How to Avoid One-Star Mobile App Reviews

By | March 18, 2015

Whether you’re developing a mobile game or a health and fitness app, nothing hurts your chances of success more than a one-star review. A disproportionate number of poor reviews can really hurt your overall rating, which can turn potential downloaders off to your app. Not only that, both Google Play and Apple’s App Store favor apps with more positive reviews when calculating search engine position ranking. Both app stores also take into account your app’s uninstall rate, meaning if a user removes your app, it will have a negative impact on your app’s visibility.

Common Reasons for One-Star Reviews

Let’s be totally honest. There is no avoiding the occasional spammy one-star rating. It’s a growing problem that we all hope app stores will work on tackling soon. However, whether we like it or not, there are still significant numbers of one-star reviews that are written by genuine users. To learn more about what triggers these damaging ratings, let’s take a look at a real life example.

Buggy Blitz is a relatively new game produced by a top app developer. So far it has been reviewed over 400 thousand times and has earned a commendable 4.2 rating on the Google Play Store. While the game received over 300 thousands four and five star ratings, it is also worth noting that nearly 10% of raters gave Buggy Blitz one star. Here are a few of its one-star reviews:

Clearly, there is a pattern here. A majority of one-star reviews have little to do with the design or flow of an app and everything to do with issues related to installation, launching, performance and crashing – in other words, problems that should have been identified during testing.

Test Mobile Apps on Real Devices, in Real Environments

The reason installation troubles, performance issues, and in-app crashes are often missed in testing is that we too often test in pristine ‘lab conditions’. Emulators are excellent for early stage testing, but there is still no substitute for a real device. And when testing on a real device, keep in mind that in the real world only a small percentage of users own brand new mobile devices featuring the latest updates. The rest have one or two year old phones and tablets that are filled with other apps, hundreds of images, and thousands of songs. Some users have strong, stable internet connectivity while other do not.

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Taking your mobile app out for a spin in the real world – on as many device and OS combinations as possible – is the most effective way to catch the troublesome glitches that so often lead to one-star reviews and immediate uninstalls. While this may sound expensive and time consuming, these days you don’t have to buy each and every device on the market to round out your testing. Mobile device labs allow you to rent a wide range of devices and automated sanity testing can quickly identify the common pitfalls that lead to poor reviews. Taking a step further, crowdsourcing – either to experienced testers or everyday users – is an excellent way to put some mileage on your fledging app and see how it fares in a range of different environments around the world.

Eliminating all one-star reviews may never be possible, but most developers aren’t doing enough to prevent them. With just a little more time and a little more effort, you can give your app a better chance to succeed.

Category: Crowdsourcing Mobile and video games trends Quality assurance testing

About Cheylene Thongkham

Cheylene Thongkham is a London-based technical writer and experienced software tester. She earned her bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2007 and an ISTQB certification in 2010. After working as a web application tester in the US, Cheylene assumed the role of Senior QA Analyst at a FTSE 250 company in London where she oversaw testing for mobile websites, business intelligence, and Oracle databases. She is currently working towards becoming an Oracle Certified Professional.