Dissection of a Good Bad Review on the AppStore

or is it ‘Bad Good Review’…

So there has always been a lot of talk about how broken the AppStore review system is and developers have pleaded with Apple to fix it. So I thought I would demonstrate just a bit of the problem using a recent review I received for my top application Extreme Agenda.

It starts out:

“This is a good calendar and reminders application. Apparently, creating a calendar and reminder’s app is very difficult. There are a bunch of them and most are bad and/or don’t work with all the iDevices and/or have some bad oddity.”

Great. I’m happy this reviewer i.Doug took the time to write a thorough review of my app. And at least he went into some detail about his thoughts so I can see what people are thinking. I respect that. So he then went on to point out a couple valid points and a couple of very strange ones, that Im glad I get to see to try to see into the mind of customers out there…

“Not all features work in all screens. Example: Drag and Drop only works with the ‘Interface” of Tabs in the Month calendar view. Then only by selecting the day and from the day section(upper right), select the event or reminder, by holding it and then dragging it to a different day. This means you can cannot drag and drop to change the time, nor can you drag and drop from any other view in any other interface.”

Ok, so there are a couple places we can add drag and drop functionality. But to set time using it and dragging things to other views, how does he see that working? And if he has an idea in mind, how about sending it to the developer? Basically it works where you would definitely expect it to. (Note: we have move/copy and paste implemented everywhere that essentially cover his drag and drop ideas. And we do plan to do more).

But here is where it gets a little strange.. Essentially he starts complaining because we have too many options. You bought an advanced application. If you want an over designed, highly locked down 1 or 2 theme app with very little customization, don’t buy one that at every turn tells you it is more than that…

“Be prepared to do a lot of editing to get the estherics to your liking. The developer(s) have made a huge error in providing many cosmetic options for this app. By providing the options it is easy for a use to get lost in verbage. The option labels are not clear(“Back Color” & “Cal Back Color”, I could not figure out which one changes what.)

Ummmm… “Cal Back color” changes the month Calendar’s Background Color and “Back Color” changes the Background Color everywhere else? I can see where with our limited room(because of the iPhone) some labels can get a little confusing, but this is your example?

“and not all possible options are available(no text color option).”

So do you want more or less options, Im confused(see below)?!

(We will consider adding ‘text color’ though, thanks…)

“it would be a big help if the developer would hire a designer. Then remove the cosmetic options and leave a small number of themes.”

Well, there kind of is a designer. That is why there are like 6 pre-made themes that ship with the application that you can just use by selecting them and not mess with the display options at all. How about just not tinkering in that screen if you don’t like to as the default theme is a very clean well done theme.

Maybe it just isn’t clear to this user that the very top choice of a theme is what is controlling what is selected in every other box in this screen. I’ll definitely consider ways to point this out better…

Many many people love the flexibility of adjusting almost everything to their liking…

Also, they should remove the “Interface” option and just pick one, that would make testing all the themes easier. As is, not all screens work with all themes/options.

Fair enough. We have debated dumping the 3 available “Interface options” (2 for iPad), as there are a few very minor option differences as he suggests. But all themes work with all interfaces, they are just color and drawing settings. I like that the reviewer is exploring the options, but in this case I would think then that you would be someone who wants the most options available.

We default it to what we think is the ‘best option’ but ultimately decided to let the customer decide if they want to change the interface setting and live with the various limitations and advantages(screen real estate, tabs, features, etc…)

“My guess is the developer is trying to be everything to everyone with this app. Frankly, the end result works, but it is a mess.”

Well you get our program, but I guess the “mess” part is subjective. If you want a simple calendar or reminders app with less options, there are plenty. But like he suggested, they don’t all work that well… Ours does, but if you try to tinker with the options it becomes ‘a mess’? I would argue all day that out of the gate our app is much cleaner and simpler than any of the other few apps that even come close to the functionality found in this app.

So what would you expect after reading the first paragraph of the review. Yeah, 4 or 5 stars. Even after reading it all, still probably 3 stars right? Well the problem with the AppStore is each customer gets their own scale… And ‘i.Doug’ decided that a “good calendar and reminders application.”  ultimately deserves 2 stars because in his over exploration of it’s flexibility he noticed some small but planned/known inconsistencies.

I guess the point is that it is handy for a developer to see a review like this. But since we can’t respond like I did here it is just straight out confusing for new customers to be fed half the information like this. And then the two star rating is rather contradictory and probably doesn’t fall on the scale where average users would put it. Now that score will ultimately be on the store pulling down the App’s all important ratings forever, as customers like this rarely revisit a review…

So thank you i.Doug for the good bad review… but really we would be better served with an email containing your thoughts and not the inconsistent review you ended up sharing with the world…