Android Market and the Developer Problem

Android market has a lot of serious problems (that were not fixed in donut), but I want to focus on just one here: the lack of connection between the developer and application users.

Users can interact with the developer in 3 ways: by rating the app, by leaving comments, and by emailing them directly. The comment / rating system is completely anonymous, there is no way for the developer to interact with users that leave comments and feedback.

Why is it important for a developer to be able to interact with a user? Most Android apps are not published by large scale software producing companies. In most cases it’s one person, without a team of testers ensuring the application’s correctness across many different devices and several different Android OS releases. Developers rely on user feedback to find and fix problems with their apps. It is nice when users use the developer’s email to report problems, but more often than not the developer gets comments like “force closed, uninstalled” with no way to get any details from the user.

This problem can be fixed, with some rather harsh stipulations applied to market downloads. When a user downloads an app, they should implicitly agree to open a communication channel with the developer. Specifically, a “receipt” should be provided to the developer for every download (free or paid). This receipt should include details of the user … including their email, device info, date installed, date uninstalled, etc. If the user doesn’t like this, they can choose to not download the (free) application.

I suspect most people would object to this with privacy concerns, but to that I say too bad. Free software should never be truly free. Instead, “free” software just means you may compensate developers with non-monetary forms of payment, such as,

  1. Providing feedback on features, usability.
  2. Sending crash logs.
  3. Or even, fixing bugs directly.

If the user is truly leaching in that they aren’t willing to provide any of the above, it’s of no consequence to the app developer if they decide not to run the app. It’s a frustrating experience for developers to work hard on an app and publish it, for free, only to receive negative, or vague comments. A developer-friendly market stimulates more application development, which is benefits users in the long run.

This all goes for free apps. For paid, or ad-supported apps, I believe it is up to the developer to provide some level of correctness without user involvement.

3 Responses to Android Market and the Developer Problem

  1. Jeffrey Blattman says:

    Note the post,

    this is at least one way users can help developers make the apps they use better.

  2. I think this is the biggest problem in the market!

    We put our FREE app in the market. Not making money out of the hundreds of hours of effort. Along come some users who want more, or just miss features already there. “Give me a journal”, “Give me a button here”, “There is no way to do XYZ”.

    And they rate 1 star. EVEN if there is such button, or the app already has the feature and they missed it. There is no way to REPLY to the users.

    We need something like in the Samsung-Instinct store: A web console application, accessed by the developer from a desktop, where we can reply to the comments. Sometimes I just wish to tell them “Look, the button is in front of you!” Or “Read the Help section!”, but there is no way to reply.

    In addition to making zero money in the market (people don’t want to pay for the apps, just get more features in the LITE version), the market is very dissapointing for us developers.

    Free apps don’t put food on my kid’s table.



  3. myna it labs says:

    I was along similar lines, just yesterday. How about an ‘in program’ option?
    Where at first run (after first demo level, etc) , it prompts the user to be able to send survey info back to the developer.

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