Changes to App Store Ratings

New API is dead simple, but requesting the ratings itself is a complex procedure. I have put together the list of things to know when implementing Rate Us functionality in iOS 11.

What is App Store Ratings?

Since App Store launch, app reviews have been an integral part of any app success. Developers do their best to get positive reviews and higher ratings for their apps. Users judge any yet unknown app by its product page, where the rating is displayed along with an icon, screenshots and app previews.

App Rating in App Store Search Results

What’s New

Starting from iOS 10.3, Apple has introduced new API to request app ratings from user. The functionality behind this API aims to unify the approach around receiving App Store ratings, as well as making the reviews itself more trustful and honest.

Requesting Reviews

Old fashioned way

Previously, to request a review from the user, many apps did the following. After user has shown some engagement with the app, it waits for “the right moment” and presents a custom dialog, asking about whether or not, user likes the app, if user replies “yes”, the next dialog appears, and it furthermore asks about the will to left a review. If user still replies positively, the app open an App Store app’s product page where user can rate the app and provide a review. On the other hand, if user replies “no” in the first dialog, the app might ask to leave an internal feedback and send it to support desk or just dismiss the custom dialog silently.

Touch VPN’s Custom Dialogs Asking to Review the App

Some other apps (e.g. Tinder), presented a custom rating dialog, where users could put “stars” from 1 to 5. Based on the number of “stars” user has chosen, the app might decide to open App Store for reviewing the app or just dismiss the dialog silently.

New approach

New System Prompt

Apps built against iOS 11 frameworks will be required to use the built-in Apple Rating Dialog which is controlled by this class SKStoreReviewController.

The Apple Rating Dialog was first introduced in iOS 10.3 and now allows users to leave review and rate the app with just a few taps, without having to sign into the app store or leave the app.

The Look of New (System) Review Prompt found in latest version of Touch VPN

No Custom Dialogs

The custom dialogs requesting the review are now prohibited by App Store Review Guidelines:

1.1.7 App Store Reviews:
Use the provided API to prompt users to review your app; this functionality allows customers to provide an App Store rating and review without the inconvenience of leaving your app, and we will disallow custom review prompts.

This means that apps presenting custom dialogs will likely be rejected during the review.

Determine the points in the user experience

The same as before, developers have to create some logic around determining user’s engagement with the app. This could include the number of app launches, number of successfully completed task, last date the review have been requested, you name it.

Define scenarios

After the above is completed, marketing team should define scenarios to request the review when certain milestones in user experience are achieved.

Do not interfere requesting review UI with other important UI

To present the review “in the right moment”, these “moments” have to be determined too. For example, make sure, the app does not request the review when other important information is currently shown in UI.

Reply to reviews

There is an ability to reply to users reviews. This is what App Store Review Guidelines says about it:

1.1.7 App Store Reviews:
App Store customer reviews can be an integral part of the app experience, so you should treat customers with respect when responding to their comments. Keep your responses targeted to the user’s comments and do not include personal information, spam, or marketing in your response.

New Customer Support role in iTunes Connect

The members of iTunes Connect with Customer Support role are able to reply to the reviews left by users. This is the email notification about adding the new role to iTunes Connect:

… Now you can give the customer support experts in your organization the ability to respond to customer reviews on the App Store with the new Customer Support role in iTunes Connect. Users with the Admin or Customer Support role have the ability to respond to customer reviews.
Your team’s admins may choose to assign only this role to users, or assign this role in combination with other roles. Users who have been assigned only the Customer Support role can access Resources and Help, Users and Roles, and My apps in iTunes Connect. When they click on an app in My Apps, they’ll go straight to Ratings and Reviews where they can respond to customer reviews.
To ensure a smooth introduction to this new role, all users with the App Manager and Marketer roles have been automatically assigned the Customer Support role. Users added to your team after July 13, 2017 will need to be manually assigned the Customer Support role in order to respond to customer reviews.
To learn how to add a new user and change user roles, see iTunes Connect Developer Help.

Presenting prompts is limited to three per year per app

Even though, the app could request as much system review prompts as it needs, the iOS will limit the actual presentation of that prompts by 3 per year. Consider this during defining the scenarios.

“Leave Review” button

The system review prompt is not suited to be called from user interface manually (e.g. “Leave Review” button in the app’s menu). Instead, use the deep link to open the App Store.

itms-apps://itunes.apple.com/app/id{app_id}?action=write-review
, where {app_id} must be replaced with real app id.

Fallback

Fallback to the old fashioned approach if your app’s Minimal Deployment target is lower than iOS 10.3.

Presenting review prompts can be switched off by user completely in Settings

There is no way for an app to determine the user decided not to receive any review prompt from any apps.

The Setting to Opt-out of Rating Prompts

Reset app summary rating (iOS, tvOS, macOS)

The rating is now can be reset via iTunes Connect. See here for more info. In short, the reset preferences will be displayed on a new version details editor page on iTunes Connect (in the bottom of the page):

Control the rating reset

Testing

- When you are in development, requesting a review will always result in showing the review UI, but you can’t submit an actual review.
- When you are using TestFlight to test your app, requesting a review will do nothing at all.

A 22% median increase in apps’ total all-time rating

According to Apptentive,

…since launching the Apple prompt, apps see a 22% median increase in their total all-time ratings. That’s coming as a result of a 10–15x increase in efficacy based on what we’ve historically seen with ratings prompts.

Conclusion

The new SKStoreReviewController API reminds me about Touch ID API: while there is just one method to call, you have to implement the whole system around that single call to actually be useful for your app’s users.

References

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