I recently downloaded the new Google+ Local app, and this was the first screen I saw when I launched it:
This should tell you one thing loud and clear:
Google is well aware of the risk that it’s taking with its new approach to reviews.
By getting rid of the traditional five-star scale and implementing a 30-point scoring system, Google now has to explain to all users — business owners, their customers, everyone — how the new rating system works.
For folks who live and breathe local search and reviews, it may not seem like a big deal. But I’d argue that, to the Average Jane, it’s going to be a huge point of friction.
Five Stars = Simple
A five-star rating scale is simple. Everyone knows it. Everyone uses it.
We use it to rate businesses.
We use it to rate products on Amazon (and elsewhere).
We use it to rate movies and music.
We even use it to rate Generals in the U.S. Army.
30 Points = Not Simple
I’m sure that many hotel and restaurant proprietors are very familiar with this system, but I’m just as sure that a lot of consumers aren’t.
I don’t know anyone who would understand it if I said to them, “Hey, that restaurant has a 21 for decor.”
The question is … will users adapt and learn Google’s system, or will the unfamiliar ratings drive them to Yelp, Bing, TripAdvisor, Foursquare and numerous other places that don’t have a learning curve like Google+ Local does?