How to Add User Ratings to Your WordPress Website

User ratings are everywhere. Every popular eCommerce site provides user ratings for their products. Question and answer sites like Quora and StackOverflow identify the best answers by relying on user ratings. Books, movies, businesses, and even college professors are ranked on the basis of user ratings.

There are lots of different types of WordPress sites that might want to incorporate user ratings. A WordPress-powered ecommerce site is the most obvious application, but certainly not the only scenario where ratings might come in handy. Here are a few other potential applications for user ratings to get your creative juice flowing:

  • Blogs that publish user-submitted content can use ratings to make the best content stand out.
  • Sites that post product or service reviews can use ratings to add a clear visual representation of the rating to their review of a product or service. We do that on this blog. As a matter of fact, you can see an application of this technique later in this post.
  • Business websites can add ratings to their product and service pages so that users can express their support for their favorite products and services.
  • If you’re really feeling confident, you can add a rating system to your own blog posts so that readers can rate the quality of your content.

In this article, we’ll take a look at a popular star-rating plugin: Rating-Widget: Star Review System. I’ll show you how to use it, and then rate it on a scale of one-to-five stars – because obviously, we have to rate a rating widget. Then, I’ll point out some solid alternatives for you to consider if you want to add user ratings to your site and aren’t sold on Rating-Widget: Star Review System.

What is Rating-Widget: Star Review System?

Rating-Widget: Star Review System (referred to as Rating-Widget moving forward) is a freemium WordPress plugin. It claims to be the most popular five-star rating system on the web and the free version of the plugin available at WP.org boasts more than 10,000 active installs. The plugin is also available for a variety of other website platforms, including Blogger, Tumblr, Squarespace, Shopify, Wix, and as a jQuery widget.

With the free version of the plugin, you can add ratings to posts, custom post types, pages, and comments. In addition, the developer states that Rating-Widget is compatible with WooCommerce, BuddyPress, bbPress, and can be used with multisite networks.

In other words, with Rating-Widget you can add customizable star ratings to virtually every piece of content on a WordPress website.

How to Use Rating-Widget: Star Review System

Head to Plugins > Add New, search for “Rating-Widget”, and click Install Now. Once installation is complete, activate the plugin.

Next, select the RatingWidget item in the admin menu. You will need to connect your WordPress site to the servers that host the Rating Widget service. Click Ok – I’m in! to connect your site and a confirmation email will be sent to the email address associated with your user profile:

screenshot of rating-widget activation screen

If you don’t receive the email verify that the email address in your profile is the one you’re checking. If necessary, change the email address in your profile, go back to RatingWidget, and select the option to resend the confirmation email. Once you receive the confirmation email, click the button in the email to activate the plugin.

Add Ratings to Posts, Pages, and Comments

With the plugin activated, go to RatingWidget > Settings. The settings menu has four different tabs:

  • Blog posts: use this tab to control ratings on posts.
  • Front page posts: use this tab to control how ratings are displayed on the page designated as the posts page in the Settings > Reading menu. By default, posts are shown on the front page, but if you set another page as the posts page, the settings in this tab will apply to the page you have selected.
  • Comments: configure comment ratings.
  • Pages: use this tab to control ratings on pages.

Start with the Blog Posts tab and set up the rating criteria that will apply to blog posts. With the free version of the plugin you can create up to three criteria that will be automatically averaged into a summary rating:

screenshot of blog post tab in rating widget menu

If you want to remove the info bubble encouraging users to “Rate this” select the checkbox below the rating criteria to Hide Info Bubble. If you are using the ratings to enable author ratings, select the checkbox for Author Rating (read-only for visitors). That way, the post author will be able to add a read-only rating to their post.

hide-info-bubble

Scroll down to the RatingWidget Options section to define the presentation of the rating widget. Make a note of the Advanced Settings options where you can control colors, layout, type, and more.

If you keep scrolling down you will see additional options to control which users can vote on ratings, how frequently users can vote, and the pages where the ratings should be displayed. Adjust these settings to your liking.

The end-result will look something like this:

screenshot of how blog post ratings by rating widget are displayed

The Front Page Posts tab offers up the same options as the Blog Posts tab, so I won’t cover them in detail. However, if you do use blog post ratings, I would suggest setting the front page ratings to Read Only and using just a single criteria and label:

screenshot of setting front page post ratings to read only

By using these settings, the front page will just display the summary rating, and visitors will have to visit the blog post to add their own rating:

screenshot of how front page post ratings are displayed

By default, comment ratings are set up to display a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down rather than a 5-star rating, in most cases, you will want to either disable comment ratings or leave the default settings intact. In any case, you can make any necessary adjustments in the Comments tab.

The settings in the Pages tab are identical to those on the Posts and Front Page Posts tabs. Use the Pages tab to determine how ratings should be displayed on your site’s pages.

Advanced Rating-Widget Techniques

If you are a WordPress developer, there many additional options available to explore. For example, there are shortcodes available that you can use to drop ratings in the middle of content rather than in the default position. In addition, there are several PHP functions you can use in your theme template files to return or output ratings.

Both shortcodes and functions are especially helpful for dealing with custom post types. Depending on how your custom post types are generated and displayed, you may see the posts rating settings applied to custom posts types. However, in some cases the ratings many not render the way you want them to. In that case, you can use the custom post type editor to hide the default ratings and replace them with shortcodes or PHP added to the relevant template or plugin file.

To learn more about the options available to developers refer to the Rating-Widget documentation.

Putting the Ratings to Use

Rating-Widget includes a built-in widget. To activate it, go to RatingWidget > Top-Rated Widget and select the button to Add Widget Now. You will be redirected to Appearance > Widget, and a new widget, Rating-Widget: Top Rated, will be listed as an available widget.

You can add the widget to any widget area, and configure it to display posts, pages, or comments. Fine tune the content displayed in the widget by selecting the ordering criteria, default order, and timeframe that should be applied to select the contents of the widget. You can use the widget multiple times, meaning that you could create multiple widgets for the “Most Rated Today”, “Top Rated This Week”, “Top Rated All Time”, and so forth.

WPMU DEV Rating of Rating-Widget

It’s only fair that a rating system be thoroughly rated. Here’s how I rate Rating-Widget: Star Review System

Overall, I did like Rating-Widget and would consider using it for my own projects. However, it isn’t perfect and you will want to be aware of these shortcomings if you’re considering this plugin.

Features: 8 out of 10

There is one key feature that this plugin is missing: rich snippets. With rich snippets added to the markup, star ratings can be added to search engine results – a feature that many users of this plugin will desire. To get rich snippets added to Rating-Widget you have to upgrade to a premium plan. While we certainly have no issue with premium plugins, it is noteworthy that every alternative listed in this article includes rich snippets in the free version.

Beginner and Developer Friendly: 7 and 10 out of 10

While this plugin has a nice interface and is pretty easy to use, it did not work perfectly with custom post types right out of the box. Developers will be able to sort that issue out, but beginners may find themselves very frustrated dealing with this plugin if they use custom post types.

Theme Compatibility: 5 out 10

A pop-up rating summary is displayed when you click on any star rating. In many popular themes, the styling of this pop-up summary breaks down. For example, here’s how the pop-up looks in Twenty Sixteen:

summary-box-styling-broken

I tried the plugin with Twenty Sixteen, Twenty Fifteen, and Tortuga (a personal favorite) before finding that Twenty Twelve displayed the pop-up properly. It’s worth noting that the styling isn’t hard to fix with CSS, but beginners may find that to be a challenge.

Free Version Support: 5 out of 10

While the developer does respond to some of the support requests posted at WordPress.org, many requests go unanswered. We get it. Developers have to make a living and free support doesn’t pay. However, potential users should be aware that they may be on their own if they run into technical issues.

The Good