The Value Of App Reviews

November 04, 2011 by Gabe | [mmd] |

This makes no sense to me. This was on the Yahoo IntoNow app reviews:

Bad Review

I'm no one to preach about what others should do. Instead, here's my approach toward handling app reviews:

  1. If I like an app, I review it
  2. If I hate an app, I review it
  3. I do not leave bad reviews for free apps. It's not worth my time and really, there's little harm in a bad free app since Apple does a good job excluding malicious apps.
  4. If an app interrupts my usage to ask me to rate it, it generally gets a worse rating

I want to encourage developers that take the time to make quality products. I also want to warn others about what I feel is a waste of money. For good or for bad, app reviews and ratings influence my purchasing behavior so I assume that, in the aggregate, they influence others. I rarely bother to look at an app if it has three or less stars. There are just too many apps to look at and I have too little time to test apps.

My $0.99 means very little to an app developer by itself. However, a positive review and a high rating likely mean more sales over all. It's a self perpetuating system and in a some ways that's a good thing. But it means users have a responsibility (in my opinion) to rate the apps they love. If I want the good apps to be updated and to get more features I better make some small effort to ensure it's worth the developers time.

App Foreclosures

There are plenty of apps I have purchased over the past couple of years that no longer receive updates. I have about 70 apps in my inventory that have not been updated since 2010. Some were pretty good apps too. My guess is that some sold so little that it's not worth the extra effort to add new features and fix bugs.

On the other hand, some sold a lot. I know because I bought them because of the tremendous buzz around them. Maybe the developer considered them feature complete. Maybe they didn't make their investment back. What I know is that developers that abandon their apps are less likely to get any more money out of me. I don't keep a black list, but I do remember apps that crash a lot. I also remember app developers that update regularly.

The Up-Sell

I'm also not a big fan of the new in-app-purchase trend. Some things work great as add-on purchases. If a game wants to sell additional levels or ammo or weapons, that makes sense to me. But if an app leaves out purchases just to get the release price lower, it feels dishonest. Adding to that is the all too common tactic of pushing the additional features through pop-ups or perpetual reminders and badges. I'm happy to spend an extra buck or two when I make the purchase in the first place. Generally, if there are two versions of an app available, I will choose the more expensive version. Just give me the fully functional app as a purchase option.

Predator Apps

If you don't have kids, then this will not matter as much to you. My number one reason to give a bad rating and review is when an app made for kids has both up-sell and review requests plastered all over the screen. They are trying to prey on small children tapping anything that pops on the screen. If you make a kids app, do not put links to your other apps in the game. Put them in the preferences. Put them in the app description. Hell, put them in some kind of app documentation. But when they are in the game, you are telling me that you're shady and unscrupulous and I can't trust your app.

It's a Two Way Street

I spend a good amount of money on apps. My library contains 476 apps today. I will likely break the 500 app mark by the end of the year. Most are paid apps. I'm not sure if I'm typical. I do know that there are people on the other end of those apps. Some people work hard to make amazing things. Some are just trying to rip people off. If I don't bother to rate and review apps (and that includes major updates) then I reap what I sow. It's the cost of a thriving and worthwhile app store.