The Fault with Online Review Ratings


This article was written by Mary L. Howard, a UX product designer from Howard Designs.

© February 10, 2024

The main fault with online review ratings is that there is no “0-star” rating. All the ratings are between one and five. The 0-star rating is not included.

You might say “this doesn’t matter and that a 1-star rating is good enough if a customer is unsatisfied.” But I am going to prove it to you that 1-star ratings are still positive and encourage the use of a product, service, or website.

If a visitor or customer has a bad experience with a product, service, or website, they should be able to convey this dissatisfaction in their choice of ratings.

0-star ratings put the “brakes” on a product, service, or website and this rating communicates to others to avoid using it.

You see, 1-star ratings still promote a product, service, or website, even though they do it in a minimal way. They still encourage others to use it, but at their own risk. A 0-star rating, on the other hand, does not promote a product, service, or website, at all and discourages anyone from using it.

As an analogy, 1-star ratings are like “coasting” in a car with the driver not using the gas or brake pedal, but the car is still moving slowly forward. If you were being tested to get a driver’s license, you might fail the test if you allowed the car to coast along without bringing it to a full stop by applying the brakes.

0-star ratings are like using the brakes in a car; they tell others to absolutely avoid using the product, service, or website.

Here’s how the Online Review Ratings should be:

0-star means “avoid this product, service, or website”.

1-star means “use this product, service, or website at your own risk”.

2-star means “this product, service, or website has some useful benefits”.

3-star means “this product, service, or website is good, has benefits, and is an economical choice”.

4-star means “this product, service, or website is excellent, has many benefits, but is higher priced.”

So, in this rating system, the 3-star rating is actually the optimal choice because it means the product, service, or website is both useful and affordable to most customers.

Should search-engines include review ratings in their algorithms?

My answer is “Yes!”

When search-engines were first created, “relevancy” was the key factor in algorithms.

As the Internet developed, review ratings were added to help customers or visitors rate their experience with using products, services, or websites. However, I don’t believe these ratings have been factored into the search-engine algorithms, which I think they should be.

For example, a website that has been online for twenty years might rank at the top of the first page of results even though that website as an average of 2-star ratings.

If review ratings were included in the search-engine algorithms, low-star ratings would cause a website to “drop” in their search-results ranking.

As a final note on the topic of review ratings, I would like to say that online and offline publications should use the same rating system. For example, in the offline world, 4-star ratings are generally considered the highest rating. There is usually no 5-star rating in offline publications. All ratings should be done from 0-stars to 4-stars, with 0 meaning not recommended and 4 meaning highly-recommended.