How Slack designs for delight

4 min read
Will Fanguy
  •  May 3, 2018
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To go from a game studio startup to a company valued at more than $5 billion in a timeframe most B2B companies would find impossible takes a level of dedication and perseverance that most companies just don’t have. But then again, Slack isn’t like most other companies.

To get there, Slack has dedicated time and resources to developing and maintaining a user experience that exceeds all expectations. Making their product sticky through the use of clever interactions has made Slack the business communication powerhouse that many companies (including InVision) rely on to get work done.

So what’s their design secret? What steps does Slack take to ensure that their product keeps innovating and stays engaging? Read on to learn more about how Slack designs for user delight.

Going the extra mile for a smile

Not surprisingly, Slack invests heavily in their designers and the design process. They have an imperative to be open and transparent with each other, and they use Slack as a critical part of bringing everyone into the design process early.

Because collaboration is key to the the process, designers strive to work out in the open, and their design work is shared with the team in relevant channels where it can be iterated upon. “We have a value here of working out in the open, and of transparency,” said Diógenes Brito, Senior Product Designer. “By default, everything is public… we’re always getting feedback and iterating.”

Slack allows teams to upload images and GIFs as custom emoji—just one example of designing for delight.

Slack also isn’t afraid to change the way their designers work within other aspects of the product development process. “At first, we were floating around projects, then project teams, then more of an agency style,” said Brito. “Now designers are embedded into focus areas and on specific project teams in that focus area, but they do work across teams within that area.”

“Slack has dedicated time and resources to developing and maintaining a user experience that exceeds all expectations.”

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How to design like Slack

  1. Be more transparent. At Slack, designers all work on “Pillars” (focus areas such as Core, Search/Learning/Intelligence, etc), and each focus area has various sub-teams. Designers generally lead design on their sub-team, but work very closely with everyone else on their pillar. This organizational structure means that many people get the opportunity to view and critique design work, and that leads to a more transparent and more collaborative process.
  2. Do your homework. Slack’s process for designing new features has three steps that are dedicated to learning more about what users want and how well the team is executing on that vision. Before they start prototyping, the product pillar group consults the yearly and quarterly plans alongside the information gathered during discovery to ensure that they’re well informed before they starting designing.
  3. Keep it simple. Designers at Slack are free to choose whatever tools they need to complete their work, as long as every designer includes two essential tools in their arsenal: InVision and (of course) Slack. “It’s common to see InVision prototypes for click-through items. We’re using InVision a lot to test prototypes for rolling user research,” said Brito.

The Design Genome Project, which explores the DNA of the world’s best design teams, gives you concrete examples of what drives the success of the companies you admire and helps you build a body of evidence for investing in design. Check it out!


Collaborate in real time on a digital whiteboard