Why developers beg for App Store ratings

Why developers beg for App Store ratings

"Rate this app!" popup requesters — you might know them from such popular apps as Instagram or Google+ — have been the subject of a lot of controversy lately. Some think they serve no customer-centric purpose and have no place in any app ever, others that they're the only way for developers to survive in the ratings-centric App Store, and still others that there's a middle ground where customer attention and developer sustainability can meet and find balance. Longtime NeXT, OS X, and iOS developer Wil Shipley has a thoughtful take on the matter in The Loop Magazine:

Small OS X and iOS software companies live and die by their App Store ratings. If an app is rated one star, nobody will look at it or buy it. If it's rated five stars, the company will make a decent living.

This system seems fair and good, but there are three big problems with the current rating system. The first is that Apple hasn't built bug reporting into the App Stores, so customers use one-star ratings as a way of reporting bugs.

Give it a read and let me know what you think — should all "Rate this app!" dialogs burn in the fires of Mount Doom, or — given that App Store ratings are broken — can they be done in a way that lets you help developers make better and more apps?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Why developers beg for App Store ratings


When I do rate, I rarely give an app one star unless it's just a piece of crap. If something is broken or have questions, I email the developer directly.

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Same here. I am fine with rating the app. I tend to do so. But every update getting another request gets tiresome. I don't think it is entirely the Developers fault for this, but if I have rated your app, I don't want to be asked again. Very few apps change drastically enough in a point release to warrant asking me again. Limit the requests to full, X.0 releases, or find some way to save what button the user selected. Then, don't bother them until the next major release.

They sort of annoy me but I accept them. People need to make a living and if that is the the way to do it in the current system then so be it.

The app store ratings notifications really bug me. I'm tempted - but haven't yet - to just 1-star all apps that keep giving me those notifications.

Look at the review system from Amazon - it works great and influences purchasers, without constant annoying "rate this" notifications.

I may a single email from Amazon asking me to rate an app. That's it. If I want to rate the app, I will. Otherwise, the app should leave me alone about it.

I think the rating system is good. It gives you a chance to see if there are issues with the app and if it's worth buying. So many times the blogs recommend apps because the developers are their friends and some of these apps are really a piece of crap. Some websites and blogs don't respect the audience when they do that, so all we have to rely on is the feedback of consumers. These app should stand in there on. The funny thing is these writers recommend these apps, but never use the apps for themselves.

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Off topic, but congrats on the domination Sunday! As a Pats fan, I thoroughly enjoyed you laying the smack down on Denver, and was glad we lost the AFC Title game...

My app has a button on the settings screen to rate the app instead of an annoying popup (UIAlertView). I think this is more polite and doesn't antagonize my customers.

If the app is good, it shouldn't need all those stupid rate me now pop ups. I've never rated an app based on those and actually have been turned off to do so with apps that constantly put that in my face

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I started developing apps last year and the majority of my downloads come from USA. It took 7 months to get my 5th rating which then makes the app show the average. I then had a 4.5 average rating and literally overnight my downloads tripled and haven't stopped since. 1 month after I got my average rating I have then had a further 16 ratings/reviews, still with 4.5 average. As a result I now spend more time improving the app knowing many more people want it.

Unfortunately, because so many people say they will rate 1 star if prompted I have no prompts in my app as I cannot risk a 1 star that would hurt the average.

What people fail to realise is....
More reviews = more downloads
More downloads = more income for the developer.
More income for the developer means they will spend more time on the app and constantly add new features and updates etc.

Apps take months to build so If everyone rated an app they actually liked with 1 star, just because of a prompt, eventually the updates would stop and the dev would give up.

If you want the updates show some love and give a nice and more importantly, honest rating. ;)

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I always rate the app and never look into an app which has less or equal to 3 stars. Moreover, I have seen people rating 1 star and writing an excellent feedback(i presume they think 1 star = # 1 app).. ehh?

There are unobtrusive ways for a developer to request a rating.
Popups in my face when I'm ready to use the app are extremely ride and annoying, and they need to die. All of them. Permanently.
I agree the App Store's rating system have a lot of room for improvement, as does the store itself.

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The rating system is fine. It's how idiots abuse it that's the problem.
I like that Apple requires you to "own" an app before you can rate it. Having said that, if I download an app, I've made an investment in that app. If it was free & I don't like it - I delete it & never look back. If the app is particularly troll-ish or blatantly money seeking or harmful the the app ecosystem in one way or another, yes, I give a 1 or 2 star rating.
If the app is worthy, I try to only provide POSITIVE feedback that will hopefully assist the developer in making the app better. If I've taken the time to use a developer's app I want it to better.
- I do think it's very important for developers to include a means to provide feedback and sometimes error reporting options into their apps. It's just professional.
- I also believe that Apple needs to amend the rating system to check if you've made a commented rating of an app. If so, the app can be notified & never bother you again. That could be handled in a single API (or two), I'd imagine.
- Back to idiots [on their soap boxes out to change the world]... The only way to curtail stupid, self-righteous asses hiding behind their computing device is to establish a monitoring system that let's them keep the privilege to comment. (Yes. I'd buy into that.) For people who are proficient at spamming complaints because they're too important to get the responsibility of rating apps, revoke their privilege.
... If you're a reckless driver, at least around where I live, you lose the privilege to drive.
Ratings abuse is a crime.

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I am fine with the rating system but as mentioned it is sometimes incorrectly used for bug submissions with 1 star ratings. I would adopt Amazon's system of letting users reply comments under a rating so that if a serious researching uses ratings as a means of filter good/bad apps, an erroneous "bad rating" can be countered by users with more information to submit. Case in point, a writer to this blog said he'd thought about giving an app 1 star cuz he keeps getting bugged by a rating message. I feel if you find something of value, get it an honest ratings so others leverage your usage/experience of the app.

I don't mind being asked once to rate an app but badgering me every so often even after I have rated & reviewed it and keep getting that request, I remove one star for such practice.

On a side note when apps don't follow the rules and annoy me with notifications to play said game or Dictionary.com's word of the day on the paid version. Despite turning off everything for those apps in the notification center, they still find a way around it.

I've paid for plenty of my iOS app collection and always reviewed accordingly if an app is truly awful, I do rate it so and explain why I feel that rating is justified. I refuse to give a poorly made app rate it five stars as sometimes you find that some iOS developer (on rare occasion) who made an app often find a way to abuse the ratings system either through multiple accounts from download vouchers and it fools the honest customer.

On other occasions is when a developer abandons the very apps that got such notice that they would be featured in the App Store but you find that it hasn't been updated for the larger screen of the iPhone 5 and later and such hidden great games seem to fall through the cracks despite great ratings and once found that said app has not seen an update since the release of the iPhone 5, those gems (such as Dead Space, Shadowgun, and various others) get one star ratings as they have been pretty much left behind for newer game releases or ported to Android via Google Play.

Very good article and excellent topic for iMore.

Here's my takes:
- It's ok with me that Dev. ask for feedback via ratings, but a notable few have lost their minds and hit me incessant cries for ratings with every little release that comes out, even after selecting the option that Implies that I don't want to rate it. ... not ok. I have contacted these developers and threatened to stop using their apps based on this behavior alone.

- It's obvious to most of us by now that the App Store needs some serious restructuring.
-- The App Store does not provide the essence of constructive feedback, only reactionary feedback, which is usually more destructive than constructive.
-- Part of the perceived disconnect between customer and developer comes from the fact that there is no standard procedure for returning product within a given time period. This is just plain wrong on so many different levels, but ultimately there comes to be alienation from the customer POV, at least this customer's POV. Apple's rationale has been that apps are generally so inexpensive that customers won't mind just eating it, but as our lives come more and more to revolve around the apps in our lives this is no longer acceptable behavior by Apple. There needs to be standardized recourse for unhappy app customers, I think this will have a dramatic impact on customer/developer relations, for the positive.

The article was excellent and seems to be representative of a developer that actually tries to take care of his users, but I have to say that, I see many of the unhappy customer reviews [not regarding the developer represented in the article] saying that they infact do try to contact the developer and get no response, so this tells me that there's going to need to be some standardization of minimum expectations from the developer for the App Store, and inturn for the customer, in that order. And, apps that are no longer actively supported by the developer go away.

It's time for the App Store to continue to adapt to the changing times and needs of it's customer's and developers, and it's also time for developers to get serious about providing consistent support for their products whether they're product cost is FREE, or cheap, or neither, and that can begin to happen now, with or without the restructuring of the App Store.

I think the Dev's need to ask stop asking so soon Sometimes I'll download an app and play with it for two days and the Dev will be asking me to rate his/her app. I'm like dude clam down give me a chance to get into the app are see if I'm going to like it are not

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