work /
ux design
product management

The very first video walkie talkie for desktop.

context /

Place Pixel - 2017

team /

Alex Padalko - Frontend Dev

Matt Oconnor - Backend Dev

Scott Liang - UX, UI, PM, CEO

1.0 Intro

Roger is the very first push-to-video talk solution for your Mac (think: a video walkie talkie). Roger is based on a simple question: How close can you get to working side by side, without actually having to work side by side?

No arms were harmed in the making of this gif

We had a few criteria when we first conceptualized Roger: We wanted to help a demographic that we were more familiar with, and we wanted to address something that was part of day-to-day work (most of your waking hours each day).

After interviewing a number of people in the co-working space, plus others in our extended networks, we eventually honed in on small, high-productivity teams (3 to 9 folks) and the issues they faced with remote communication.

We found a number of key insights:

  1. A lot of teams worked remotely in one way or another; even teammates on-site tended to migrate around co-working spaces
  2. There was a marked difference in communication between teammates sitting next to each other and teammates in different locations: With the former, people would simply tap each other on the shoulder and talk—while with the latter, they typed to each other on Slack or email (Skype was "too much commitment" to use, despite video chat being more effective).
  3. When next to each other, they only used digital communication tools for sharing files, links, and code. The majority of everyday chatter was spoken.

Some examples of everyday chatter include "Where did you say the assets were again?" and "Hey, we have a call with Mike at 6." Spoken, it was instant and high-fidelity—but typed, it was slow and more prone to misunderstanding. It also filled up inboxes and #channels with cruft.

So we wanted to get as close to face-to-face communication as we could by moving everyday chatter to a place where it was better suited.

Separating everyday chatter

Skype was much higher fidelity than text (you can see and hear each other), but involved a lot of friction. Generally, setting up a Skype session required scheduling a call, dialing and ringing, answering, and engaging in a formal video call. This was too much for spontaneous use.

Roger workflow compared to Skype

2.0 Roger

We endeavored for Roger to have the following qualities:

  1. As close to face to face-as-possible—no abstractions through text
  2. Always present yet non-intrusive
  3. Fluid, free, low-friction talking
  4. Privacy friendly, unlike Amazon Echo and Sqwiggle

2.1  Tap on the Shoulder

Every face-to-face talk is preceded by a brief wave or tap on the shoulder. Clicking on an emoji sends an instant "emote" to your colleague. We were thrilled to see how users adopted these emotes for their own purposes, such as getting attention and sending affirmatives / negatives.


2.2  Push to Video Talk

My desktop is on the left. To communicate with Michelle, I simply hold down on her bubble and start talking. My video feed then instantly appears in the corner of her screen. (The hold feature is there to prevent unintended activations—once connected, I am free to let go.)


2.2 Quick reply

To reply, Michelle just clicks on my video. Notice her privacy is not affected unless she opts in.


2.3  Group Calls

One of the most common pain points our users reported was the the inability to engage a third person without ending the current call. Group calling with a push-to-video call interaction, however, had never been done before (at least, not to our knowledge). It was a great challenge to keep the interaction simple, consistent, and technically feasible.

Ideating group calling

We eventually decided on the ability to add one additional user (which accounted for the majority of use cases) by using the same push-to-talk feature originally implemented. In this case, I call Alex while still talking with Michelle. Michelle is then made aware that I am speaking to Alex, and can call him to complete the three-way connection.


Since it's intended to be always-present, Roger is designed as non-obtrusive menubar app. "Here" / "busy" states can be toggled rather than closing the app and the bubble can be hidden when not in use.

3.0 Onboarding

Roger's interaction paradigm has never been seen on desktop before. As a result, we needed to make the onboarding process as engaging and informative as possible.

3.1  Tutorial

Roger first gets your attention with a profound fusion between Drake and pugs. You're then taught the call process through an interactive tutorial (we are huge fans of this approach).


3.2  Empty state

A natural problem with communication apps is the "dead zone" between first launch and adding your first contact. We sought to combat this by providing Roger himself as a first connection. He not only lets you practice the push-to-talk feature, but also gives you a random puppy gif each time you call him. That's right—instant, on-demand puppy gifs.


4.0 Response

A few snippets of feedback from real users:

I expected a regular video chatting service. Expected to be able to call my friends, however when I saw that this worked more as a walkie talkie I was super excited as it is so different and fun ... I tend to click on the little emoji face on the pop-up bubble and send the hand emoji to my friend. My friend then realizes I am trying to talk to her so then she goes online and we start video talking. We can talk for hours and I can multi task at the same time as the chat doesn’t close and is a small rectangle in the corner. - Luisa

I would say it’s a different use case than your traditional video chat platforms. But the first time I used it, I was surprised by how it “just works”. I love products that are like this. - Lawrence

I am part of a small team of web developers (4 members). We’re not always in the same location (or country for that matter) so we use Roger as a method of increasing the speed of internal communications. Very simple, very effective app, working well for us at the moment. - Chris

As a student in Graphic Design I team up with a friend from me to design websites, he develops them. With Roger we quickly communicate without a hassle ... We used to call via Messenger or Skype but Roger is faster and we can quit calling after a few seconds. We just say what we need to say about the project. - Laurens

I have two very close friends who I went to college with. Now that we live all around the world, it’s hard to do quick face-to-face convos (FaceTime is such a ‘commitment’), but Roger allows us to quickly communicate on something and hang up without feeling committed to a long conversation. - Westin

Give Roger a try!

5. Researcher Portal

Lastly, the third leg of the stool: the product that researchers (Vetty employees) use to actually conduct the background checks.

Product principles:

  • Speed. Make tasks easily identifiable.
  • Efficiency. Focus on minimizing redundancy; at high volumes, every redundant action is magnified (even eye movement should be considered).
  • Memory management. The UI should work to minimize information that the user has to hold in memory.
  • Power users. Due to training, higher complexity in exchange for higher power is OK.

This is a basic researcher workflow. Note that it is divided into 3 stages:

Generally, teams of researchers are assigned to different accounts, with each member taking on a specific phase. Due to Vetty's limited resources, individual researchers take on their own accounts and conduct all 3 phases.

5.1. Researcher Dashboard

The main focus of the researcher dashboard is the "Adjudication Needed" column, which uses a simple "yes" or "no" to indicate when there is a pending task. Hovering over the cell in the column brings up more detailed information.

Because researchers are trained users, the dashboard can adopt more complexity for more power. Below, custom components that allow each column to be independently searchable:

5.2. Candidate Details

Much like the client portal (for account managers), the candidate details are where most of the tasks are done:

Key items:

  • The reference panel can be brought up at any time for glanceable information (for example, the researcher may need to compare SSN trace results with national criminal results). The panel eliminates the need to scroll back and forth. Furthermore, it includes a notes section for each candidate, eliminating the "mountain of sticky notes" that researchers previously had to deal with.
  • All top-level information is easily glanceable in the left navigation panel.

The researcher portal is now undergoing a major redesign to accommodate larger teams. Stay tuned!


Whew, that's it! A complete Consumer Reporting Agency platform from scratch. As of this writing, Vetty has experienced a 10x increase in MRR and is now undergoing a serious M&A bid. If you have any questions, or would like to work together, please don't hesitate to reach out at