How to get the most out of Slack buttons

How redesigning Statsbot with buttons made our interface more intuitive

We’re more than excited to try new Slack features as they appear. Message Buttons were released in July 2016, and provided a new UI opportunity for many exciting Slack apps, including Statsbot. They reduce the number of small yet high-frequency tasks that quietly devour a user’s time. Below, we discuss key advantages and hacks for using buttons in Slack that we’ve discovered.

Readable interface

Have you ever seen a help page that looks more like a what the… page, or a landing/onboarding page that launches an endless dialogue with little-to-no useful information? We’ve been there before.

When you’re onboarding customers, dialogue can be unintuitive. When a user launches a new mobile app, he or she sees an already-familiar interface. When it comes to bots, users must interact with an invisible interface which can be confusing and perhaps even frightening.

Bots have specific commands which need to be communicated to the user in order for it to work. Buttons allow a call to action to be performed in one click, offering up the most popular commands, and allowing the user to identify exactly what they are looking for.

Thanks to buttons, our help and onboarding pages look like applications now.

Buttons helped us to improve the UX of our latest Goals feature. We could hide additional charts with detailed information using a “+Show Details” button. That allowed us to clean up the interface for users who wanted a high-level view. But any time, they can push the button and look at details.

Buttons are available in the Slack API and can be added to any existing app. They allow companies to create a clever and simple user interface, which could function as a quick and cheap MVP of your product. It’s better to test your idea in the place where users spend the majority of their time: in messengers.

Bots are universal and could be capable to replace front-end interfaces. They could function as a landing page, mobile app and personal account with lots of settings at the same time.

Tip: Buttons operate within the message attachments, allowing up to five buttons in a single message. Remember, you can use several rows of messages in one command to get the most out of this feature.

Quick navigation

We asked ourselves, “Which performs better: free-form text input or button-driven interfaces?”

For Statsbot, it’s not even a question anymore. One of our most popular features was scheduling reports. Before buttons, it was a bit of a hassle for the user.

Buttons make the process easier and faster. For example, people can use buttons to change the range of analytics they’re presented with, such as time periods or other metrics.

Imagine you ask Statsbot how many new users you have today, and then would like to also check monthly new users. With buttons, you don’t need to input a separate command — just work in the same dashboard.

Get the most out of Slack buttons

Buttons have a couple other UI advantages:

Colors. You can use red, green and gray buttons to navigate users through the interface. We use green to show which commands are active, and gray for the rest of the buttons.

We previously used red to show “cancel” commands like remove or unpin, but these bright buttons tended to hog the user’s attention, so we decided to stay away from red.

Emojis. You can add emojis inside the key buttons before the text. These should be simple, standard visualizations. If their symbolism isn’t obvious, it will work against you.

Take a look at some icons that we use:

Our goal as bot makers is to make interfaces more intuitive for users, and buttons are the ideal tool for this. Buttons can make the interface more readable, provide convenient navigation, entertain users, and facilitate interactions. Overall, we see them as superior to language-only UX.