What Installing 15+ Slack Bots Taught Me About A Great Onboarding Experience

When the teams on Slack, ma.. 
Drop it like a bot, drop it like a bot, drop it like a bot.

Since January, I’ve become obsessed with bots.

Particularly, Slack bots…

I had to create a new Slack & reinstall bots because I was driving the team crazy

Slack has become a daily tool I use for communication with my team, friends and others in the industry. What intrigues me the most is the potential for Slack bots to eventually offer a sidekick that could replace jobs and tasks that are repetitive. I’m also intrigued by conversational UI and how it can accelerate our productivity through a natural interaction using machine learning (weak AI).

While I realize we’re far from creating bots that could write this blog post or manage a team (strong AI), we’re already seeing bots that can schedule meetings, run stand ups and even deliver ice cream.

It’s pretty damn exciting.

Over the last few months, I’ve installed 15+ different Slack bots for a project I’m working on and general curiosity. The quality of Slack bots in the App Directory are impressive. The value that a lot of these bots are offering for free is an indication that we’re still in the early days. Yet, the onboarding experiences from one app to the next are still very inconsistent and sometimes messy.

Onboarding is one of the most important elements of a product's design. It’s in this experience where you can lose a customer or hook them to stick around for the long term. Studies found that the average mobile app loses 77% of its DUAs within the first 3 days.

For Slack bots, there is a short window for learning what the bot can deliver so I’m assuming that the onboarding experience is just as important.

In this post, I’m going to highlight some key takeaways that bot builders can apply to their own onboarding experience and leverage to create a more intuitive and fluid conversational UI.

It All Starts In The Slack App Directory

As Slack bots become more mainstream, we’ll start to hear of them through press and friends but at this time, the App Directory and ProductHunt are two of the best places to find bot recommendations.

Here are the most popular bots in the Slack App Directory at the time:

I’ll reference each of these throughout

Once you’ve identified a bot that you want to install, most bots will ask you to visit their site to do so. Up until this point, the onboarding experience is primarily limited to Slacks app directory.

The one area for customization is the name of your bot, a one sentence description and the design of your bots icon.

After identifying a bot you want to install, you’re asked to visit their site:

Now this is where things get interesting.

A Look At The Landing Pages For Slack bots

Too often do people underestimate the value of a quality landing page. We send people to catch-all pages rather than those that tell a story that is aligned with the motivations that brought us here.

A quality landing page is 🔑 to success.

The transition between Slack and a website to install a bot is an intentional behavior. The user's goal is to install a bot and your website should facilitate in making that happen as quickly as possible to drive conversion.

Oli Gardner of Unbounce describes a good conversion experience like this:

A good conversion experience is one in which your visitors are compelled to pay attention and ultimately interact with your conversion goal — clicking the Call-To-Action (CTA).

I’ve added the emphasis. Let’s see how the bots landing pages stack up:

Humblebot: The message is clear, it captures my attention and the friendly font makes me feel like I’m still on a site that feels like Slack. The call to action is obvious and the value proposition makes sense.


Leo (Officevibe): When I landed here, I thought I landed on the wrong site and didn’t know where to place my attention. I was trying to install an app called ‘Leo’ which apparently is owned by officevibe (I didn’t know this until landing here). The different branding is a big disconnect and the “add to slack” button is very small.

This is what I clicked to get here.
Big difference right?


Ace: “Apps On Chat” in the header was unexpected but the call to action is obvious and unique to Ace. The font size captures my attention but is it “Ace Bot” or “Ace” ? Great use of a visual cue by having Ace to look up.

Meekan: My attention is captured and the call to action is clear. But why are there so many distractions in the navigation? I want to install the app. Instead of sending me to your homepage, take me to a landing page that is unique to my experience and what you know I’m looking for.


Nikabot: One of the first videos I’ve seen for a Slackbot and the visual cue (finger) captured my attention to immediately press play. The secondary call to action was to Try Nikabot Free, which was clear but why try? I want to make or invite Nikabot to become a part of my team.


Birdly: Great design! My attention is immediately placed on the huge headline and then it goes to the button telling me to get my bot. The call to action is very to the point and I know what I have to do.


Tatsu.io: This was the first bot I met that had a more prestigious design. The value proposition is straightforward and makes sense. The video does a great job demonstrating how the bot works but my attention was immediately taken to the signup button and I missed the video the first time. The call to action is very direct so the video gets lost.


Visjar: I love the fact that there’s a personality behind the bot as a greeting always catches a human's attention. The call to action is very straight to the point although a bit more context could be used to remind me of the value proposition. I like how they “Recast.ai” a sub-brand to Visjar.


Landing Page Key Takeaways:

  1. Users coming from the Slack App Directory, are ready to install. Don’t make them scroll too far to find a button or give too many distractions.
  2. Don’t shy away from giving your bot a name and personality. Nikabot and Ace are memorable because they have an identity.
  3. Create a landing page that is focused on the bot.
  4. If you have to: Bot Name, made by Company name.
  5. If your bot has a voice, speak in first person and use a greeting to catch the audience's attention: Hello, Hi, Hey, etc..

The Slack Bot Experience Post Installation

There are two types of bots: Those who get started immediately after installation and those who make you do a little bit more work.

The best practice for those that get to work immediately is to send you to a page that tells you your bot is waiting for you in Slack.

Some bots require a bit more information and take you through a short onboarding experience like Nikabot:

Once I select Ok, let’s do this! I’m supposed to confirm the people who I want to have included in the check in:

For Leo, it walks you through a three step process:

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What’s the better experience?

Well, I agree with Jeremy Vandehey of Growbot.io:

Keep it in Slack. Users are adding your bot to Slack. That’s where they want to stay. Our initial onboarding was slack → website → slack → website, etc. Gross. Instead, keep users in their workflow as much as possible.

Instead of taking me to a web interface that asks what channel I want the bot to be featured in or asking which users I want included in the standup, ask me on Slack. Howdy.io did this with perfection:

The team at Howdy deliver a great experience immediately by offering a list of the different things they can help with. Rather than sending users to a web interface to schedule stand ups, they do it directly in Slack.

One of the most valuable benefits of a bot is in its potential to deliver efficiency through natural language. You don’t have to guess which button does what or which menu will drive to a specific task. The need to click, scroll and toggle is replaced with an interaction between two entities using nothing but language.

BUT…

If You NEED something from your users, it’s better to get it done up front. Details like “Which users do you want to do a stand up with?” can be automated through conversational UI but retrieving access to calendars, Stripe accounts or Google analytics will require an out of Slack experience.

Statsbot implements this perfectly:

A smooth two step walk through and then a notification in Slack:

Key Takeaway For First Interactions Post Installation:

  • Use conversational UI whenever possible.
  • If you need to capture data, do it before the user goes to Slack.
  • Don’t ignore the value of having an independent product on top of Slack to reduce long term risk.

Onboarding Using Conversational UX On Slack

The first interaction with a bot is important.

It sets the tone for the relationship and can make or break the way you feel about the Slack bot. The most common first interaction is a greeting:

Once the greeting happens, most Bots deliver one of two things:

  1. A list of commands that the user can use.
  2. A link to give the bot more info. (ie. Access to calendars).

The Statsbot retrieved access to my Google Analytics account prior to direct messaging in Slack. Gaining access beforehand gave them the ability to focus on delivering an awesome experience from the first message.

Love the COLORS!

Howdy is another great example of how to communicate a Bot's commands:

This approach leaves no room for guessing as it communicates clearly what the bot can do. In addition, it shows a bit of personality with the taco emoji. Howdy goes a step further than most Bots by offering users the ability to learn more about features by saying “help <action>” — a great approach.

The Slack bot for remote meetings, Tatsu caught my attention by including a video in their first message. Of all the Slack bots I tried, this was the only one I found that included a video introduction and welcome:

It allowed them to stand out immediately while also giving a rundown of their product so I could quickly understand how to use it.

Bill (also known as Birdly) caught me off guard with their onboarding:

  1. I wasn’t sure why I was being asked to connect software. On the website it says they’re a simple expense management software for teams. So I was confused around why I would need to connect a Stripe or Salesforce account to upload receipts.
  2. I was also confused because I didn’t know who Bill was and why he was messaging me? I thought I installed a bot called Birdly but apparently his name is Bill when the actual conversations take place.

When you add a new colleague to Slack , the name they use in the chat and the name they go by as a user are likely going to be the same. I’d recommend using a similar experience bots by using consistent naming.

Key Takeaways:

  • Start with a friendly greeting that mentions the user's name.
  • Don’t be afraid to use a tool like video to convey a message.
  • List the various commands that the user can ask your bot (emojis and color can lighten things up). Keep these commands short and sweet but also offer users the ability to learn more with a ‘help’ command.
  • Give your Slack bot the same username and nickname.

What’s Next

The landscape and potential for bots is just beginning.

In an interview with Verge, Slack’s VP of Product, April Underwood said:

“I predict by the end of 2016, we’re going to see more really great examples of household-name companies creating great bot experiences”

If this prediction comes true, we’ll start seeing more and more tasks become automated and more robots in our staff directories. We’ve got a long ways to go until we start seeing strong artificial intelligence within our bots but the potential is promising and I’m excited to see how it all shapes out.


Ross Simmonds is the co-founder of Crate + Hustle & Grind.

PS: I love chatting about this stuff, if you have any feedback or thoughts — I’d love to chat. I’m learning this as I go and would be happy to chat further, leave a comment below and we’ll go from there.

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