Star inflation

This is a repost of the original from my previous blog at

Think about how you consider purchases, new books to read and what apps to install: How often do you look at items with 3 stars and think “Hey, I'll try this one today!”?

We have a star inflation and it's causing us great disservice – both users and producers alike.

The 5-star system we are rating after today, is scaled something like this:

⭐️ = Terrible ⭐️⭐️ = Horrible ⭐️⭐️⭐️ = Very Bad ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ = Bad ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ = Good!

The result of this is that whenever we like something we give it 5 stars. If it's not pleasing us, we consider how little it pleases us and give it 1-4 stars.

How did we end up wanting to put so much effort into evaluating degrees of dissatisfaction, rather than focusing on the level of satisfaction? As we're seldom looking for things to give us various degrees of dissatisfaction, it would be much more helpful with a more granular scale of positive rating.

Also consider this: How do you judge whether to read the 4.2-star book or the 4.3-star book next?

I propose we start using this starring system instead:

⭐️ = Bad. ⭐️⭐️ = Ok ⭐️⭐️⭐️ = Good ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ = Very good ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ = Exceptional, life changing, out of this world!

5-star ratings should be held very high. Just providing good service, writing a good book, creating a good app, being your neighbour, or family member, is not a 5-star candidate. 5-stars should be innovative, something never seen before, something that actually transforms your life, or make you reconsider everything.

Spend more time evaluating the degree of positive impact, less time contemplating how much negativity you are able to feel for an item.

On the other side of the table, developers, authors, service providers are having a very difficult time finding their place, or improving on their rating, when the only thing considered valuable is 5 stars. In many cases they will also waste time chasing completely irrelevant rating targets.

“Our KPI for this quarter is to achieve a 4.7 star rating in the App Store!”

Why is 4.7 a good performance indicator? Why not 4.6? 4.3? Are your target customers those looking for 4.7-rating apps?

A lot of apps, books, services could get an average 3-star “good” rating and be perfectly happy.

Consider an imaginary local outdoor organisation. They have developed an app giving you access to local trails that are good for hiking. The app is not a design master piece, it's most likely not drastically changing your life. However, it may be a very good app for its purpose and target audience. A 3-star rating might be spot on for this app – just where it should be. If you go into the App Store and find such an app with a 3-star rating today, how likely is it that your first though is “This must be shit”?

Let's widen our rating scale and do everyone a much greater service when it comes to evaluating the actual quality, value and satisfaction. Let's stop the star inflation.