Michael Wray On Letting Developers Respond To App Store Comments

16 January 2013

Mariner Unwrapped:

But what about this idea:

Give the option to Joe Customer to let Joe Developer reply to him about his issue either directly or publicly, or not at all. With this strategy the customer is always in control (which will please Apple) however, if the customer is legitimately interested in getting a response from the developer on said issue, he can give permission for the developer to respond privately or publicly. In the end, Joe Customer can make his point and optionally get a response and Joe Developer at least has a chance (assuming that’s what Joe Customer chooses) to respond to what could be a very explainable issue.

Whatever the solution, Wray is spot on that customers need the keys to end communication with the developer at any time.

That being said, I think Wray’s distinction between public and private seems unwieldy. Reviews are public, so it makes sense that replies to reviews are as well. By forcing publicness, the procedure is simplified (encouraging users to actually enable feedback) and helps to keep the members of the conversation1 in check.

I think it should be implemented as follows:

  • There is a checkbox when leaving a review for the customer to allow responses from developers; the default should be to leave the option unchecked.
  • Responses appear on the app’s page beneath the original review. The customer is alerted to responses by some UI in the iTunes Store and, maybe, a push notification on their iOS devices.
  • At any time, the original reviewer can close2 the discussion ‘thread’ to any more responses. This decision should be displayed in the review section to clarify that it was the customer’s choice to end the conversation, rather than the developer’s lack of care to reply.
  • If the original rating or review is changed, the associated thread is deleted. This ensures that future readers are not confused by mismatching incongruent comments, as well as preventing App Store pages to clutter with outdated information.

1 This is aimed at both the user and the developer. In the online world, it is not inconceivable for either party to become abusive.

2 As with normal iTunes reviews today, the store moderators would also be able to terminate or delete conversations at their discretion.