We all know Apple has an affinity for the pristine, the clean, and the perfectly functional. Virtually every product they make is as beautiful as it is useful. Yet I’m somewhat taken aback as of late. Apple imposes such strict quality standards on the products they bring to the marketplace, but when it comes to judging the apps available on the App Store, they are all but discerning. Why doesn’t Apple change that?
Sure, Apple does have a somewhat strict review policy. They don’t allow apps that don’t work within the confines of their user interface guidelines. Buttons and menus have to be intuitive. There shouldn’t be any unexpected and/or “mystery meat” type of navigation. Violating any of these rules will often result in a rejection letter.
But what about rejecting stupid apps built on stupid ideas? How about exercising some judgement when it comes to the quality of the content being presented on the App Store?
The state of the App Store today.
Here’s an example. My team and I built Snow Dice for iPhone. We’re in the sports category, and we’re doing our best to rank high for searches like “snowboarding.” For us to be one of the top snowboarding apps would mean a lot. It would mean increased visibility and potentially more sales.
Here’s what sucks. One of the top apps for the term “snowboarding” is an app called “Snowboarding!” What does the app do? Well, nothing, really. It’s just a collection of some snowboarding pictures some guy had on his computer. You heard me. $2.99 (more than the cost our app) for a little collection of snowboarding pictures for your iPhone. LAME!
Wanna know what’s even more lame? The majority of the reviews have this app pegged at one star. People hate this app. They think it sucks. Well if it sucks, then why does it rank so high in search? Shouldn’t everyone’s hatred send this piece of crap to the bottom of the search results? I think so, and so do a lot of other developers who work hard to produce quality products for the App Store.
My modest proposal.
Google works because people effectively vote stuff up by linking to it. Inside of the App Store, Apple has loads of data on the apps they sell. Why not offer a search ranking penalty to apps that have a lot of bad ratings? Why not get rid of apps that get such abysmal reviews we all know they should be removed from the App Store?
Apple is clean. They shouldn’t have crappy apps cluttering up their App Store. If everyone keeps saying an app sucks, just get rid of it. Tell the developer that the people have spoken, and they have voted the app out of existence. Then prohibit the developer from uploading an update to the app for a two month time period.
Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s okay for apps to have some bad ratings. Apps have bugs and other issues that often need to get worked out. But no app should be allowed on the App Store if practically everyone hates it. If I developed an app that nobody likes, I wouldn’t keep it up. I’d take it down until I’ve fixed all of the issues that need to be fixed.
I can see how some companies might try to hire fake reviewers to write negative reviews and take down their competition. Apple would need to monitor this sort of behavior and weigh it against the actual quality of the apps themselves. If the app belongs to a major player that has a lot of other quality products, there’s a good chance all the negative reviews are an act of malice. Such situations would require further investigation.
At the very least, Apple needs to adjust its ranking algorithm so it doesn’t favor keywords as much as it favors positive reviews and sales. It’s really easy to name an app anything you want, but it’s incredibly difficult to build a great product. Crappy apps should never appear anywhere near the top of the search results, no matter what you’re searching for.
Listen to the wisdom of the masses, Apple. If most people say something sucks, they’re probably right.