Imagine this scenario: you are part of a small group of focused, perhaps even talented people. Your group somehow gathers together the wherewithal to build an app for a specific purpose that is directed at a specific audience. You are constrained by time, budget, brand guidelines, client demands, the need to sleep or eat, and gravity.

Despite setbacks, miscommunication, user-testing mishaps, and changes of direction, you persevere. One day, after a few months of solid progress interspersed with occasional hand wringing and gnashing of teeth, your app appears in the App Store.

And then you read the first round of reviews:

“I love this app! Will use it every day!” – one star.

“You can’t do <insert action or feature that in actuality exists within the app>??!?!? DELETING THIS APP RIGHT NOW.” – one star.

“I HATE HATE HATE HATE this app. Imagine there is a minus symbol in front of the five stars to make it negative five stars!” – five stars.

“This app would be great if it just <insert idea that got killed that you THOUGHT OF AND LOVED but couldn’t implement for whatever completely valid reason.>” – two stars.

I recently signed up for a fantastic service called App Bot, which sends an automated daily digest email that collects the most recent reviews and statistics on whichever apps you choose to track. I love the opportunity to monitor feedback and harvest user comments like so many stalks of golden wheat for viable ideas to include in future updates. That being said, it’s been surprisingly tough to wade through the morass of incoherent ranting and lovely but empty compliments to find something actionable.

I think this is because:

1. People who are perfectly content with an experience don’t bother to write reviews. You hear from users who are wildly, almost terrifyingly happy and from other users who are mad as a nest of mentally unstable hornets.

2. Star ratings and the views expressed in written reviews don’t always match up, so it’s hard to tell how people are really using your app and responding to it.

3. People hate change. It’s likely you’ll get hammered by SOMEONE who’s disgruntled for updating an app even if a large percentage of your user base sees what you’ve done as an improvement overall.

4. Users don’t know the story behind the decisions that went into creating the app (and even if they did, they wouldn’t care. It’s no use wishing developers could respond to individual comments in my opinion).

5. “I love it!” is really REALLY nice to hear, but it’s important to recognize that not at least saying why you love it doesn’t help me make a better app.

Criticism, especially from people who use a ton of apps and spend a ton of time thinking about them, is a fantastic thing. But I have a theory that the people who are the most focused on apps don’t take the time to review them on the App Store. So while I’ll continue to monitor the feedback App Bot sends my way, I am taking everything you say there with a grain of salt.

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(originally published on BAD YEWEX)