With almost 1 million of applications available in the now 5-year old App Store and with competition gone wild in the meantime, with several companies ready to pay thousands to professionals with the tools to help them rank high in the charts, it has become an extremely tough job for independent developers with a tight budget to make their efforts worthwhile. If for a few developers, especially for those who started years ago, the App Store is still a gold mine or, at any rate, a valuable asset, for the majority it’s very hard to get noticed and to make more than a few bucks per app published. There are so many sites dedicated to discussing apps today; reviewers that are less disorganized than I am are very efficient with offering information timely. But external sources influence sales differently and user ratings are still one of the most precious resources for developers.
Before starting this site, I was constantly reading other people’s reviews in the App Store when making some of my purchases. I admit in a lot of cases the reviews weren’t really helpful, as most only complained about this or that app without offering in the least any valuable information. The fact is just a handful of responsible users take the time to carefully write about what they like or don’t like about apps they purchase. Most App Store buyers don’t bother to rate apps at all, unless they have very strong feelings forcing them to do so.
Of course, time is precious and rating and reviewing apps is a personal choice and it does require time; everybody’s free to do it or not. However, try to be honest: how many times has it happened to you already to look for details on some app without being able to find what you were looking for? How many times have you wished all those App Store reviewers were a little more informative? Even if none of this has ever happened to you yet, here are a few good reasons why sharing your experience with others should become a good habit.
- Feedback to developers
Reviews left in the App Store are the only way for many small developers to get valuable feedback. Leaving a review that is more than a simple “Wow, I love this app!” or “Jeez, this app sucks!” is the best way to make sure its developer will get the message, will be aware of the good and the bad of the product and will work to improve it. Developers do read the reviews and, with just a few exceptions, they are usually very eager to listen to users’ suggestions, when they are well supported and clarified.
- Help others making a choice
Other users read reviews too. Blogs and websites cannot cover every single app that comes out everyday. Sites select among the gazillions of apps released to the App Store and offer a personal judgement on just a small percentage of the total. However good the intentions of professional reviewers to give coverage to as many apps as possible, they obviously cannot compensate for millions of regular users. Your opinion counts, so you can help others to make a choice.
- Differences between releases
The App Store organizes user reviews according to the release they are referring to. Again, blogs and websites sometimes review a version of the app but then they cannot follow every single release and test it like the first time. Getting a general idea is fundamental, but understanding if a specific version of the app will work fine on your device is also essential. Perhaps an app that was working perfectly until yesterday is not as great as before after the latest update. Developers don’t always test their apps on any iOS and device model not out of laziness, but simply because they have no way of doing it. Finding out if the latest release will work fine on your device after updating may be too late. That’s why offering feedback after every update is important.
- Fake reviews
Unfortunately, we know that not all developers are 100% honest. It takes very little these days to find somebody that will write fake reviews to improve an app’s rating for money. This not only goes against the interests of other buyers, but also against the interests of other developers. It’s fundamental to leave proper feedback, so that other users will not be fooled by fake reviewers and developers actually deserving higher ratings will not be forced to compete with scammers.
It’s great that the App Store gives users the opportunity to get in touch with the those that are behind the development of applications; at the same time it is great to be able to offer advice to other potential buyers. Still, not many of us take advantage of the rating feature, which is definitely detrimental both to other users and to developers. Writing an opinion after you have actually tried—and hopefully enjoyed—an app takes just a few minutes. Even a very short review will do, if it is clearly written.