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                                  Fig.1: A typical prompt, asking user for feedback/rating in iOS

Background

Any serious smartphone users must have seen a message similar to Fig.1 above at least once. Variations of such prompt include: "Please give us 5 star ratings if you love this app!", "Rate us :)", "Your rating helps improve this app!", etc. Basically, Fig.1 asks user to leave a (nice) feedback/rating for the app on its AppStore(or equivalents).


The Shorter Question

When and how often should a mobile app user be asked to leave a feedback/ratings?


The Longer Question

#1. Which User-statistics?

What are the significant user's behavioral statistics that should be based on to generate Fig.1? For example:

  • Number of runs since install/reinstall of the application
  • Time elapsed since current application run
  • Time elapsed since first application run
  • Time elapsed since first application install
  • Certain events (e.g. after certain number of stages are cleared for a game app)

#2. When to Ask?

If multiple user-statistics are chosen to be calculated to generate Fig.1, specifically how should the user-statistics satisfy the condition of the event? For example:

  • Form a unified equation (e.g. X^2+Y^2=Z^2) with all significant user-statistics partaken fairly to trigger the event.
  • Create (multiple of) "absolute" event triggers (e.g. every 10th app run; elapsing 2 hours since current application run).
  • Both of the two. Generate Fig.1 whichever comes true first.
  • Neither of the two. "There's a better way!"

#3. How often?

What would be the optimal min/max frequency of Fig.1 generation? By optimal, I mean users are not to be bothered too much, yet developers gain maximum output of great feedbacks from users?

#4. "Don't bother me again :("

Should users have an option to opt-out from receiving Fig.1 at all?

#5. Universal User-statistics for All Mobile Apps?

Should apps under different categories be based on different user-statistics? There are significant differences in size and type of user-statistics in apps under different categories. For example, a "Flashlight" app is not typically run for one hour straight, while a music/movie streaming app may be run for over one hour.

#6. "This app does not need more feedback."

Should every app of all kinds of user base ask this message? If any, should any mobile app stop generating Fig.1 when target conditions are met (e.g. downloads count, active user count, feedback count)?

#7. Feedback/Rating Before Deletion

Should users be asked to leave a feedback before deleting as seen in Fig.2 below? Users are more likely to leave very critical review on app deletion, but this kind of feedback will be very helpful for the developers to strengthen their app's weakness for next version release.

                                                   enter image description here

                                            Fig.2: Asking user for rating before app deletion

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4  
From a UX point of view, really the answer is 'never'. You only get this nag prompt when you open up an application, and it's pretty safe to assume that you've opened the app because you want to use it, not because you want to go off to the App store and do some reviewing. I think you want to try to find alternative ways to get ratings rather than relying on the standard nag screens. I'm sure there is an optimal amount of nagging-to-number-of-responses formula out there (possibly) so I assume that's what you're after? –  JonW Jun 10 '13 at 9:42
    
@JonW I would be very happy to see those "nagging-to-number-of-responses" formula used in some popular apps. –  melvkim Jun 10 '13 at 9:46
    
Any app that asks for a 5* rating gets a * deducted from its score just for doing that, if I bother to rate at all. –  André Jun 10 '13 at 11:30
2  
I agree with @André on this one. The same thing happens in the real world when servers/mechanics/whoever point me to a survey saying to rate them all 5 starts. If they try to make me feel bad by saying they will get in trouble if anything isn't 5 starts they get dinged to the max. –  Anthony Jun 10 '13 at 14:53
1  
The missing option: "Begone and bother me no more!" –  Deer Hunter Jun 10 '13 at 18:18

3 Answers 3

Asking for feedback is no good from UX perspective at all, but it is good from the conversion point of view. You need ratings, as they convert to downloads, of course only if they are good good.

Before asking a question, you need to make sure user got familiar with using the app. So asking for this before this moment is a waste and will either not result in leaving comments at all or users will get frustrated they are nagged with this question and will leave a lower comment.

So, regarding when, you should do this after some runs, and even better (if you can determine it) after the user has used the app heavily. If he does, it means that this app is useful for him and there is a better chance for a good comment.

Asking upon app deletion is no good, as you ask the user what he thinks about the app while he does not need it any more. So it's not useful for him, and you cannot expect him to leave a good rating/comment.

Speaking of the frequency, I believe that you can repeat it every some time (no clue how often, but every 10th run may be a good idea) and you can do it even endlessly if you provide the "Don't bother me again" option. It is crucial to have it. If you don't provide it, which is, again, bad UX, you should limit the nags appearance (I would set a max of two times it appears).

There are, however, other ways to ask users for feedback:

  • a letter from CEO is one good form. You can send an email to the user (of course only if your app is service-based, there are user accounts and you collect this data). This allows you to streamline the commenting to completely different system than your app (some web form) and will let you collect more profiled feedback if you construct your poll properly). It's great for improving the app, but it will not increase the number of comments in AppStore.
  • some apps have core functionality that can be used for that - e.g. todo apps, where you can enter a task "Leave a comment to our app", even providing a link to AppStore (probably, not sure). Another idea is a notification system within an app (if there is one), which could do the same.
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Great points. Regarding asking feedback upon app deletion, should mobile app ask the reason of app deletion through an email form of feedback as you mentioned (not through AppStore or equivalents) to ask for the reason of app deletion? I believe this is one of the most important feedbacks that developers may get from the users. Companies sending emails to their users often ask why users want to opt-out from their email communication. –  melvkim Jun 10 '13 at 10:25
    
I think it's a good idea, but I'm not sure if iOS allows this. –  Dominik Oslizlo Jun 10 '13 at 10:28

Background on the answer

I believe I have seen some other options to ask for the user for feedback, ratings or spreading the word without getting in-the-face of the user.

Of course, games have the upper hand, when there's any sort of micro-transaction scheme, you can win some points (or whatever the monetary element is in the game) by doing certain actions: liking the page on Facebook, following on Twitter, rating the app or writing a review, etc. These methods are surely fallible, but it does encourage the user to do something for them as the user gets something in return for their action.

This effect is likely what is meant to happen when the message is "a good rating helps us improve the app", so that the user feels that he or she is also getting something from doing that.


Not too long ago, Feedly (the feed reader service that gained a whole lot of users from Google Reader's shutdown) asked users for feedback, with an interesting approach: the question was in the spirit of "We're going to get better, what do you want done?" (and results).

Besides the request being non-intrusive (they just popup a notification bar that stays out of your way while using the application), the way that the feedback was provided was encouraging enough to get something out of it. I believe this was the major difference in which they were able to get useful feedback from their users.

Short answer

As Dominik Oslizlo mentioned, asking for feedback is rarely a good experience for the user, unless he gets something out of that. If you have to, make sure that you can provide a sense of satisfaction for doing so.

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I know that not everyone likes being asked to rate apps, but lets face it, establishing a large enough set of quality ratings is necessary to gain app store traction and convince potential customers that your product is of a high enough quality, and has enough of a network effect to not be useless (where applicable).

If you look at almost every app you use, you will find a rating prompt like this. There is an understanding in the app building community that your app will fair better if you have a prompt like this. But the real issue here is that you need to be communicating with your customers. You need to be listening to what your customers have to say. You should make sure you ask customers who don't seem to like your app why that is, and you should be making it easy for customers who love your app to say so! The real problem is how you figure out how to make a distinction between those two segments of users.

As you've touched upon, one way of assembling a segment of users that are having a good time with your app is to just wait for the app to be used for a certain amount of time. Let's say 30 days, 10 app starts, and 10 app-specific significant events. But the user is in your app. They are using it each day. Is that the best you can do to qualify the user? Probably not. But you also probably won't know how to qualify them based on behavior for a while, and even then, you will have to be keeping track of your app analytics in regards to communication on a person by person basis.

There are services out there that do just this. I am a founder of one such company, www.apptentive.com, that does this and much more. One of the cool things about using analytics to power your rating prompt is that you can change up the necessary conditions for showing the prompt without pushing an update to your app. Plus, you can drive all sorts of communication. If you have a chance, please check it out!

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1  
This is all well and good, but you've not actually answered the question about how often to prompt for feedback - you've just said that it is useful to get feedback, and then liked to your company website. It reads more like a spam post than an actual answer, to be honest. Can you amend your answer so that you specifically deal with the queen being posed? –  JonW Jun 14 '13 at 5:57
2  
Hey JonW. I'm sorry if that came across as spam. That wasn't my intention. The point I was trying to make is that ideally, there is a better way to figure out who to ask, and when they will be amenable to being asked than simply asking after certain high level counters have been surpassed. I'll also see if I can dig up some statistics on what has worked best for our customers. –  Sky Kelsey Jun 14 '13 at 6:05

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