Dot voting is a very straight-forward activity:

  1. You get a bunch of relevant people together in a room
  2. You give them a[n un]limited number of votes
  3. You ask them to vote on a list of elements they consider most important, using those votes (either with candy or sticky dots)
  4. At the end of the activity, you count those elements from the list that sum up the most votes.
  5. You untie those elements by executive decision or an appointed decision maker.

However, these activities put the voter in the centre of the activity rather than the user (unless of course, you have users performing the activity). And voice an opinion of a stakeholder only.

A colleague said over an email that some designers feel that the point of dot voting is to hear those opinions.

QUESTION: Is there a spin off you could think of or done that while performing these dot-voting sessions cater for more than opinions and enable empathy? i.e. Getting stakeholders to vote on behalf of specific personas.


  • Gothelf, Jeff, and Josh Seiden. "Outcomes." Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience. 1st ed. O'Reilly, 2013. 25. Print.

  • Knapp, Jake, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz. "Vote on How Might We Notes." Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016. N. pag. Print.

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    A bibliography in a question!? Bravo! Nov 24, 2016 at 3:45

2 Answers 2


Dot voting is a team activity. If you want to consider users in dot voting, they need to be in the room where it happens, as you mentioned. Or do it electronically themselves. Or have their voices heard in other forums.

I'm sensing that your question is more about getting the voice of the user into feature prioritization more than it is about dot voting or a specific exercise.

How can you learn which features are most important to them? There are many ways of finding that out. What are their frustrations with your product? What garners the most support calls? What do customers bend the salespeople's ears about? What new regulatory changes should prompt a corresponding change to your software? User research, market analysis, competitive analysis, and what you want your product to be when it grows up will all factor into these important decisions.

In my experience, when you ask users what features they want, they want all of the features, as quickly as possible. Someone has to decide how they will spend the most valuable resource on the planet, developer time. The UXer is usually not that person, but part of a team charged with figuring it all out.

Dot voting is just a technique of sifting and winnowing. It's a useful technique. But it's probably not the only way that your group is deciding what to build next. It can't be. There has to be a shared vision of what this product is going to be, what problems it solves, and who benefits from the solution. The features that move the product towards that vision should be the ones that get prioritized. Who owns that vision? The product owner. Who feeds them information? Customers, leadership, the UX team, support, the competition, everyone. Without a shared vision, feature prioritization will feel kind of pointless and frustrating. With that vision, everyone will understand the work that needs to be done to get there.

  • I'd upvote again because of last paragraph alone. To the point, we too often forget our role in the big machine. Dec 4, 2016 at 9:13
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    Thanks, @AdrianoRepetti, I keep reminding myself not to boil the ocean :-) Dec 4, 2016 at 23:07

Maybe you could give voters different shaped "dots" with unique graphics, like 'top hat' for investors and 'baseball cap' for youth.

You would then explain that each voter must use their dots in a way that best represents the demographic represented by the dot. This way, each demographic essentially gets to cast a different set of votes.

Perhaps the way these dot graphics are designed would influence the voter's ability to empathize with the represented group.

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    How does this take the user into consideration? You're suggesting stake holders to assume they know how a demographic would reply. This doesn't tell you at all how a user in that demographic would reply - it tells you how a stake holder thinks they would. "You are not your user" is a well known mantra. Basing user data off how SMEs think users will reply will give you bad results. Nov 24, 2016 at 3:43
  • @Evil Closet Monkey - I don't see this as terribly far-fetched. It's something like having a congressman represent their constituents from their state. Can't say that it's a great model, but it's the best we in the US have got. The difference, of course, is that those in Congress confer and interact with their constituents - which may or not be possible in this case. Nov 24, 2016 at 5:30
  • The two are about as effective, I'd agree. (Points to the average effectiveness of the modern Congress) Nov 24, 2016 at 6:32

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