User reviews matter

[Tweet : nvALT]

I’ve talked about this before, here and on my podcasts. Online reviews are a matter of life and death for an app or a business. (And, sadly, all review systems are broken in some way.) This infographic from Website Builder offers some stats that show I’m not crazy.

Leaving a one-star review because you have a complaint about an app that you otherwise love or really want to work is a homicidal thing to do. On app stores where the developer can’t respond to you, especially, you’re basically throwing a support request into the wind, and potentially causing serious damage to an app’s credibility — and thus the chances that the developer will make enough money to bother fixing your problem.

Before you leave that single star, think about how much you’d like the app if it weren’t for that issue. Leave those stars, and then feel free to mention your “just one problem,” or better yet, go to the support site link for the app and get the issue fixed. Then leave your review, along with glowing praise about responsive developers. Trust me, this technique benefits you as much as it does the dev or business.

My other point of frustration is the varying interpretations of a 5-star scale. For some users, 3 stars means their experience is perfectly satisfactory. They reserve 5 stars for the “holy shit that was amazing” experiences. If you read through the list of any frequently-reviewed app, you’ll see people give 3 stars and then a glowing review. Meanwhile, the majority of users start with 5 stars representing “this improved my life and I had no problems.” Then they subtract stars for each major issue. By the time they get down to 3 stars, they’re having serious complaints, and one star reviews are left out of rage or offense.

Mixing these varying interpretations means that it’s only a matter of which type of user or customer left the most reviews, rather than actually having valid comparisons between products or establishments. You’re going to see a thumbnail display of options with nothing but average star results, and the one you click is generally going to be the one with the most stars. You probably won’t even take the time to note that the one with 4 stars has 917 reviews, while the one with 5 only has 12.

Thus, you have to go with the lowest common denominator (by which I mean the offset of the scale, not the user). If you love an app, go leave a 5-star rating. Or, leave a 3 or 4-star rating and update it when the app improves. If a developer rips you off, or provides horrible support on something that cost you more than $1.99, go leave a 1-star review and let it be helpful as a warning to others. While you’re at it, start leaving reviews for your favorite businesses, too, using the same philosophy. It matters. Again, the infographic is my case in point. Thanks to Website Builder for the insight.