Some software users are never satisfied. From my experiences dealing with the App Store, some users that leave feedback often expect the Holy Grail out of one particular app, regardless of development or technological constraints. People love to rant; they love to tell others about negative experiences. By ranting, we cope. We begin to make peace with a transgression, no matter the size.
Normally users have no place to leave their negative feedback other than on the App Store. The 1-5 star review system, at the end of the day, is broken because many people use 1 star reviews to get the attention of the developer so that their thoughts are heard, regardless of what they really thought of the app.
This leads to the sales of apps with small user bases being co-opted by a small set of unhappy customers who want their voices heard. For a small or medium sized app with few reviews, each single piece of feedback is important for the outside viewer or potential customer.
When I designed Beeline RTD (a transit app targeting commuters in Denver and Boulder, Colorado) I thought that it would be important to include a feature that allowed users to email the transportation authority, RTD, directly, to inform them of experiences both good and bad that might have occurred while riding pubic transportation.
I specifically wrote the copy for the Feedback section of Beeline so that users knew their thoughts were being sent to RTD and not to the developer. This wasn’t a trick. I created a Gmail account to share with RTD in hopes that they would check it. I hadn’t planned on visiting the account at all until one day my curiosity peaked.
In the past five months since Beeline’s release, the Feedback section of the app has turned from transportation feedback into app feedback. It has turned rants and suggestions from 1 or 2 star reviews into constructive emails with no App Store impact.
Here’s why it works:
Take 1 built-in support, add 1 part ability to rant and finally, 1 part instant gratification.
You’ve suddenly constructed a way for all users to have their voices heard without actually leaving the app. The friction of feedback is eliminated. Sure, if they’re pissed off enough they’ll go on the App Store and leave a review there as well. From what I’ve noticed, however, the simple act of typing their thoughts out in the app is enough to reduce inflammatory reviews significantly.