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Thoughts on product reviews and a tale of a disagreeable customer

When tens of thousands of customers, I suppose the laws of statistics dictate that you’re going to have a few disagreeable one.

With those, it’s probably best to listen to what they have to say, and just move on. But given the effort we’ve put into making Rego a good product, I can’t help getting a little upset sometimes when I run across them.

We launched Rego version 1.0—an app that let you bookmark locations by placing pins on a map—in March of this year. We followed up with version 1.1 a month later, adding the ability to create new locations by search, i.e. without having to interact with a map. And a month later we launched 1.2, adding some polish.

On the whole, people really seem to like Rego.

A few days ago, I received an email from a guy complaining that Rego doesn’t offer a way to add places by address, and pointing out that having to move a map around is just “untenable”.

After some back and forth, we realized he’s still running Rego 1.0. Since we introduced search in version 1.1, I suggested he should upgrade. (Remember, the current version is 1.2!)

He replied that unfortunately his iPhone is jailbroken, and so he can’t upgrade his iPhone’s operating system to iOS 6.1, required to install Rego 1.1. Since Rego returns search results from Apple’s MapKit database—which is only available in iOS 6.1—we simply can’t make that feature available to earlier versions of Rego.

I thought that’d be the end of it, but then this two-star review showed up in the App Store.

He’s mistaken in that he’s running version 1.0 of Rego and not 1.1—in which we added search—but let’s overlook that for the moment. Here’s what this guy is saying to the world through his review:

In case you might be thinking about downloading a version of Rego which doesn’t exist any longer, don’t — because that no-longer-existing version is a two-star app. The current version does include search, but it’s unavailable to those of us who’ve hacked our iPhone such that they can’t be updated to the iOS providing the technology on which the latest version of Rego is based. Shame on you developers!

This left me reminded of a quote by Mark Twain:

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.

The basis of a product review

Although this particular case seemed a little over the top, it does highlight a general pet-peeve of mine, which is rating a product based on missing features. In this case, the guy rated Rego 1.0 two-stars because it didn’t offer location search.

In my opinion, one should rate a product based on what it promises to do; not based on what one wished it could do.

Rego 1.0 promised to let you add places by moving a pin around on a map—no more, no less. Our effort in 1.0 focused on finding an interaction model that was ideal for dealing with locations in an iPhone app. Of course we had many ideas for future features, but you have to prioritize your limited resources, and our priority was on creating the right foundation.

Many people rated Rego 1.0 5-stars; with many noting its easy-to-use interface.

But Rego 1.0 didn’t offer a search feature, and so several people gave it three stars, saying that once it had search, they’d give it five.

Where is the logic in that?

How could Rego 1.1, with search, possibly be a five-star app, when it doesn’t have the photo reorganization feature introduced in 1.2? And how can 1.2 possibly be a five-star app when it doesn’t support the non-square images that’s coming in 1.3? And how can 1.3 possibly be a five-star app, when it doesn’t have the multi-device syncing that’s likely coming in 1.4?

If you rate a product on what it could do, rather than what it actually promises to do, then at which point in time could a continually evolving product ever be considered five stars?

Published inBusiness


  1. Jamon Holmgren Jamon Holmgren

    I rate this article 2/5 stars because you didn’t talk about SEO. The part about the app reviews was cool though.

    • Jamon Holmgren Jamon Holmgren

      Seriously, though, I agree 100%. I think it’s one of the downsides to going to a business-to-consumer model — interacting with consumers who apparently don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. There are a lot of upsides to B2C, but that’s not one of them.

  2. Matt Henderson Matt Henderson

    Jamon, you’re right — if we’re going to stay in B2C, I’d better develop some thicker skin. 🙂

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