Enough with the in-your-face app review requests

Editor's Corner
Shane Schick

Some people download apps when they want to have some fun. Others do it when they need something that will help them solve a particular problem. Me? I tend to download apps during emergencies, like when my kids are screaming in a public place.

It actually wasn't that bad a few weeks ago when we were at the mall and my wife was trying on clothes, but my two sons were getting bored and restless enough that I knew I needed to act quickly to keep them occupied. Out came my smartphone, which I offered to let them use to play a popular drawing app. "We don't want that one, Daddy," my four-year-old said quickly. "We want a new one." Knowing full well I was being far too indulgent, I searched for something else, and found it. I downloaded. I waited. I toggled past the first screen or two so they could actually play the thing. It took me a minute to figure it out, and at one point I pressed the "back" button, when suddenly a message popped up.

"LEAVE A REVIEW," the app demanded in all caps, even though I hadn't so much as started to play the thing. I let this go by, but each time I've tried to exit the game since, the same message comes up. I am less and less inclined to leave the kind of review the developer in question would have had in mind.

Reviews, of course, are the currency of app discovery and new customer acquisition. You can understand why so many developers are eager to get them. But clearly more thought needs to be put into the means by which feedback is solicited. The in-your-face ask--which is more or less the app equivalent of a customer comment card in a restaurant (which my kids doodle on, by the way)--is not the best approach.

Feedback can be woven into the experience of an app or game rather than simply poised at the end of a user's experience with it. Feedback requests could be part of a congratulatory message, for example, when a player reaches a new score. Reviews might make sense, in some cases, as a notification to remind someone of how much they enjoyed an app, if the time they spent on it suggested they did. Whatever the route, developers must make it as easy as possible to opt out of a review request and to respect the user's preferences so that they aren't continually being asked.

As apps and games become more social, developers may be cut out of the review process somewhat as "reviews" become part of status updates in Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and so on. All the more reason to respect the fact that reviews, good or bad, are gifts, not something developers have a right to demand. In my case, I decided not to write an annoying review about that particular game's review requests. I decided to just uninstall it instead, which may be the worst review of all.--Shane