Lessons Learned From 100 Negative App Reviews

Lessons Learned From 100 Negative App Reviews BannerPrototest digs into App Annie’s Reviews & Ratings to show how you can grab insights from others’ mistakes to improve your apps.

From word-of-mouth, to online forums and now the app stores – product reviews have never been more accessible to a wide audience. And while a product can earn the admiration of the masses, the spotlight also draws pundits, critics and trolls that are perfectly willing to drop scathingly harsh reviews. Proactively learning from the mistakes of others can arm you with the tools to prevent negative reviews from forming in the first place. So, let’s run an experiment to see if there are any revealing patterns in negative reviews.

 

The Experiment’s Methodology

Given Apple’s notoriety for strict control of their devices and apps, the Google Play app store for Android devices would invariably provide “better” negative reviews to analyze. On October 19, 2014, Google Play had the following apps on display:

1 Google Play 10-19

100 negative reviews from three apps would provide sufficient material, so I selected the top free app (Messenger), the top free app with in-app purchases (Pandora) and the top paid app (Minecraft Pocket Edition). Looking them up on App Annie gave direct access to the apps’ most recent reviews.

Next, only negative reviews would be considered, and Randall Munroe, author of the webcomic XKCD, easily explains how online reviews work:

2 XKCD Star Ratings

By including 2 and 3-star reviews, we’re more likely to get honest reviews from people with legitimate complaints. The 1-star unfounded, over-cruel reviews would, hopefully, be diluted.

Finally, the reviews were organized into 5 categories, ordered by the developer’s ability to influence. Users would typically have issues with:

  • User Experience – “These menus are counterintuitive.”
  • Functionality – “Why won’t the app work!?”
  • Improvements – “I’ll rate this higher when they add new features.”
  • General Impression – “This app is awful.”
  • Matters of Principle – “I don’t approve of this company’s business practices.”

 

The Results

App #1 – Messenger

3 App 1 Facebook Messenger Header

Reviews for May-Oct 2014:

4 Facebook Messenger Reviews Data

Most recent 100 reviews, by category:

5 Facebook Messenger Results

Messenger is an app that allows messaging between Facebook users. Seems simple enough, right? But Facebook recently forced users to download the app in order to continue using the same feature that was previously available through the main Facebook app. All 37 of the negative reviews for “User Experience” complained that Facebook would force users to download a separate app, and all 11 “Matters of Principle” reviews expressed outrage that the app required permissions to extensive phone functions (see device screenshot below).

6 Facebook Messenger Permissions

And it was this intense reaction that caused 55% of the reviews in “General Impression” to be users obviously hitching a ride on the wave of negative attention.

Finally, notice how the total rating (which includes reviews that don’t leave feedback) is 3.9, but the reviews-only rating is 2.6. A reviews-only view can possibly give more accurate feedback as to your app’s reception in the user base.

Users say:

“Thus [sic] is sheer blackmail. This app should be optional, not compulsory.”

Lessons Learned:

  • For functionality that was previously available, do not force your users to download and use an app instead.
  • The bandwagon effect will make the amount of negative reviews worse.
  • Your app should have minimum permissions out of respect for the user.

 

App #2 – Pandora

7 App 2 Header

Lifetime Reviews:

8 Pandora Reviews Data

Most recent 100 reviews, by category:

9 Pandora Results

Pandora Internet Radio (also known as Pandora) is a music streaming and recommendation service that has an excellent reputation when used on desktop browsers. However, nearly 100% of the negative reviews in “Functionality” could be traced to mobile device-specific issues. “Error 3002” was especially notorious, apparently dealing with problems during installation and upgrading.

Also, a previously available feature (lyrics of the song playing) was suddenly removed. This feature provided those with accessibility issues a better experience, which is now no longer an option.

Users say:

“What happened to lyrics? They made it so much better (me being half deaf) and now they are gone!”

“Ever since the update I can’t even log in anymore.”

Lessons Learned:

  • Test for device-specific issues.
  • Do not remove highly-desirable features (especially if they make the app less accessible).

 

App #3 – Minecraft

10 App 3 Header

Lifetime Reviews:

11 Minecraft Reviews Data

Most recent 100 reviews, by category:

12 Minecraft Results

Minecraft: Pocket Edition is the mobile version of Minecraft, a sandbox indie video game. The desktop version received high acclaim from critics and has since become one of the most influential and successful indie games ever released.

Yet three years after release, the mobile version is riddled with fundamental bugs, glitches and malfunctions. 70% of the reviewers in “Functionality” suffered core app usability problems, with the other 30% experiencing device-specific issues. Updates are few and far between, which doesn’t help matters. Compounding the issue even further is the fact that the mobile version has access to a limited subset of the desktop version’s features. The overwhelming majority of reviewers in “Improvements Desired” wanted the same award-winning desktop features available on their mobile platform.

Users say:

“When the update finally came it crashed my game and I can’t get it back. Please fix.”

Lessons Learned:

  • Do not release a work-in-progress app that you’ll update rarely.
  • Users of a desktop application will have high expectations of the mobile version.

 

Summary

The 7 Lessons Learned:

  • For functionality that was previously available, do not force your users to download and use an app instead.
  • The bandwagon effect will make the amount of negative reviews worse.
  • Your app should have minimum permissions out of respect for the user.
  • Test for device-specific issues.
  • Do not remove highly desirable features (especially if they make the app less accessible).
  • Do not release a work-in-progress app that you’ll update rarely.
  • Users of a desktop application will have high expectations of the mobile version.

 

Roland Burrows Picture

ProtoTest Logo

Roland Burrows is the resident scientist of the ProtoTest Mobile Lab, compelled to empower software testing with the rigor and standards of the scientific method. Under his tutelage, the ProtoTest lab as a whole has gained invaluable experience with accessibility testing and the automation of mobile devices. By combining an eye for detail with dedication for the user experience, he drives himself or his team to successfully execute any project.

ProtoTest is a software quality assurance service and staffing company based out of Denver Colorado. Since 1998, ProtoTest has helped clients move beyond bugs by providing rigorous quality assurance and staffing augmentation solutions across a wide and diverse range of industries. ProtoTest’s guiding principle has been the pursuit of delivering bug-free software, a goal that is shared by all ProtoTest employ

– See more at: http://blog.appannie.com/lessons-learned-from-100-negative-app-reviews/#sthash.7Hbq9pLH.dpuf

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