If you want to achieve human-centered design, you can’t ignore the online review revolution.

80% of 18-34 year olds have written online reviews and 95% have read them. One Harvard study found that business revenue can jump as much as 9% with each star increase in their rating. 73% of customers say that positive reviews make them trust a business more.

Online reviews have changed the world of business and they are affecting the tech industry as well. Unfortunately, bad impressions tend to stick with us more than positive ones—and poor design in website or apps can quickly tarnish your online reputation.

Improve design and reputation by listening to customer feedback and going the extra mile.

Female and male colleagues sitting at a table, discussing online reviews

Reviews provide free user research

When designing an app or website, customer voice is essential. It’s best practice for tech companies to hold focus groups or one-on-one interviews with users in order to find pain points and needed solutions. However, these processes are often time-consuming and can be expensive. The online review provides a free, 24/7 platform for customers to air their grievances or sing their praises.

It’s important for small business owners and designers to regularly check out what reviewers are saying about their services, so that they can improve them accordingly. User research highlights bugs and design flaws that developers and business owners may have missed.

Not only do online reviews target specific weaknesses, they are frequently updated (if you have a good reputation management strategy). This source of real-time feedback brings up issues that users are struggling with right now, today. If there was a bug that you thought you fixed a few months ago, you’ll be able to see if users have stopped commenting on this flaw or if there is a problem still associated with it.

Customers reviews give first-hand insight into what works—and what doesn’t. Rather than getting up-in-arms about the negative things consumers are saying about you, use that feedback to enhance design and improve your tech offerings.

Don’t neglect qualitative data

In today’s world, everyone has a platform to share their opinions. Customers expect their voices to be listened to, otherwise a company will quickly lose credibility in their eyes.

While formal online reviews provide invaluable data, you should also use the informal feedback provided through chatbots or customer services lines. The quantitative data provided by user research and star ratings is useful, but this only paints part of the picture. Both numerical research and customer comments should guide development decisions.

Remember, for online reviews to serve as qualitative research, you really have to listen.

Additionally, since online reviews have revolutionized the feedback sphere, you might consider integrating review collection in app and website design. Customers are looking for venues to voice their opinions anyways, so why not build this service into your tech offerings?  An in-app feature where customers can leave feedback directly or are linked to your review profiles will help you keep up with the trends.

Note on employees

As an aside: Team members are also impacting your online reputation. They can be some of your best brand advocates or worse detractors. Unhappy ex-employees are often the source of the most scathing customer reviews.

Build employee feedback into your web design. Even if you are outsourcing development, find a software company that values open conversation with business owners. Allow every member of your team to add their voice to tech projects, in order to focus on human-centered design.

A laptop on a desk and the screen says "Brand"

Build your brand with beautiful design

To match the energy of online reviews and improve your brand reputation, focus on streamlining design.

If a customer is unhappy with your app or website, you’re going to hear about it— and odds are, others are going to hear about it too. Rather than getting defensive or trying to delete Google reviews, use this feedback to strengthen your tech.

Take advantage of your tech to encourage user engagement and improve online reviews. Some designers will help you implement an incentive-based system that rewards users for visiting your app. Include elements of personalization and frictionless navigation. Build unparalleled response times and intuitive formatting. If you want your business to stand out, you need a good star rating and lots of detailed comments, inspired by great design.

Your customers are part of your brand story now. Online reviews provide the customer voice that can refine and enhance app and web design. You can’t afford to ignore them.

Thanks for reading!

Author – Jaren Nichols

Jaren Nichols is Chief Operating Officer at ZipBooks, free accounting software for small businesses. Jaren was previously a Product Manager at Google and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.