid + small kid areas, all the greatest hits! But it's important to make the distinction that the "big kid" equipment here is accessible to someone of Marla's age, which not all "big kid" equipment is. Basically, that means it has stairs or a ladder. Marla can do ladders now. Most other climbing apparatuses are still out of her reach, so to speak.

Uniquneess: 4/10. Sure, all these types of playgrounds are pretty similar, but mostly I look for design features that make the playground "look" different. Anything that's not just generic green or brown plastic will usually get at least a 3 or 4 here. I have yet to determine whether any of this matters to Marla or not.

Upkeep: 9/10. This park definitely deserves a high upkeep score - no trash at all, and the equipment was in great shape. (But, not quite 10/10 shape.)

Crowd: 5/10. A few other kids - just enough to make it seem like a "happening place", but not enough to keep Marla from having fun.

Marla enjoyment: 4/5.

TOTAL: 33/55 (★★★★). For this playground, four stars sounds just right. I like this star rating system already!

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