15.11.2018

Have you ever felt like Google Play is discriminating your app by rating in a long run? You are not alone.

What is the real problem here?

Google Play was re-branded from Google Market a few years back after it reached its full model capacity. Many features have been redone, removed or added since then, but things like rating stay fairly unchanged.

Let’s take a step back and let me say why I think the current strategy stuck in time for good:

  1. For one it’s beneficial for apps with a smaller audience
  2. Users have power over what they want to see in the app

Long past times where users rated apps strictly based on their experience. No, no, no! The only thing they do today is force developers to implement their ideas and things they want. Now that often does not correlate with developers target.

Especially the second point is mostly not wanted by developers. See, you want feedback from your audience, but you do not want your audience commanding you.


How to turn the current system into your advantage?

  1. Use Beta. Use it extensively — especially when you make apps on your own. About 20% of users who use Beta will give you some kind of feedback from which about 50% can help you — the other 50% is either flame or encouragement, which is useless as a non-release feedback.
  2. Keep your app in beta as long as you can before you get to release. Fix your bugs, annoyances and listen to user feedback which will be the only factor that influences your rating down the road.
  3. Respond to users. And do not use automated responses. It will save you a few decimal points from your rating.
  4. Thoroughly test every single update via (pre)alpha/beta releases.
  5. Never release updates with 100% rollout. If a bug appears after few days you will be either forced to fix it yourself or cancel the rollout. Users have a tendency to uninstall and install apps back if they are buggy and this will probably save your a**!
  6. Use some crash reporting system. For now, Firebase / Console doesn’t show every single crash, so I would recommend using Crashlytics until it gets integrated.

This is a lot of work! 🙁

Yes, there is a lot of new developers have to know to be successful and that’s not a model that will work in a long run, in my opinion. This is not half-decent for experienced developers as well.

With every update, there is a possibility it could completely mess up your rating (which means your sales, downloads and most important position in search). It happens though, your rating will go downhill eventually and you will not be able to recover from it, like ever. Users are very suggestive and most likely will give you the rating that they see from other users, leaving you in the spiral of death.

Literally, dozens and dozens of 1M+ download apps are suffering from this even Google’s own apps — even though they are stable, have great features and look amazing! This is outrages.


Bbbbut what if you could completely skip this hassle?

Well, this is far from your control, however, Google could actually do something about this(!) and the change would be fairly simple.

I can image Google Play where I see relevant rating, not obsolete rating from versions that time has swallowed. What do I mean by that? From my research app rating consists of 70% obsolete rating, 20% recent rating and about 10% current version rating.

  1. Obsolete rating — a rating that is not relevant and is older than either 2 months or 4 app versions back
  2. Recent rating — a rating that is still kind of relevant and is not older than the obsolete rating
  3. Current rating — rating for the current version of the app

What if they split the rating to:
Previous versions: 3.2🌟- made this smaller
This version: 4.1🌟- than this!

Additionally added charts with release tags to give users insight on why does the app have such bad (or great?) rating.

Why is there such obsolete rating though?

One can only speculate about the real reason, maybe they (Google) don’t care or this has low priority, maybe the real big data shows otherwise, maybe they are just unaware.

Either way, there you go. We must deal with this ourselves until they address this issue 🙂

Viktor De Pasquale