App Store ratings system has been broken for years. This is a quick proposal on how it could be fixed/improved by adding a few small features.
You maybe saw a couple of people pointing out this issue in the past. But what really got into my head was “The Problem with App Store Reviews” by Dan Counsell (Product Designer & Founder of Realmac Software).
But as far as I know nobody proposed a solution that could fix this. I would like to add my two cents and share some suggestions that may start the discussion. As a designer, I'll focus just on the look & feel. I'm not going to dive into technical stuff…
There are a few different points of view on this problem, but I will focus just on one of them for now — Submitting a review to iOS App Store.
I structured this article into 3 main parts:
- User and developer communication
- Replies to reviews
*I’m going to use Messenger app as an example for all images.
Let’s start in the very beginning. To the moment when a user is about to submit a review. What if we actually take it from there and prevent the app review section from turning into a bug report channel.
Every time an user is about to publish a review that is, let’s say, under 3 stars, we can ask if they he/she is really unhappy with the app in general or if there is just some issue that could be solved by messaging developers:
This feature could work like a smart filter and catch some of the reviews (that are actually not reviews, but bug reports) right away even before they are posted public. Also it’s a great warning for developers. They can see multiple people reporting the same problem even before it spreads in the App Store reviews.
“You are about to add review that is under 3 stars. Are you unhappy with an app in general or would you like to remind the developer about a specific issue?”
2. User And Developer Communication
Reviews itself are not bad at all. The problem is the way they are handled, or maybe it's better to say “not handled”. There is only one-way communication right now, so when users submit a new review there is no chance for developers (or support) to reply and offer help.
“It’s really annoying to see a customer experiencing problems with your app, yet you can’t reach out to help them. Sometimes the feature is already available and the user just missed it…” — Dan Counsell, Realmac Software
Users are not doing anything wrong. They are just using the easiest option available which is to leave a few comments as a review. They probably don't have time to look for an email or report screen inside apps. But what if we offer them direct communication with support (or developers themselves) right on the App Store page? See an example below:
*Maybe just call it “Bug Report” instead of “Message Developer”?
3. Replies to reviews
Alright, I'm not expecting all users to select “Message developer” option to write about bugs directly, so let's say they leave “bug report” app review anyways, the same way they are used to.
As a developer it would be pretty useful for me to get some kind of notification on the first place. Every time there is a new low-star review. (let's see 3-stars and less) I'll receive an email like this:
All I have to do is to reply to this email and get in touch with unhappy customer. Or you know what? It doesn't necessarily need to be an email at all. It could easily be integrated in Slack. We use Review Monitor to track reviews at STRV and it works perfectly! So I can even imagine replying directly in Slack.
Also, every time there is a new reply to a review it can be displayed publicly and the specific user is notified in “Updates” section in the App Store app:
Replies are also about the right language and approach to your users. Let's focus on the reply message itself and ask the most critical question that brands and developers may be facing when receiving a bad review:
Last year I attended WebExpo 2015 conference in Prague, and this is actually where an idea for this article came from. I got inspired by two interesting talks about empathy in design, word-of-mouth vs. traditional marketing and “…how brands will have to adjust to the changes in the rules of the game that customers will dictate.”
- Empathy in Product Design by Brandon Velestuk
- The Future of Marketing by J. Christian Andesen (no video sorry:((
I think it was J. Christian Andersen, who talked about communication and social media for brands and how they do it wrong.
He mentioned own experience with a coffee shop that served him a coffee that was not as good as he expected. He posted some complains to their Facebook page waited for a reply.
“We are sorry for a bad experience with us today. We'll try to do our best next time.”
Jan marked this reply as an example of bad communication and explained to us how they should reply to bring his attention and love back:
“If they would offer me a free coffee as compensation instead, I would love to come back again, perhaps order a piece of cake as well (make them money) and also recommend the shop to all of my friends because of a great experience (bring new customer, make even more money)”
What if we use the same approach for App Store reviews?
Every time you see an unhappy customer leaving a low-star review, you can respond to the review and offer help. BUT as a compensation for the bad experience with your app you can offer free promo codes, free in-app purchases or any other content related to an app. This could draw a nice line between developers that care about their users and those who don't.
Promo codes & compensations will be visible just for the review author of course. So other users can see just reply text, not attachments.
A natural step that comes to my mind is to kindly ask users to update their bad review and reconsider if an app is really in a bad shape to deserve bad review, or if it was just small issue that has been fixed by explaining it better and offering help.
“Looks like your app is working just fine now, would you like to update your review?”
But I’m not sure if this isn't too much. Somebody may take advantage of that and try to “buy” better reviews in exchange for free stuff in an app. Let's keep this past point for discussion…
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