Rate this app!

By | 2013/12/14

It’s one of the annoyances of iPhone ownership – that inevitable popup:

Rate this appYou can understand the point of the developer – there’s hundreds of thousands of apps in the app store, and for an end-user finding a decent one is like the proverbial needle in the hay stack problem.

Yet, for the developer, remember that they’re the needles sitting in the hay stacks waiting to be discovered.

This is something John Gruber has been covering a bit of late over at Daring Fireball, and John has even suggested a boycott of apps that pester the users too regularly with rating requirements. Solutions and commentary on the problem are varied, covering:

  1. The annoyance of having to leave the app to enter the rating;
  2. The annoyance that hitting “No thanks” or “Never ask me again” usually only lasts until the app is updated;
  3. The annoyance that rating an app usually only lasts until the app is updated, at which point the prompts start again too.

For the end user, it’s a lose-lose situation. For the app developer, it’s a lose-lose situation too.

So maybe the solution needs to come from Apple, instead.

Here’s what I’d propose:

  • Users be given the option, in preferences for the App Store, of opting in to cumulative anonymous ranking;
  • iOS collects time-used stats for each app installed and submits it periodically to Apple;
  • iOS collects number launched stats for each app installed and submits it periodically to Apple;
  • iOS records when an app is deleted and submits it to Apple;
  • Apple discards zero-time usage, and for each app reports average hours used per month for the app;
  • Apple reports the average number of times an app is launched per month;
  • Apple reports the average number of times an app is launched before deletion.

The standard rating system should still be used, so that users who really do want to rate an app traditionally can, but aside from that within the App store, any user can get an overview of usage statistics for apps.

Following that, there does need to be a crack-down on apps that pester users for ratings. The obvious solutions to that problem are out there:

  • Introduce an API for developers that allow in-app rating to be performed;
  • Ban rating pop-ups. Coupled with the above, if there’s a passive “Rate this app” selection  in the application, then users so inclined to rate the app will.

At the most basic level this is a developer problem, but it also speaks of a fundamental problem of the overall success of the App Store. The solution has to be a combined one – automated processing of usage statistics, and an official rating API.

Until then, we’re just going to continue to be pestered.