App Store Reviews: The Psychology of the User & What Makes an App Successful

Sep 14, 2010 - 2 Comments

app store reviews

Have you ever wondered what the top 100 apps on the App Store have in common? Surely there are some similarities, something these successful apps share that made them so popular, but what is it? How about just asking the users what they liked or disliked?

Since we can’t poll the App Store users directly, we’ll need to look at the reviews they leave instead. Prominent iPhone developer Marco went about writing a script that crawled through the top 100 apps in the US App Store and pulled the most common words from all 1 star and 5 star reviews, the results provide an interesting look into the psychology of what makes an app successful (or at least, successful in the eyes of the user who reviewed the app). Here are the results:

5 Star App Reviews

Everyone knows a 5-star app, these are the standouts of the app store. What do they share in common?

Five Star App keywords: awesome, worth, thanks, amazing, simple, perfect, price, everything, ever, must, ipod, before, found, store, never, recommend, done, take, always, touch

The best 5 Star Apps have users thanking the developer for something awesome, it’s perfect and worth the price, they consider the app simple, yet amazing, and they recommend it to others. These are the apps that blow you away, that you suddenly can’t live without. No that doesn’t mean it’s some intensely complex feat of engineering, it just means it easily fulfills a users need. Perhaps the most telling word in the 5 star list: ‘simple’

1 Star App Reviews

The 1-star app, they can still be popular but they leave a sour taste in the users mouth. Why?

One Star App keywords: waste, money, crashes, tried, useless, nothing, paid, open, deleted, downloaded, didn’t, says, stupid, anything, actually, account, bought, apple, already

The 1 Star Apps are doing something very wrong in the minds of the reviewer, where users deleted a useless waste of money that is stupid, crashes, and does nothing. These apps usually fall into a unique category of app: the truly useless. Without naming specific names, I can think of a handful of apps that fit into this category and I’m sure you can too. The useless apps are the ones you see on the Top Apps list that perform stupid novelty functions, you end up downloading it out of curiosity – “Why on earth is this in the top list?” – so you launch it, tap a button, and quickly delete it when you realize it doesn’t do anything, it is truly ‘useless’. Interestingly enough, these apps are often also simple (which is supposed to be a good thing, remember?) but the difference is they don’t provide any function. If they attempt to offer a function it fails to perform what the user expected of it. People are left feeling cheated, that they wasted their money, and offended that they bought the thing.

But App Store reviews are fickle and so are users! This doesn’t help me at all!

True, user reviews are fickle and regardless of what you create you can’t please everyone. The best apps get some terrible reviews. That’s perfectly OK. But all of this does help you. Knowing the reviewer mindset can help you steer your app in the proper direction. Is this going to create a worthwhile user experience? Keep going. Are we getting overly complex with feature creep? Cut back, simplify. Is a user going to feel screwed out of $0.99? Reconsider your apps value.

Understanding the user and what they want is a crucial part of any successful development endeavor, don’t blindly waste your resources. It doesn’t matter how great or catchy your app idea is if it doesn’t leave a good impression with the user. With the cost of iOS and iPhone development continuing to escalate, learning a bit about user satisfaction is sure to give you an upper hand when releasing an app into the wilds of the App Store.

Success on the App Store is often thought to be the result of either some mystery magic or a huge marketing budget; you either get lucky with some stupid formula or you have a massive budget to bombard every possible angle with advertising and ensure downloads. This isn’t entirely true though, and looking at the words in the user reviews gives great insight into what is truly the secret to App Store success.

So, do you want to be a 1 Star app, or a 5 Star app? Look at those descriptive words, look at your app, and you decide.

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Posted by: Manish Patel in Development, iPad, iPhone

2 Comments

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  1. Greg Simms says:

    What’s amazing is that these 1-star apps end up being just as successful as the 5-star, even if for shorter bursts. This is why we have an app store littered with rubbish and why Apple is cracking down on the sophomoric developers with the new policies.

  2. [...] gein­te­greerde recen­sies van gebruik­ers wor­den nu echt belan­grijk om Apps aan te pri­jzen, bij iPhone Apps van 79 [...]

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