The importance of user reviews in the success or failure of your iOS application cannot be overstated. Alongside your application name and icon, it’s one of the most prominent pieces of information visible on the App Store. Having a poor average rating can lead to your app being ignored by prospective users and reduces the likelihood of getting any press reviews.
Applications that crash frequently, get bad reviews.
Applications with a convoluted interface, get bad reviews.
Applications that don’t behave as expected, get bad reviews.
Hopefully these are all obvious; there are no miracles that you can perform to get good reviews on a bad application. Sorry.
A good description on the App Store is essential. You are much more likely to get a bad review from a user who has bought your application thinking it does something that it doesn’t, than a user who just doesn’t like it. This seems strange, but negative reviews usually come from users who are in a negative emotional state, and when comparing “Nice, but not for me” to “This doesn’t do what they told me”, the difference is clear.
Price is also definitely worth thinking about. There’s a lot that has been said about the trend towards $1 apps (£0.69), and the positive and negative impacts that it has had. One thing is for sure though, it has helped to build an ecosystem of impulse buyers. There is nothing that you can do about the fact that some people are going to buy your application and not like it, but what you can do is try to manage their reactions. A lower price point will reduce the likelihood that these users will come away feeling you have robbed them, an emotion that will often lead to a retaliatory negative review.
Pointing them in the Right Direction
It doesn’t matter how simple your application is, you’re going to receive support requests. It’s easy to write these off as an inconvenience, when in fact they are a great opportunity to communicate directly with one of your users. Try to respond quickly and make sure to be as friendly and personable as possible. If they’re asking for help, provide it; if they’re requesting a feature, either tell them you’re working on it or explain why you’re not; if they have a complaint, try to understand where their problem lies and help to resolve it. Once you’ve done this, sign off with a reminder that App Store reviews are important: “Don’t forget to write a review on the App Store :)” or something similar. Most users will be grateful for your help, and signing off like this reminds them that they can reciprocate.
Apple often use the phrase: surprise and delight your users, which seems very abstract in the context of application design. Support requests are a real chance to fulfil this statement.
Driving Reviews in your App
Not everyone is going to need support, most users will work out how to use your application on their own. Motivating these users to write reviews is more difficult, and requires some modifications to your application.
I know what a lot of you are thinking: throw up an alert on launch every now and then that asks the user to write a review. No. Don’t do that. I hate that. This has started showing up more and more in applications, and I’m going to tell you why it’s wrong.
Throwing up an alert on launch is akin to a popup ad on a website: it’s infuriating, unnecessary, distracting… I could go on. Alerts should be reserved for critical situations where the user must respond to a condition, not for pestering your users with review requests.
A much better way to do this is providing a link somewhere in your application that the user can discover. That means don’t put it on the landing screen. As iOS developers (especially on the iPhone) we’re writing applications that are often used for very short periods of time, in which the user isn’t going to be able to write a review. By placing this link somewhere out of the way, perhaps on a Settings or About screen, you’re more likely to catch a user that has some spare time and is exploring your application.
And if you still don’t believe me, my app Envelopes has an average rating of 4.5 stars over all versions, and 5 stars since I put the review driving link in the app.