Making the Best of Negative Reviews

Let’s face it — getting negative reviews sucks. I’m talking mostly about reviews from users on Google Play or those of reports on their websites/blogs.

Being in the app business involves getting a cold shower once in a while, to say the least. In my opinion, it has a strong impact on young start-ups in early stages, when they’re still struggling to find their way and figure out what works best for them. As for, along many positive and supporting reviews, we got our share of negative ones. I guess that the same goes for 99.9% of any other young start-ups.

I’m writing a “negative” review rather than a “bad” one on purpose. My underlying assumption is that the person writing the review isn’t trying to be mean. Not most of them anyway… Some of the best reviews written about us were quite negative and pointed out many problems in our product. Those reviews were invaluable for us and assisted us focus on performance enhancements that required our immediate attention.

The notorious cliché suggests that “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. We all know that it’s easier said than done. I admit that the early negative reviews written about our app really got to us. Just imagine how frustrating it is to read that your app “can’t do X” or “does Y very poorly”, despite all the hard work and efforts that we’ve put into it. It’s very easy for someone to dwell on the downsides of your product.

However, feeling pity for oneself is even easier, and doesn’t lead to anything. After giving it more thought, I found that it’s quite easy to understand the writer point of view. Whenever a developer sends an app to the “real world”, it’s as if he consents to an unwritten agreement with the user. This agreement determines that the app is expected to work flawlessly, offer endless features and look amazing. As a user, I totally agree. As a developer, I may also agree, if we only add to that “in the long run”. Those of you who didn’t know — developing an app is hard, developing a good app is really hard ☺.

It’s true that developers may choose not to release their product before they’re 100% positive that it’s perfect. I believe that these guys are bound to be disappointed, once it’s released, as it’s unrealistic to expect a new product to hit the bullseye without getting any feedback from your customers. As a strategy, chooses the opposite approach. i.e. the “Lean Startup” approach, which advocates the motto: “build-measure-learn”. We try to implement it by releasing our product even though it’s still not 100% as it will be in the endgame, then collect as many reviews as possible and finally improving accordingly prior to relaunching the next iteration. I will dig deeper into our take of the “Lean Startup” approach in a future post.

So, to sum it all up, whenever you’re writing or reading a review and you don’t necessarily think highly of the reviewed subject, try to keep in mind that the product may still be evolving and hasn’t reached its final phase yet. You don’t have to like it or think that it was a good idea to launch it as is. Just give its developers the benefit of the doubt, and try to look for its next version as you may be very pleasantly surprised.


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