Behind the scenes of /todo

A first look at our new Developer Stories

Shortly after our platform launch in December, we began featuring apps in our Directory Spotlight series — ones that made working on Slack simpler, more pleasant, and more productive. One such app was /todo — a super easy way for teams to keep track of personal, group, or even team todo lists.

The incredible team behind /todo is actually just Guillermo Gette — the man who has already changed the way 25,000 teams make it through their busy days, with help from a simple yet powerful slash command. Guillermo’s tale is the first of many stories we’ll share in our Developer Stories — a new way to hear from Slack developers about their experience, early successes, and tips for building on the Slack platform.

How it all began

Guillermo first started using Slack in early 2014, working late nights with a few friends at a Hackathon. While he never had the chance to use it at work, he loved the simplicity of the product, so he continued using it with his wife for ongoing side projects. Impressed by Slack’s rapid growth and future potential, Guillermo closely followed Slack in the news, and was thrilled when the platform launched last December.

Sparked by curiosity, Guillermo read through our API documentation, which he recalls was “so simple and accessible, that it seemed silly not to try it out!” Within a few hours he had successfully built and chatted with his very own bot. “It was beyond cool”, he recounts with enthusiasm.

“There are tons of platforms out there. But messaging is Slack’s primary product; And because it’s focused, there was no doubt that it was going to be the best messaging platform.”

At the time, Guillermo was still leading a team of developers in his day job, but was determined to continue building an integration on the side. So he thought: “What kind of tool could be simple, useful for teams, and easy to get up and running?…A to-do list!”

Preparing for the big day

What better way to polish an app than soliciting feedback from friends and family? This helped Guillermo broaden the functionality of /todo from personal tasks to group-specific tasks, like sales or marketing team action items. There was also one other handy tool that gave him a few important pointers — Dev4Slack, a Slack team dedicated to fostering a community of Slack developers. This larger team helped Guillermo test out /todo and better understand how teams organize, interact, communicate, and operate.

The next step was to build a custom landing page for /todo that explained, demoed, and conveyed the simplicity of the new app. With a personal touch added to the page and his ‘Add to Slack’ button in place, Guillermo was ready to submit to the directory. In just two short weeks, /todo was built, published, and up and running.

Side project turned full-time initiative

Within a week of /todo being published in Slack’s App Directory, 350 teams had organically adopted it, and Guillermo felt he was onto something. “I was really impressed by the numbers considering that my only traffic source was pretty much the Slack App Directory. I couldn’t believe how many people were using my app and sending feedback right away!”

“/todo was definitely something that I never, ever expected to go this way.”

Guillermo soon realized that /todo was no longer a side project, and left his job to focus on pursuing the app’s potential full-time.

Results

Excited by the initial traction, Guillermo decided to share his experience building an app on Slack and published everything he’d learned in a piece on Medium. Shortly after, /todo was promoted on Product Hunt and featured in several publications recommending /todo in “Top 10 Slack Apps” lists.

Post-launch, feedback from /todo’s growing number of users started pouring in. Emails ranged from feature requests that Guillermo began tracking in User Voice, to positive feedback like “I LOVE THIS app! Just starting using and already wondering how I’ve gone without it for this long,” “Keep up the good work!, and “The todo list has already added value in 24 hours.”

What’s next?

“A lot!” says Guillermo. With more than 30 feature requests tracked, there’s plenty of work ahead for /todo. You can learn about what’s coming up next in his Trello board (similar to Slack’s platform roadmap released in April 2016).

“Slack is unique in that it’s open, transparent, friendly, and developer-focused. That level of visibility has really helped make it easier for me to prioritize my tasks, and organize my own roadmap.”

At the same time, Guillermo is focused on improving the onboarding experience for new /todo users. Aside from install numbers, he closely watches activation and engagement metrics, always looking for ways to provide a more seamless way for users to interact with his app.

Tips to share

We asked Guillermo to share some helpful tips from his experience building a successful app on the Slack platform.

Here are just a few:

  1. Make it easy to gather feedback: By typing a simple slash command, like ‘/todo feedback,’ you can receive helpful notes from customers directly to your email. The feedback Guillermo has received so far has helped him gauge which features people want, ultimately letting him develop his app even further. “I would highly recommend anyone looking into building an application like this, to make it super easy for people to leave their feedback.”
  2. Add a personal touch: Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through your app. By adding a personal touch to a landing page, a video/GIF, or even an onboarding welcome message, you can establish a stronger connection with your customers. When building the custom landing page for /todo, Guillermo included his own name, picture, and social media links to let his audience get to know him better. “I think people really connected with that — they trusted me more and it helped them be more patient when things were taking time to build. My message is really, ‘Hey this is me and I’m building this.’”
  3. Share your story: The App Directory is just one place for you to introduce your app to the Slack world, but there’s so much more you can do to tell your story! Write a piece letting friends, family, and colleagues learn more about what you’ve been up to, and what really excites you about your new Slack app. Consider Guillermo’s Medium article — he was able to more deeply share how he decided to build his app, which API was most effective, and key lessons he took away from the experience.
  4. Lean on the Slack developer community: Learn from others in the community about tips, lessons, and resources for building a great app on Slack. Remember, Guillermo learned most about what a proper Slack team looked and behaved like by becoming a member of the Dev4Slack Slack team. This was a critical part of his development of /todo!

This is the first in our new series of interviews with the people and companies behind many Slack apps and services, which we’re calling our Developer Stories. We’ll be adding more stories like this very soon.