I run several document management systems for a large company. On the system most of the documents are word/pdf. There are some videos and html stuff but 80%+ is a old school document.

We are looking into search engine providers that help us reduce clutter. One of the ways good search solutions work is by using ratings and proximity ratings (recency and group being weighted). So we need people to rate documents!

However on 3 sites combined we average over 250k hits per month with over 20k downloads. We get about 10 ratings a month and if I examine the data a lot of the ratings are by people in groups that make the documents...

Right now we have a 5 star model that is right next to any document download on a screen. We run a basic google type search that lists about 10 docs per search result page and the 5 star just has to be clicked. Alas no one clicks it.

Probably the reason is most people download a series of documents (mostly sales or product related) to help them and would have no reason to ever visit the search results or that part of the site after they already have the information.

Really the only way I could get people to rate documents is to auto-send an email a day or week after download. However that was just too annoying to people so it didn't fly. What are some alternative methods we can use to get people to rate documents on the site?

  • Do you want your users to rate the absolute quality of a document or the relative relevance of a search entry? The latter can be inferred from their behavior: clicking the next download shortly but not immediately after, slightly changing the search terms etc. The former you cannot survey in the list of search results, as you have discovered, because the viewing happens in a different application!
    – Crissov
    Jan 31, 2018 at 0:13
  • @Crissov - Good question. Just quality. We have a team that manages the CMSs so relative relevance issue would be their fault - this isn't an issue.
    – blankip
    Jan 31, 2018 at 4:15
  • Of course for a quality review of the document the user needs to review the doc first, so the opportunity needs to be placed there. Also can you incentivize the review? Win a prize, earn a badge? Mar 1, 2018 at 16:08

2 Answers 2


My first suggestion was going to be to ask for ratings via a follow-up email but you've already said that your users found that annoying.

The key is timing so at what point is the user most likely to provide a rating / constructive feedback? Probably at the end of a document. You could try adding a page to the end of each document that asks for feedback and includes a link for them to do so e.g. "Find this document useful? Click here to rate it". Make sure the page is designed in a way that stands out from the pages before it so it's not skipped over (e.g. different background colour, text colour, indication of star rating system).

Another suggestion would be to prompt the user next time they return to your site to search for another document to rate the previous documents they downloaded. A modal in the corner that could be dismissed if needed, asking if they enjoyed or found useful, with a button to link through to the page where they can actually leave a rating.

  • That is the real problem - we don't know where this belongs in a site's workflow. I cannot have it embedded in the docs. This would be 100 different content creators having to learn a process and me dealing with outdated links in docs. Just not a good idea. Prompting them next time they are at the site is something we may look into. Normally when someone comes to the site they would download 5-15 documents. Not sure how we surface 15 docs to get rated in a modal.
    – blankip
    Jan 30, 2018 at 15:43
  • Ahh, I didn't realise you had THAT man - you're right, it would be unmanageable.
    – meemio
    Feb 1, 2018 at 12:35

First off, having the rating next to the download button will probably have zero effect.

Let's assume your user downloads the file. It either has served his needs or it didn't. If it did, he will most likely immediately close the tab and work with the document. If it didn't, he will continue looking for the right thing.

Either way, the user has a very little incentive to vote. So I'm not sure making it more prominent as meemio suggested will bring results. For example, youtube has a very subtle rating prompt. Thumbs up and down next to each other in a default grey. Yet the people watching still vote.

You should provide a reason to vote. Or express what advantages it will bring. For example, if you simplified it to thumbs up and down. You could say that if your user will click thumbs down, they will no longer see the report, or see it as a last result. If they vote as thumbs up, they will see it at the top, or it will be somehow promoted in results (or elsewhere as favourites or whatever).

This way no matter where or how you promote it, the user will know it will be beneficial if he or she vote it as good or a bad document.

  • We will talk about the thumbs up/down. That might be a good idea. It may work better however, we will have to deal with the content groups... meaning we might have some very unhappy content people if they are getting thumbs down. Also I am not sure if people would actually give a thumbs down but this is certainly an idea to help.
    – blankip
    Jan 30, 2018 at 16:22

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