Roughly this time last year, I wrote about how the App Store encourages topping the charts and racing to the bottom, and how that hurts both developers and users.
David Smith has compiled a list of recommendations for making the App Store experience better. I especially agree with several of his suggestions:
1: Apps should be required to pass approval on an ongoing basis.
I’d go further and say that if an app has had no activity for a set number of months, it automatically gets de-listed. I suspect more than half of the apps in the store are effectively zombies, abandoned by their creators. These apps’ only function is to clutter up search results.
6: Make the process of applying for a refund clear and straightforward.
Right now you go to reportaproblem.apple.com and then fill in a form. I’d love to see this integrated into the App Store app itself. Perhaps even into the Purchased Apps area.
Roughly 10% of our support emails are from people who really should just get a refund because they bought an app without really understanding what it did. We have a boilerplate email that walks them through the process of applying for a refund, but there’s no reason it needs to be so complicated.
I think prices for some apps could easily and appropriately rise if customers understood they could get their money back if unsatisfied.
11: Make the rating scale a rolling, weighted average rather than just current version, at least soon after updates.
We update our apps very frequently, sometimes twice a month. Each time we do, our ratings drop back to zero, effectively punishing us for improving the app.
A rolling, weighted average would better reflect not only how satisfied users are with the current version, but with the product overall.
By my criteria, should FDX Reader be dropped from the store? I don’t know. It still sells, and we haven’t gotten a support email for it in months, so users are apparently satisfied with it. But if we got a warning email from Apple saying it needed to be updated or face de-listing, we’d pay attention. More than anything, that’s what a regular review process would achieve: making developers take another look at their old apps.
In the Mac App Store, our products are Highland and Bronson Watermarker. If you look at the current Bronson reviews, there’s a one-star review from a customer who couldn’t figure out the app. He didn’t write us for support; he didn’t check any online documentation. He’s exactly the kind of user who should have been able to click a button and get a refund.
I hope at this year’s WWDC, we’ll see Apple taking some of Smith’s suggestions to make the App Store experience better.