Are you listening to iOS developers now, Apple?

td;lr: For a long time, Apple have had a rather childish view of negative App store reviews: if it’s broken, fix it and release an update. Period.

This works perfectly, if the only feedback your customers provide is general feature requests. But what happens if you’ve fixed the bug? How do you let the customer know? If you’re Apple, they say the app update will be sufficient. Yeah, right.

What do you do if you had server issues? Or worse, if the feature a customer has complained about is already there?

Again, if you’re Apple - not a damn thing. This has made app reviews on iTunes a 2nd-class citizen to Google Play (and that’s not to mention how many fewer reviews happen on iTunes, due to their UI choices).

Apple have finally agreed to allow replies to reviews in latest iOS 10.3 beta. About time!

With Apple, as always, there is a catch. Fed up with the constant ‘rate our app’ prompts, Apple will now limit review prompts to three a year. Great idea in principle, but surely they could start with something softer? It might also dampen feedback if customers & developers feel they only have limited attempts to leave a review.

Another example of ‘Apple doing it their way’ is by creating a new Review API (which allows in-app ratings, but not feedback). This seems like a simple plaster rather than fix the mess of the iTunes store.

5 ways app stores could get right

After several years of running apps on the app stores, I’ve learnt first-hand the cut-throat nature that is a bad review. Here’s five recommendations for how app stores could improve this further:

  1. Change 5 stars to thumbs up/down - 90% of all ratings are either 1 or 5 anyway and this is easier to understand (and gather an opinion on).

  2. If reviews include swearing they should be removed - I don’t give a **** if customers are frustrated, that’s not acceptable language and swearing never helps. No excuses.

  3. Form a score that includes more than just reviews/rating. Customers have a huge power through reviews at the moment, but they aren’t a perfect measure of engagement or even customer satisfaction. Active users per month; number of uninstalls or even number of emoji’s used – find better success measures.

  4. Manage app reviews like customer service. Add a ‘resolved’ flag and provide the ability to send a private message to the developer for a short period before posting.

  5. Add profile pictures (photos of real people) to give even massive apps a personal/community feeling. Nothing wrong with putting a face to someone - just make it non-discrimatory and safe.

I hope you like my list - what are your thoughts?

Alex Hansford
Alex Hansford
A sci-fi geek that helps companies do product development well.

Digital product director 🚀 Sci-fi geek 👨‍🚀 Dad 👨‍👩‍👧 EV driver 🚗 Borderline millennial 😉