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We helped Vocal scale from a hunch to a multi-million user platform.

From early go-to-market delivery to a sophisticated publishing platform for web and native users — we were a partner the entire way.

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2 Vocal App screens and Vocal Web Homepage juxtaposed side by side

Highlights

  • A successful and ongoing full-service partnership in product strategy and end-to-end delivery
  • Designed & developed a React & GraphQL platform architecture to support both early startup and long term growth needs
  • Developed Vocal’s first design system in React
  • Conducted immersive observational design research to understand user needs and inform product strategy
  • Delivered a range of product features to a high standard in good time
  • Shipped Vocal’s first native apps for iOS & Android
7+
Years of direct partnership
500k+
Stories published since launch
4.9m
Average API requests per day

Building a fast and flexible data foundation with Keystone

Vocal came to us with a great idea and a fast growing community. They needed a smart and scalable backend architecture approach to support rapid growth over a five year horizon, while delivering immediate value — at the same time.

We deployed a React, KeystoneJS (opens in new window), and GraphQL stack so they could start fast and scale without sacrificing multichannel reach over the long run. As OSS maintainers of Keystone, we were able to add features that solved Vocal's needs and benefited the broader community of open source users.

Device window showing Keystone’s document field populated with text and custom components.

Vocal wouldn’t be what it is today without Thinkmill. The team shaped the product visually, technically, and ethically, as we grew from a hunch to a multi-million user network.

Justin Maury avatarJustin Maury avatar

Justin Maury

Chief Operating Officer, Vocal

Adding structure to scale with Vocal Design System

Once Vocal’s early phase growth ambitions were achieved, we turned our lens to developing consistent writing, interface, and web accessibility patterns.

We refactored the React component architecture to be more predictable, extensible, and WCAG 2.0 AA compliant – which greatly improved our ability to deliver future roadmap features at speed.

Illustration of Vocal UI components.

Connecting community to the product roadmap with user research

When the time came to better understand the needs and desires of their community, Vocal turned to us. We architected and executed two phases of user research tailor-fit to Vocal’s stage of development.

In the second phase we conducted over 100 hours of 1:1 remote research across multiple timezones . Listening to readers, creators, and content moderators — we were able to unearth the drivers behind their interaction with the product.

Insights gleaned from the research fundamentally changed Vocal’s perception about what the platform was, and how it related to the broader publishing and social media space of which it’s a part.

Illustration of Vocal Creator Profile screen superimposed with research candidate avatar stamps around it

Thinkmill’s co-ordinated user research program helped us garner insights to build features that significantly impacted our ability to scale Vocal to what it is today.

Justin Maury avatarJustin Maury avatar

Justin Maury

Chief Operating Officer, Vocal

Fostering deeper conversations with reader comments

In order for the community to grow, Vocal needed a way to support deeper connections, ideas, and conversations between creators and readers. Together with Vocal, we designed and implemented a new comments feature. With over 60,000 comments exchanged and counting, this feature was the most quickly adopted in Vocal history. It provided the value the community desired without sacrificing Vocal’s enduring commitment to maintaining space for creativity that’s free from trolling and abuse.

1m
Stories created
60k+
Comments in first 6mo
600k+
Feed updates
5m+
API calls to feature

Bringing a native reading experience to iOS & Android users

When the time came to bring Vocal’s great web-based reading experience to native users we were ready.

We took advantage of our Design System foundations and the Keystone-powered headless content API to ship Vocal’s first native app for iOS in under 4 months, and release the Android equivalent soon after.

Features delivered on the iOS app launch:

The ability for users to like and share stories. A subscribe feature to follow favourite creators. Commenting capabilities to join in on the conversation. A customisable library to let readers control what appears in their feed.

Praise for the app

I absolutely love this app! As a writer, it’s been such a great platform for me to share my work and connect with other creators. The layout is user-friendly and the submission process is easy to follow. I also appreciate the added feature of being able to track the progress of my submissions and receive feedback from the editorial team. Overall, this has been a fantastic resource for me and I highly recommend it to other writers. Five stars!

Sam Allert Avatar

Exerteza

Excellent. I suggested that this vocal.media app be developed back in Autumn/winter season in year 2021, I’ve prayed on it ever since and my prayers have been answered today! I’m very grateful & very excited! This occasion is going to benefit me and my audience.

Kevin Stafford Avatar

Angelina Thomas

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A photo of Jed Watson & Boris Bozic together

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Have a chat with one of our co-founders, Jed or Boris, about how Thinkmill can support your organisation’s software ambitions.

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