5-Star Rating Systems

We have too many rating systems and they get confusing after a while. I was browsing Amazon and, while I hate to admit it, I think the 5-star system is the way to go. This is a big change for me, as I’ve been generally opposed to a 5-star system. Our primary numbering system is base-10 and so I’ve always felt that a rating scale of 1-to-10 was more aligned with our behaviour. But the more thought I’ve given it, the more I think that the 5-star rating is the way to go. In fact, I think we should convert all of our rating systems to 5-star systems.

Let’s start with grades in school. A 5-star grading system makes a lot of sense. It aligns with the 5-grade system we have A through F, skipping, for some reason, E. In my new 5-star grading system, 5 stars would be equal to an A, 4-stars a B, down to 1 star, which would be an F. The system lends itself to pluses and minus with half-star ratings. I would eliminate the concept of an A+ however. There would be no 5-1/2 star rating my system. If you are getting an A you are exelling. No need to show up the team by stealing an extra base–or half-star as the case may be.

We tend to get lazy with deportment. Though we rate grades with A-F, deportment is often 3 gradients: 1-3. For consistency, I’d keep the 5-star rating for deportment as well. On these scales, I would have gotten 4 and 5-star ratings in school, and 3 and 4 star ratings in deportment, except in those classes that I never turned in my homework, in which I might have gotten one or two stars for laziness.

How’d you score on your driver’s test? I passed mine on the first try with a score of 78 (out of 100) or something like that. Converting this to stars, I’d have gotten 3-1/2 stars. Three stars were required to pass the test. I got 5-stars on my written test for my pilot’s license, and 5-stars on my practical test. I’m was a better new pilot than I was a new driver.

Surveys that rate on a scale of anything other than 5-stars would become the object ridicule among their peers. While we do have a base 10 system of numbering, I’m always flummoxed when someone asks me to rate something on a scale of 1-10. If I liked the thing I was rating, I’d almost always give it an 8. I rarely gave 10s because I feel you really need to work for that. a 9 seemed too much of a hedge. So 8 it was. But if someone asks me to rate something on a scale of 1-5 stars, it gets 4-stars if I really liked it, and 5-stars if it is an instant favorite. 3-stars is perfectly adequate. You are doing just fine.

Performance reviews should be based on a 5-star system. Our system uses a scale of 1-5, but for consistency, we should change our unit to stars. In our system, you are meeting all of your performance goals if you get 3-stars.

This brings up an important point. There seems to be much fuss made around Amazon ratings less then 4-stars, as if the product is bad because it received a 3-star rating. In my book, 3-stars means that the product, whatever it was, met my expectations. Indeed, when I think of a 5-star rating system, I think of it thus:

  • 1-star: Distraught. Way below my expectations.
  • 2-stars: Disappointed. I’d expected more.
  • 3-stars: Satisfied. Met my expectations.
  • 4-stars: Delighted. Exceeded my expectations.
  • 5-stars: Blown away. Far exceeded my expectations.
My 5-star rating system bell curve
My 5-star rating system bell curve

We all need to recalibrate our scales of rating toward these measures of expectation. Everyone’s expectation going in is different, but if something meets your expectations, it should get 3-stars, not 5-stars. 4- and 5-star ratings supposedly help products sell better on Amazon, and perhaps that is true. But I envision my 5-star rating system as a smooth bell curve with the peak right at the 3-star mark. If you’ve ever looked at Amazon ratings, you find that the bell curve is skewed heavily in the direction of 4 or 5 stars. Every product on Amazon cannot exceed everyone’s expectations.

When we rate something with our 5-star system, we need to be clear about what we are rating. Amazon provides a single rating for a product, which causes confusion. People rate products with 1-star because they don’t like the price, when the price itself has nothing to do with the quality of the product. Amazon should do what Audible does: split its rating into parts. On Audible, there is an overall rating, a rating for the story, and a rating for the narration. Amazon should have at least a rating for product expectation, and a second for price.

I would like to see Amazon do what Uber does: rate the raters. Amazon should provide a rating to everyone who rates their products. People who provide constructive feedback, even for 1-star ratings, would get a 5-star rating for their rating. People who give a product a 1-star rating because they didn’t like the price would get a 1-star rating for not following instructions.

A 5-star system is better than a “Like” or “Heart”. Facebook and Twitter should replace their Like and Heart systems with a 5-star system. I’m willing to allow Facebook to use 1-5 thumbs-up icons instead of stars, and Twitter can use 1-5 hearts.

Credit scores are one of the more Byzantine rating systems I’ve come across. They seem to go from about 300-850. Why not just make it 0-550? Credit scores should be changed to 5-star ratings. This could be done quite easily by something by 11-year-old son has already learning in school: ratios. In this system, a credit score of 750 would translate into a 4.09-stars–but let’s just call it 4-stars.

I’d like to see favorability ratings used in political polling to go away as a silly things to measure. But if they must stick around, let’s convert those to 5-star ratings as well.

I’d automatically give 5-stars to any product, service, or system that did not repeatedly asking me to give them a 5-star rating.

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