​Users' Voice
Greta Fedaraviciute
UX/UI designer
Made with

​Users' Voice

How we couldn't hear any, then almost drowned​ in it, and what saved the day?


I work for a startup, where we are developing a cybersecurity product that among other things offers a VPN app. VPN (virtual private network) encrypts your data connection so that third parties are unable to monitor your activity online. If you have never heard about such thing and it sounds too geeky, hang in - the only thing you need to know about VPN for this case study is that it follows a strict No Logs policy. It means that users leave no digital footprint at all so that even Product Team doesn't have much data on how the product is used.


The team and I were challenged to think of a way how to give users voice at the table when we are discussing what to build next in our app.

Initial Concept

We had an idea to build in-app feature allowing users to do two things:

  1. upvote ideas suggested by other users
  2. suggest a new idea

We did not expect or needed this feature to be mainstream, so we have decided to place it in the settings. Only about 14% of users go to settings tab (even less, engage with it), so it looked like a good spot to catch the heavy users.

As it often happens in the start-ups, we were pressed for time and didn't follow the design process by the book which is why we bumped into a few surprises later on. So, this is not a process-perfect case study. To be honest, I usually think of it as one of my failures, but also as experience worth remembering.

My role

  • Competitors' analyses
  • User flow
  • Wireframes
  • Usability testing

I was accompanied by great colleagues - our Design Team Lead, Product Owner and Devs team.

Feature voting forum in the competing app - Golden Frog VPN app
Feature voting forum in the competing app - Golden Frog VPN app

Rolling out the MVP

Our first mistake was that we thought it will be a small side-feature, which didn't require all the bells whistles of testing and iterating. We skipped the ideation phase and jumped straight to our direct competitors' overview - one of which has this feature in their app (see on the right side). We made the initial sketches and off we went to the production. You can probably guess, that this has set us on the wrong foot.

Our app functions on 5 different platforms. We planned to roll this feature out in Windows and Android, see if it resonates with our users at all and if yes, proceed with iOS, macOS and browser extensions.


 ​Users' Voice

Reality check

After launching the feature, we noticed that users weren't behaving as we expected (surprise, huh...):

  • Users wrote to us a lot  (around 30-50 suggestions per day, which is a lot to handle for our small team)
  • Users have rarely used the upvoting feature and didn't read what others wrote. We conducted usability testing with 11 individuals and discovered that upvoting feature is not visible enough.

Our joy about breaking the response rate expectations was soon followed by despair that we were losing a track of everything. We were facing a number of problems:

  • A lot of content management on our side. As the weeks advanced, ideas kept streaming in. Hundreds of posts accumulated in the apps.
  • Users faced a delay after submitting an idea. Our staff had to screen and publish new ideas because we had a manual screening process to prevent offensive content.
  • Duplicate ideas. It was painful to search for existing ideas but easy to post new ones, so users created duplicates.
  • Similar ideas. Feedback around similar user needs was scattered far and wide. Because there were so many ideas, it was difficult to consume the content for readers and act on it for us.
  • Implemented ideas. Users constantly suggested features that were already part of the app functionality.
  • Heavy on devs. All UI/UX updates required multiple dev teams to be involved because different platforms had this feature.
  • No clear ownership. A lot of busy people had to be regularly involved in deciding what do we do with each idea (we needed a process for that).

We believed in the value of this feature and users obviously wanted to share their ideas, but our solution has obviously suffered from a flawed execution and lack of preparation. We have decided to roll up our sleeves and fix it.

Back to the
drawing board​

Having in mind all the ways how our solution failed us, we returned to the drawing board and made a number of changes.

1. From five app platforms to one website

We moved the whole thing to the web, so that all ideas are in one place and only one team of developers have to be involved when making changes. This has also increased the quality of the ideas because users are willing to type more details when they are at their desktops rather than on their phones.

 ​Users' Voice

2. Getting duplicates out of our way early 

To prevent duplicates, we made Share your idea CTA less prominent and emphasized upvoting instead. We ask users to use search before publishing a new idea.

 ​Users' Voice

3. Asking for more details

Moving to web allowed us to aim for a better quality of the ideas because users can type more details when they are at their desktops rather than on their phones. That's why we made description no longer optional.

4. Linking similar ideas

To bring order into this content-rich environment, we are linking similar ideas. Linking is done automatically and adjusted by a Comunity Manager when needed.

 ​Users' Voice

5. Dedicating resources for content management and decision making

  • We have included space for notifications so that we can explain to the user why his idea got a certain status
  • Involved Support Team - they publish and assign statuses to the straightforward cases and ping product team if they need advice
  • Scheduled weekly meetings, where we go throw all new ideas and select what to put in our backlog

 ​Users' Voice

Lessons learned

 ​Users' Voice

Collect feedback in one single place

If you have it scattered across different apps, then it’s likely everyone only has a small perspective of the whole need. It’s like the story about how different people in a dark room are describing an elephant based on which part they can feel. However, if all your feedback is in one central location, then you and everyone else can have a complete view of the customer feedback and the actual user needs. Use slack integration, so that the whole team is aware in real time about what users are saying.

It is like chasing a moving target 

Such feature is not something that can be implemented and forgotten, you will need resources for it all the time. In my company, we find it an expensive venture, but it also provides a competitive advantage because we are always one step ahead of those competitors who do not monitor their users' needs.  

To create the space where users' needs can be heard I had to dive deeply into understanding the user behaviour and figure out how to help the team to turn a big pile of data into actionable data. It didn’t quite work out the first time, but we moved quickly and turned it into a solution that works for us.

Thanks for reading! You can view full wireframe here.