You don’t sleep for 3 weeks. You subsist on Twizzlers and lukewarm coffee. Your family can’t remember if you have a beard or not (you do now).
You must be making an iPhone app.
After all the Pepsi, sweat and tears it takes to produce, design and develop an app, the crossed fingers waiting for Apple’s approval, and the rush of seeing your cute little icon winking at you from iTunes itself, the real work begins: marketing the app.
Part of the marketing—a part that’s agonizingly out of your control—are user reviews in the App store. People that buy your app—whether they understand how it works & what it’s for or not—can give it 1-5 stars and say whatever they please about it, and you can’t say anything back.
How can you possibly deal with this unfair situation? I ask several app producers how they keep their cool when the anonymous, undeserved, unanswerable criticism starts to fly.
“You need to accept early that, unless asked to review, most people only review when something is wrong. Knowing this, it is easy to go forward and not take them seriously on an individual level, but you can grab the pulse of your app by collecting the negative reviews to see if there really is a problem, or whether there is just a customer who is having individual problems with their device and blaming you. Not being able to contact customers is not really a big issue for me. Ambiance gets overwhelmingly positive reviews so a few negative ones don’t really affect our business. We accept that we can’t please everybody and this is ok.”
“It’s not ideal, that’s for sure. I’m still surprised Apple hasn’t fixed this situation by allowing developers to respond to reviews. It can be very frustrating, especially since a lot of users will complain about problems they’re encountering that are due to their misuse or misunderstanding of the app. Luckily, enough people are savvy enough to know how to read reviews these days, and ignore (for the most part) the clearly ridiculous 1-star reviews. That said, it would make me feel better if I could respond in some way. Try not to stress too much about it. If your product is good, it will sell.”
“It’s definitely frustrating not to be able to reply directly to a negative review, especially when the “reviewer” didn’t read the original description of your app and is now mad because they thought it should do something different.
The other kind of negative review that’s frustrating is when the person is complaining that the app doesn’t do something when, if they had just read the FAQs, they would have learned how to do it.
The way I personally handle a negative review is, if it’s warranted, I reply to it in general terms in my app’s description. If it’s obviously someone being an idiot then I just ignore it.
Another way I deal with a negative user review is I try and find a way to celebrate my app’s short-comings by pointing out how awesome it is that my app DOESN’T do the thing they wanted it to do. In other words, I try to communicate the reason behind why my app doesn’t do certain things and how that’s beneficial to the user.
After having an app on the app store for 5 months now, I can say that a negative user review often gets ignored by new buyers if they see that there’s an equal or greater amount of positive reviews. The thing about iPhone apps is that many have a way of polarizing users: they either like it or they hate it. The way I deal with it is I just keep releasing updates and fixes that reward the people who like or buy into the philosophy of my app”.
“We had a three star review that mentioned the app crashed under certain circumstances. The user just needed to update the Apple firmware for their device. We pass that info along to anyone that contacts our support email and we’ve posted it to the product website.
It’s great to know what issues users encounter, but unfortunate that those reading that review can’t see a comment back from us regarding a fix. To deal with that, we’ve added a few trouble shooting steps to our app description in case people look for it there.”
“App Store reviews are interesting because they are anonymous (no one knows who BanjoDude8723 is) one-way communication. This tends to make negative reviews a little more vicious. It’s always hard to read something harsh about something you’ve worked so hard on.
We read every review left for our apps. We care about our users and want to make them all happy. I really wish Apple would allow us to contact individuals so that we can try to make things right. I always have to remind myself that they don’t hate me personally, just the app.
With the App Store, it’s a matter of perspective. OK, you’re unhappy with the app, sorry that I wasted your dollar or two…I’d give you a refund if I could…now go and find an app that suits you better. You have to grow a thick skin and take everything with a grain of salt.
My favourite review was a negative one. A rather serious flaw was pointed out in such a way that I couldn’t help but laugh and agree that yes, this was a design mistake. Listen for subtle clues that can indicate wider issues than just one person disliking the app.
We try not to let negative reviews stress us too much. You can’t please everyone, but we do try to understand what it is that they’re unhappy about.