Considering App Reviews

Originally posted on the Toura Blog at
http://toura.tumblr.com/post/9139814769/app-reviews

You’ve spent a great amount of time building an app, thinking through what will make it good and useful. It’s finally time to release it. It gets submitted, goes through the review process (in the case of Apple), and finally goes live. You may think that your work is over, but it doesn’t end there.

App Store Logo

Invariably, your app is going to receive user reviews. While the hope is they will always be good reviews, you will undoubtedly receive some bad ones along the way. Reviews, in and of themselves are good. You can find out what people like and/or dislike about your application allowing you to make adjustments. However, when you receive a review, especially a bad one, the app markets make it surprisingly difficult to deal with. If your first review is a negative one it can immediately impact sales.

It would be great, in a perfect world, to reply directly to the reviewer through the store. In many cases a quick and easy explanation would be all that is needed. However, both the Apple App Store and the Android Market do not allow for two-way communication. If there is a negative review, the app creator is at the mercy of the reviewers. You could login in as yourself with your personal account and give a reply as a review, but you are limited to one review per app.

So, what can you do?
Android-logoWell, the Android Market does not offer much recourse, but Apple does have some services and policies you can employ.

First, you should consider the review and what the reviewer meant. Perhaps the reasons they are stating are valid and you should look at your app and make adjustments based on the review. It’s never wise though to let one person sway you in one direction so look for common similarities between multiple reviews to help inform your decisions to make changes.

If the the review is clearly out of touch with the application – let’s say someone states “Not what I was expecting. Only a handful of images.” – Apple offers a “Report a Concern” link. Selecting this link allows you to send a note to Apple to express your disagreement with the comment. You may write something like, “User did not read the description thoroughly. The app contains over 100 images. This review gives a false impression of our app”. While this note goes into the mysterious void known as Apple, it has worked on numerous occasions with a successful removal of the comment. Android, unfortunately does not offer a similar feature.

Additionally, Apple offers another feature along with “Report a Concern” – the “Was this review helpful” option. This gives you the choice of “Yes” or “No”. The more “Yes” selections the review receives the higher in the list of reviews it appears being the first ones seen by interested purchasers. The more “No” replies will push the review toward the bottom of the list. Again, the Android Market does not offer a similar functionality.

If you want your app to have a clean slate of reviews you can alway resubmit a new and improved version to the Apple App Store. This basically gives you a fresh start since reviews are tied to versions. Android keeps all the reviews for all versions not allowing you to distinguish one from another.

So what can you do about Android? There are a few things.

On both app markets you can quickly and easily change the application description. You can utilize this to broadcast messages about the app and to clarify certain misunderstandings about it. Since both stores utilize plain text in their descriptions you may need to broadcast the message in special ways:

YOU CAN DO IT IN ALL CAPS.

***Or, you can do it with asterisks.***

——-Additionally you can use hyphens——

Both app markets also have the ability to link to a support site of some kind or another and include a link to send an email to you for help. You can create a page on your website that offers troubleshooting tips and suggestions then point the support link to that page.

When your app launches It is always a good idea to get the message out to all of your colleagues and friends. Let’s face it, your friends and family are going to be much kinder to you than people you don’t know. It’s also a great opportunity to have them write a favorable review of the application to help with the star ratings average. Additionally, you can solicit reviews via Facebook and Twitter Channels. These followers believe in you and what you are offering. They will certainly let you know what you are doing right.

As app creators let’s hope that one day the tools will be there to allow us to immediately respond to reviewers of the apps. Ebay and Yelp have allowed this functionality to give  a voice to sellers and business owners. Until that time comes we’ll just have to keep building great apps!

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