There is a fundamental problem with star ratings. I have no idea how long these reviews have been coming in, and I can’t see any trends.

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Take a look at the Troy-Bilt Weed Wacker above. 765 reviews means it’s been on Lowes.com for quite some time.

With exactly 227 – 5 star reviews, and 227 – 1 star reviews it sounds like a solid 3 star product, but that’s actually really deceiving. It doesn’t mean I’m likely to get an average product that works but could be better. What it actually means is that I have a 50/50 chance of getting a working one.

How can we improve ratings?

Let’s trend those ratings so we can see what’s happening over the lifetime of the product. The data is obviously there on lowes.com so why not use it. If you told me when that 70% of those 1 star reviews were from 3 years ago, then I’d know that Troy-Bilt has obviously fixed a major flaw in the product.  If however most of those 1 star reviews came in, in the last 6 months that would mean something completely different.

article-2284725-184F692E000005DC-449_634x396Geographic locations may make a big difference too. If I’m looking for a snowblower and most of the 5 star reviews come from areas with very little snowfall that data isn’t really helpful for me. I’m more interested in what this person thinks.

Star ratings have been pulling a veil over our eyes for a long time, especially considering how much spam there is. In the end a great return policy makes it easier to just throw out ratings and just try it for yourself. I would prefer that over imaginary reassurance that I’m going to like the product.

Jesse Friedman has been building websites for 18 years, and exclusively with WordPress since 2006. Since then Jesse has written several books, taught 100’s of students as a professor, and organized dozens of local meetups along with a few WordCamps. Jesse has spoken at tech conferences around the world including SXSW, HOW, Future events and many more. Jesse has consulted for a wide array of companies from small agencies to multi-billion dollar international companies. Today Jesse is a proud team member of Jetpack at Automattic, where he spends his time growth hacking and building strategic partnerships.

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