Last week Google announced that developers could start to respond directly to user's reviews in the Google Play store. When the news broke, I immediately tweeted something like "Hey Apple, are you listening?". Many of us complains about the lack of interaction between the users and the developers on the App Store. Personally I thought that instead of killing Ping (as the rumors goes), Apple could make it available to the App Store and allow people (developers and end-user) make the interaction there. But as Apple will probably kill Ping this fall with the next major release of iTunes and the tight integration of Twitter and Facebook in iOS 6, I seriously think that we'll have to wait. Then, I read this article from Matt Gemmell "Replying to user reviews" and changed my expectations from Apple. Here is why I think Google is wrong and Apple could be right.
The whole concept of publicly responding to someone's bad feelings (bad reviews) about your application is flawed because of two main things: emotion is involved and the process happens in a public place. The emotional part is all about a mad customer who just bought a 1.99$ piece of software and who think he paid 199.99$ and you the developer who spend nine months of your life working and shipping an application that maybe not ready for prime time. How do you expect the developer will respond? Defensively. The other part of problem is the fact that publicly we don't behave the same way as in private. Maybe the customer will post a really bad review in order to make other potential buyers stop thinking about buying the same piece of s*** he or she just bought. The whole idea of allowing the developer to step in and respond calls for trouble and a lot of waste of time. The problem is with the review system and Apple can improve the process very simply.
Apple should make the following improvements to the App Store:
- make the Support link more prominent on the application's App Store page.
- invite the user to visit the developer's web site and seek for support before writing a bad review. This could happen right in the write a review process by presenting a reminder at the beginning of the process.
- allow the developer to respond privately to a public review by sending the respond to the user's Apple ID's email.
- improve the notion of flagged reviews and review's usefulness in order to help others make their own decisions before posting a really bad review.
As you can see, there is room for improvements in the App Store review system. Let see how Apple will move forward with announced stores redesigns this fall with iOS 6.