The good netizen’s guide to making app ratings helpful

Reviews and ratings have an important purpose – they support good ideas and effective follow through.

app rating example from Apple app store

How often do you read reviews before deciding whether to try a new business, mobile app or book? Do the reviews ever sway your opinion on your final decision?

If you said yes, you’re not alone.
Before ever entering a store, 62% of Millennial shoppers already know what they want to buy through prior online research (like, er, emoji jogger pants). Eighty-four percent of them say consumer-written content on brand sites influences what they buy (“Social Trends Report 2013”, Bazaarvoice, July, 2013).

Want to become part of the vocal online crowd and help others avoid wasting time and money? If so, you’re a good netizen, and I thank you.

There doesn’t seem to be any guidance from the Apple App Store on how to effectively evaluate apps when leaving ratings and reviews. There are no reminders when visiting the App Store. The Google Play Store is about as helpful here.

But apps themselves prompt users to leave reviews, and since ratings are reset to zero each time an app is updated, most of them push reminders to the users as well.

So with all that reminding, how many users who download an app actually rate it?

That varies by the app, but most reported figures suggest it’s well below 1% of users. See this Quora post with some interesting answers.

So when you’re considering downloading an app, you are looking at the opinions of at most 1% of the user base. Wow. Good luck!

And without sufficient ratings/reviews, apps face the danger of fading into the background as the next shiny new app takes center stage. I’ve actually had some of my favorite apps die off because not enough people noticed them.

But you can help the situation for everyone! The Internet is only as good as we make it.

I have two rules about keeping the Internet a thriving, vital place:

Pay for good code/content. If you enjoy it, pony up the bucks to keep it around! Without financial support, the Internet becomes more like TV. Yuck.

Leave quality reviews for the apps (and businesses) that you found valuable, so that they continue to make money and remain available to everyone.

So without further ado, let’s settle into our subject: Making those ratings and reviews as helpful as possible to other users.

Part 1: Ratings
If you only have time to rate, that’s okay. At least if you do that much, it still helps.

Ratings are given in stars from 1 to 5. The more stars, the better you liked the app.

The easiest way to rate an app is to follow the link from the popup reminder you get while using the app. It’s fast and easy to do.

The second-easiest way is to go to the Apple App Store or Google Play App Store and look for your “purchases” (Apple) or “My Apps” (Google). Whether you paid for them or not, your downloaded apps will be there. You can scan through them and leave ratings and reviews on those you have an opinion about.

Perhaps you should give some thought to what the # of stars mean to you. Does 1 star mean absolute crap? Do 5 stars mean awesome and unstoppable? Great, now you can set to work figuring out what 2 through 4 mean.

For me, star ratings take into account a) the app’s importance to you and b) the quality of the content supporting the app.

Importance to You
This describes how important a role the app plays in your life and includes ease of use and usefulness (or addictiveness). For example, when evaluating an ebook reader app, I might feel it’s very easy to use, but also like some crucial feature is missing, like being able to buy books directly from within the app (which is usually not the app’s fault, but a consequence of Apple not allowing it).

I would look at what role that app has earned in my daily life. How would you describe your “relationship” with the app?

  • I cannot live without it and use it every day with joy.
  • Not a joy to use but it’s a necessary evil.
  • It think it’s neat but can’t figure out how it fits into my daily life.
  • Forgettable – there are many better apps that do the same thing.
  • Mildly amusing – liked it then got tired of it.
  • Don’t use it that often but when I do, it really comes in handy.
  • I love it but there’s this one thing wrong with it.

How would you rank those qualitative statements? Is this harder than it looked initially, or is this writer just making it harder than it needs to be? πŸ™‚

Quality of the Content
This one is easier, in my opinion. It’s based on your subjective feeling about whether the app has got what you need. If it’s a music app, are you finding your favorite tunes and getting plenty of new inspiration too? If it’s a book app, are your go-to authors well represented? If it’s a game, are there enough levels and does the storyline satisfy?

If I had to come up with a rating system for my own quick reference, it might look like this:

β˜…Β (1 star) Forgettable – there are many better apps that do the same thing. Also, the content was poor.
β˜… β˜…Β (2 stars) Mildly amusing – liked it then got tired of it.
β˜… β˜… β˜…Β (3 stars) Not a joy to use but it’s a necessary evil.
(also 3 stars) It think it’s neat but can’t figure out how it fits into my daily life.
β˜… β˜… β˜… β˜…Β (4 stars) Don’t use it that often but when I do, it really comes in handy.
(also 4 stars) I love it but there’s this one thing wrong with it.
β˜… β˜… β˜… β˜… β˜…Β (5 stars) I cannot live without it and use it every day with joy.

Part 2: Reviews
If you stayed with me for the first part of this exercise, you probably have an appreciation for providing good-quality information for your fellow app users. This is where writing reviews comes in handy.

You usually have a headline and a few paragraphs of space in any online review, but many review readers just care about your first sentence, which is about how much shows in the preview before they have to click in. Make those count.

Whatever was the reason you didn’t give 5 stars in the rating, here’s your chance to elaborate. But why would you want to? Well, have you ever been looking for a restaurant and found yourself reading 3-4 paragraphs into a particular review? Did you put yourself in their shoes to see if you also care about getting your drink order in within 10 minutes, for example? Or maybe whether they care more about fried food than healthy food?

This is why details matter to those who read your reviews. No one person cares about the same things as another person. It’s how we’re wired.

I’ll give you another reason to elaborate. Unhappy customers always try harder than happy ones to share their opinions. It’s just how the world is wired. That means that without your well-reasoned, thoughtful opinion in the review to counterbalance them, we will encounter too many haters and trolls.

So break it down this way with just enough detail to help your fellow app users.

  • Headline – what’s your “quick hit” on the app’s overall importance?
  • First sentence – what was the main reason for the rating you gave it?
  • Second sentence – include the good part about it.
  • Rest of the review – include a detail or two about how you used it. Be sure to include your assessment of the content itself.

And remember your manners – nobody wants to wade through a bunch of swearing or off-topic comments. Stick to the app and what other users would want to hear about.

In this way, you’ll be a good netizen and promote a vital and helpful Internet.