Online review ratings: 5 stars or like/dislike? / by Mike Takahashi

YouTube recently rolled out a newly redesigned layout to the cringe of many users. However, what was interesting was their new review ratings. They've moved from a 5-star ratings system to a like/dislike system that most users have probably seen on Facebook.

Screenshot of YouTube like feature

YouTube Most Liked

Screenshot of Facebook like feature

Facebook Like

What YouTube found was that users were inclined to rate videos extremely high or low depending on whether they liked or disliked a video. In this situation, the 5-star ratings system was highly ineffective. A post on their blog goes on to explain, "Seems like when it comes to ratings it's pretty much all or nothing. Great videos prompt action; anything less prompts indifference. Thus, the ratings system is primarily being used as a seal of approval, not as an editorial indicator of what the community thinks about a video."

On sites such as Yelp, review ratings can be significantly skewed based on customer emotions or experiences. If a customer receives terrible service but the food is excellent, how is that factored in Yelp's 5-star ratings system? Customers will often give 1-star simply because their waiter was rude or the service was terrible. These factors aren't conveyed appropriately into their ratings system.

TripAdvisor, which focus on hotel reviews, takes a more holistic approach. Unlike Yelp, their ratings are based on the average of several specific criteria such as rooms, location, cleanliness, service and sleep quality. Did you have terrible service but an amazing room and location? On TripAdvsior, your ratings can be more refined with an average that is reflective of the overall experience.

Screenshot of TripAdvisor reviews

TripAdvisor holistic reviews

Amazon tries to implement the best of both worlds. It uses a 5-star ratings system and a version of like/dislike that allows users to note if a review was helpful or not. Thus helping to filter out only the most useful reviews.

Screenshot of Amazon reviews

Amazon helpful review

It will be interesting to see what trends and patterns continue to emerge with online review ratings. Each system has its advantages and disadvantages. While like/dislike may work well for sites such as YouTube, a more holistic approach can be beneficial for sites such as Yelp. Yelp, please take note.

Resources