Designing a platform for modern political exchange.
The team at Discourse Analytics came to me in 2010 with a simple yet unique idea — to move sampling for political polling from land lines to mobile phones. Land lines were outdated and skewed the sample older and more conservative. Young people simply don’t use land lines. Their lives are on their smartphones.
Based on this idea, they spent considerable time and money developing a powerful backend system to map this new polling data to very sophisticated models. However, no one wanted to give them their mobile numbers. In fact, no one even knew they existed. It seemed that they had simply forgotten about the user.
That’s where I came in.
I explained that we needed to give users something before they’d give us something. We needed to become trustworthy before we could be trusted. We needed to provide value and utility to our users.
User Experience Direction
After reviewing the political landscape, it became clear voters wanted less spin and more facts. They wanted to hear both sides of the story. So we used this as the basis for our user experience strategy. Since polling is a huge part of Votifi’s value proposition (and their initial financial investment), I organized the experience around them. Before taking any poll, users would be exposed to opposing sides of any issue as well as recommended reading around the topic. And then we’d ask them to weigh in.
Users could dive deep into individual issues as well. Notice that the issue experience is designed to provide a 360 degree perspective. Votifi would be the true “No Spin Zone” with staff curating news and articles from trusted sources on the left, the center and the right.
Defining the experience.
When the team came to me, the platform was called PoliTXT – clever but ultimately one dimensional. Since we had expanded the concept so greatly, we decided to change the name to Votifi. We kept the donkey and elephant art but pushed the entire brand identity in a “modern vintage” direction in order to communicate a feeling of trustworthiness.
The layout is based on three 320pixel columns for easy linearization for mobile.
The concept was to engage immediately and place the user at the center of a well balanced debate on an issue. Allow them to make up their own minds before taking a position.
Rather than pull users away from polls in order to interact in other way, like discussions, we decided to embed these features into the poll interfaces using tabs. As such, discussions become something that supported the “taking of a stand”.
Issues would have their own homepages. From a data perspective, they were simply repositories to issue tagged content assets.
By removing issue or poll contexts, we could reorganize asset listings to create resource libraries.
And we would not screen scrape or editorialize. We would simply provide links to trusted sources. It was important that we were as transparent as possible. Votifi is all about trust.
Forms would be simple, straightforward and mobile friendly.
And profiles would allow users to see how their interactions and poll responses mapped to the company’s proprietary granular political position models.
Through participation, we learn more about more about our users. And can then offer them more personally relevant and engaging experiences.
We added an obligatory blog as well.
Votifi is definitely making a splash. They’ve been featured in Campaigns & Elections and the Washington Post as well as mentioned in Entrepreneur. And my design has been mentioned along with DropBox, Mint and AirBNB as examples of start up websites that get visitors to take action. In fact, Votifi was the first example referenced in the article.
Oh…and they were accepted in the SXSW’s Startup Accelerator. Let’s hear it for Votifi!