Fledging company UserVoice is attempting to provide focus groups to those companies that cannot afford focus groups.  The site's general idea is to moderate user ideas and complaints by means of formal comment boxes, polls, and ranking systems.  The three-person ‘Team UserVoice' is quoted as saying, "UserVoice adds structure to feedback and reduces the overhead of an honest dialog with our users – It creates a market around good ideas so we get more quality than quantity."

The interface is currently in its public beta stage, allowing (free of charge) access to its platform.  Those who sign up can create a page for their company, product, project, or even blog.  UserVoice just recently released the ability to add custom CSS to a company's page as well as c-name inclusion for a completely transparent user experience.  This means that the customer never perceives that they are on another site.  The idea is to put the UserVoice widget on the company's official site and allow users to comment on their company or specific products.  The company can then do several things:

  1. Track user ideas as other users vote on them
  2. Provide official responses to comments
  3. Mark an idea as ‘planned'
  4. Push out new features that users want
  5. Collect fan mail


The new site has gained a lot of attention, but I question whether this new company can do things that are not already being done.  Sites like FeVote, Get Satisfaction, and Sales Force are already doing many of the things with which UserVoice claims to be able to help.  The only unique feature that I can discern is that UserVoice allows companies to create a specific page for themselves.  The effort seems to be made in keeping the comments more regulated and organized than the previously mentioned sites, but will that cause users to be less free with their suggestions and comments?  I applaud the company for creating a way for small to medium-sized businesses to have their own ‘focus groups' but it is going to be a couple of months before we will be able to decide if UserVoice shouts or gets silenced.