I have been thinking a lot recently about online ratings systems and how we use them to express our feelings about a piece of content.
It is quite old news but I think Youtube’s decision to move away from a 5 star rating system to a simple thumbs up thumbs down system was really interesting.
The 5 star rating system largely resulted in viewers voting videos 5 star or 1 star. The graph of star ratings for Youtube was so binary it made a lot of sense to change the rating system to reflect that. Even now the majority of videos you will see on Youtube will have like votes far outweighing the dislike votes.
I guess the response to a video you don’t like is more likely to be closing the tab rather than spending the time to rate it.
Facebook has taken this system even further and only offers a like button with no option for negative feedback. Presumably this is because Facebook wants to encourage positive behavior and is aware that more people will rate something positively than will take the time to be negative.
These two networks might lead you to thinking the 5 star rating system is dead and that simplification is the answer. However it really depends on the type of content and the presentation of the system. For example Trip advisor’s five star rating system is presented with the semantic terms and radio buttons rather than a clear set of stars. As you can see below the ratings of a typical item tend to have a wider distribution spread.
It is also worth noting the vast difference between experience a 2 minute Youtube video and spending several days on holiday. The holiday is much more likely to create a variety of opinions that requires a finer degree of scale as opposed to the consumption of a short video.
The rating system can also be integral to the experience of the content itself. For example a new social network Canv.as has an interesting take on the like/dislike rating system.
Canv.as is a network about images with users posting funny/interesting pictures and then remixing, editing and responding to them in kind. Users can downvote any item with a thumbs down but are given a choice from 9 upvotes.
Each upvote is worth the same and in terms of rating it is no different to the thumbs up of a Youtube video. However by giving each upvote it’s own visual identity the user is able to reflect the reason for their rating without needing to leave a comment.
Whether the rated image made them happy, shocked or laugh out loud it can all be encompassed with one vote. It allows for a wider range of expression without needing the user to think of where the piece of content ranks in comparison to others.
It is also worth noting that these are not just buttons to click on each image but must be dragged and dropped onto the content which is a much more deliberate and satisfying experience than pressing a button.
Giving your users a rating system can be much more than giving them a set of numbers with which to rate your content. The experience of how they can rate and how the system is presented can dramatically change behaviour. I would be really interested to hear if you have seen any sites that have a unique or different system for rating content.
This blog post was written by Glenn White while at Qube Media. Glenn now works for Brandwatch.