November 17, 2008

App Store Reviews vs. Ball

When I wrote Ball for the iPhone (and iPod Touch), I didn't envision it ending up being very popular.  I wrote it primarily for my own amusement.  I have been very pleased at the App Store user reviews Ball has garnered so far.  Except for one.  One person did not read the simple instructions on how to access the ball settings (available through the built-in Settings app).  Because that person could not find the settings, they gave a one-star horrible review.

Now, part of this is probably my fault.  I should somehow make it more clear where to find the settings.  (I debated making them available from within Ball itself, but to keep things super simple, as Ball itself is super simple, I opted to let the system Settings app handle the settings for me.)  I do present an alert sheet the first time Ball is run to give out some simple instructions, but if you miss them the first time then there is no way to see them again.  I'm not sure how to work around that yet.

The real problem, though, I think, is that there are no controls on the App Store for managing user reviews.  Clearly in the case for Ball, that single user review is wrong (and more than slightly defamatory).  How do I redress this?  I do not have the power to get the review pulled, which is slightly a good thing, otherwise developers would pull all the negative reviews even if they were relevant.  What I really want to do is contact the customer and help them out.  Then once the user finds the settings and is happy, they would want to change their review themselves.  However, I cannot contact people who have purchased my apps.  I do not have any contact information for them.  (If you are a developer, please file a bug with Apple requesting them to allow you to contact your customers.  The more duplicate bugs filed, the more chance there is of them fixing the system.  I think a good way is to have the initial contact via Apple sending the customer an email on behalf of the developer, then the user has the choice of responding directly.)

I've only had a handful of people write in to me via the Support link when they have problems.  If you have purchased something from the App Store and it doesn't work or you need help, before posting a bad review, contact the developer via their support channels.  Let me say that again:  contact the developer!  There is a support link in iTunes for every product you buy.  Developers are more than happy to provide assistance.