iPhone Life magazine

A Guide to Writing App Reviews in the iTunes App Store

If you just got an iPhone or iPod touch, congratulations!  You are on your way to enjoying the most game-changing mobile device to come along in a while.  And even if you've had your device for a while, the following should help you with the App Store, specifically writing reviews.

 

As a developer, over the past year, I've seen a lot so I thought I'd compile some hints to make your app experience better!

 

1) Read the app description.  Apple has made this harder, recently, as they no longer display the full description on an app's product page.  It shows 2 to 3 lines and then the user has to touch "More".  Developers need to cram as much marketing info into those lines now, as that is their one chance to "sell" you on the app.  And the downside is that any instructions might be hidden.  That's why we have tried to make the screenshots for our apps as instructive as possible.

 

2) If you've read the description, bought the app, and something isn't working for you, check out the developer's website.  Unfortunately, not all developers maintain a site, but for those that do, look for a Frequently Asked Questions section.

 

With 100sounds, our first sound effects app, many users complained because they couldn't hear the sounds.  Turns out that they had their MUTE switch set!  Many iPhone owners, especially newbies, didn't realize the phone had such a switch and they must have set it accidentally!  We put instructions in the app, but it took time for Apple to approve the update, so the website provided our first level of support.

 

3) Similarly, reach out to the developers.  You might find you get more help for your $0.99 app than you might for your $99 PC software program!  Of course, your mileage may vary, but I've struck up conversations with customers around the country and around the world!  It can seem a little reclusive writing apps all day, so I enjoy customer interaction, and it's a great way to get app feedback.

 

4) Speaking of feedback, if you've tried the above, and still have trouble, you can and should write a review on iTunes.  Make sure you mention that you've tried the web, and contacting the developer.  Read other reviews to see if others have had problems.  In fact, you probably should have read the reviews before the purchase!

 

5) If you've had a GOOD experience with an app, write a review or at least give it a rating of 1 to 5 stars (5 being best).  Since Apple encourages users to rate an app when they delete it, it's natural that many apps will be rated poorly.  After all, the user is deleting it for a reason!  I wish Apple had a mechanism that requested a rating after you used an app 50 times or so, and kept reminding you every ten more times, like a snooze button!

 

6) Speaking of reading the reviews, this is a bit like the Wild West.  In addition to writing dozens of reviews of their own apps, some developers will write reviews of competitors' apps!  It's a shame but it happens.  It should be obvious, and you can do something about it by marking obviously legitimate reviews as helpful, and suspicious reviews as non-helpful.  I wish Apple had a mechanism for developers to post a reply to a review similar to what eBay offers.  For example, if the user complained because they didn't hear sounds, a developer could respond with the MUTE switch info.  The end user would be happy, and could update their review, and prospective buyers would have more accurate info.

 

7) Ironically, developers have 4,000 characters to describe their app (and only the first few lines are displayed) yet each review can be 6,000 characters!  Be accurate, thorough, and most importantly, helpful.  If you found an answer to a problem others might experience, include it.

 

I hope these ideas help you with your App Store experience.  Please post your additional suggestions below.  Thanks and happy app shopping!

 

 

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Todd Bernhard's picture

Todd Bernhard is founder of No Tie Software, an app developer specializing in Ringtones and Sound FX including AutoRingtone.

An iPhone is almost always attached to his hip, but over the years, Bernhard has owned an Apple Newton, a Motorola Marco, an HP 95LX, a Compaq iPaq, a Palm Treo, and a Nokia e62.

In addition to writing for iPhone Life, Mr. Bernhard has written for its sister publications, PocketPC Magazine and The HP Palmtop Paper.