User Product Reviews: Showing only positive ones - good or bad?

14 Mar 2012 - 5:11pm
4 years ago
5 replies
1636 reads
Jennifer Wolfgang

We sell software where I work. We're looking to integrate user reviews that we get through a third party service (Zueberance, I think) into our product pages.

The business stakeholder wants us to only show positive/glowing reviews.

I have an ehtical problem with that as I feel it's misleading. I also think it looks odd when scanning a list of only 4 and 5 star reviews... As a user, I think, "Sooo... where are some of the more 'negative' reviews?"

I'm a user who actually looks for negative reviews though, paritcularly in a sea of positive ones, so that I can feel I've made an educated decision.

Is there any evidence, research, or anything anecdotal, anyone here can share that supports or discredits my own personal feelings?



14 Mar 2012 - 5:38pm

I have no research to share, but I can comment that it is a violation of the principle, "Good Design is Honest". If people find that the reviews are curated then that can make people lose trust in the reviews.

There was a case with Yelp a while ago where they were allowing businesses to drop negative reviews if they bought a service with Yelp. It damged their brand and trust a bit when people found out.

14 Mar 2012 - 6:46pm

Bad. And I mean bad for business.

I've been working directly with user reviews for a year now and what I've read and experienced so far is that people will not only not trust you, they will engage in negative word of mouth marketing. And thats where it gets business bad. Some will even contact you and tell you you stink.

They may stick with you as long as you have the best product/price. In the meanwhile they will search for alternatives and when they find it you know what happens.

Trust is very important.

14 Mar 2012 - 7:15pm
Patrick Barrett


It would be a very bad choice to leave the negative reviews off your product pages. Ever bit of user testing we conduct confirms the fact that consumers seek out negative reviews. They need to see a balance of positive and negative reviews to be able to believe in the content they are reading. To publish only positive reviews would indeed be unethical. When you present a user with the ability to share their opinion of your products or services it is that user's expectation that their voice will be heard, not censored. If you break that contract with your users you will find they will no longer be keen on sharing opinions with you. You will have lost their trust.

On the plus side, negative reviews are often the ones with the most value to your business. 

Knowing that your product is: 
"The best product ever, 5 stars!" 
doesn't give you much to act on. 

Whereas this review:
"The handle comes loose after three uses, 2 stars :-(" 
tells you exactly what you can do to improve your product and really make your customers love your products.

Good luck. I hope your stakeholder makes the right choice.


15 Mar 2012 - 12:01am
Audrey Crane

I worked on a product with a similar problem for restaurant (actually, dish-level) reviews.

In order to avoid his concerns about negative reviews and my concerns about both being truthful and having credibility, our solution was to show "highest rated" only. We had an algorithm to determine what was highest rated (you need to have a certain number of responses, for example, and a few other details need to be taken into account), and otherwise didn't show ratings -- so it was both entirely positive and completely honest and accurate since it didn't purport to show all the feedback. And it was useful to have the best stuff called out. Restaurants got to see all the ratings. Hint text ensured that people understood what the highest rated thing was all about.

Not sure if that applies to your situation or not. We did do some primary research that showed that people expected and gave a "pass" to a few negative reviews, with credibility points for showing them. I'm pretty confident that any primary research you did (and this would be easy to do in a few hours guerilla-style with Amazon in a coffee shop) would show the same thing.

Good luck!

5 Apr 2012 - 7:03am
AJ Kock

My opinion: The same reason you will find it not useful if the moderator deleted all the comments stating "leave it on". How would your company feel if they had to make a decision with "moderated input". Would you go back? Don't think so.

Companies are judged on how they respond to negative experiences. And as Patrick stated, it shows a company exactly what needs to be improved in their products.

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