Why we use, I mean, love Slack

Rick Swette
Published in
6 min readJun 27, 2018


The three layer cake of a transcendent app: Utility, Usability and Desirability


Utilities that drive slack’s base layer

1. “The Slack way” of transparency

Slack affords teams to use public #channels around certain topics which promotes incredible transparency. Imagine joining a new team feeling behind, but having immediate access to every topic being discussed at the org, going all the way back to the beginning. Because so much conversation is happening in these public places, it makes it very easy to replace a “scrum” meeting, or get a quick answer to an important question. You can list a keyword like “analytics,” and get notified when anyone in the org includes it in a public chat. And Slack nailed it in terms of search.

This is the first on the list because the trust and efficiency the tool affords for a team is what makes it impossible to live without.

2. Integrations and customizability

I would argue that integration is paramount to the success of enteprise software. Slack, integrates and it does so especially well. It’s the ultimate gooey personality, compatible with what feels like everything. It also has an API for building your own apps. So like all great enterprise software, its customizable.

These integrations “streamline your workflows” by letting you get work done right inside of Slack and generally chips away at a fragmented digital life across ecosystems. Here is a simple example:

Problem: We collaborate in the design tool inVision, and potentially, yet another place to communicate. Ugh.

Solution: Slack <>Invision integration.

Some other favorite “integrations” are Polly polls and Paperbot by Skore.

3. Communication done right

The following points could have been filed under usability, but we’re going with utility because Slack solved basic needs of communicating where Email came up short. You can add people to a conversation or reply to a certain part of it (known as a thread), and you never get weird email signatures, long cc lists, or formatting issues disturbing the zen of the experience.


A laundry list of doing it right

1.Slack is “minimalist.” This is mostly everybody’s favorite design rule.

2. Meanwhile, Slack nails it for the power user. A very important usability rule (credit to Jakob Nielsen) reads as follows: “Flexibility and efficiency of use: Accelerators — unseen by the novice user — may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.”

Slack Nails this concept of accelerators with the infamous “quick switcher,” a “hidden feature” that does not clog up the interface for the novice, but allows for power users to get things done quicker.

Slacks Keyboard accessibility (especially the quick switcher) is 🔥

3. Slack gives you three ways of combatting information overload.

First, Muting. You can mute a channel intuitively, or easily set to “do not disturb mode,” or you can put that mode on a schedule!

Secondly, Slack makes it easy to get caught up.

…And finally, they even have a pretty well executed “highlights” feature which recommends personalized must-see content. This aspect of Slack is on the verge of being a classified under Utility, depending on how the company can execute on it’s grand vision for this.

4. Slack on-boards you right.

It’s nice to see a product elegantly introduce itself to a first time user.


The cherries on top, the long tail

1. Slack is reliable. Reliable in a doesn’t crash kind of way, but also in a doing all the little things way. It let’s you upload a very large file. Or voice conference or screen share. Paste a code snippet with proper formatting. Preview an article when pasting a link. It’s all there. This long tail of features is just impressive and it builds a lot of trust with users.

2. Obsessive detail. Slack doesn’t just have it all, the pieces are executed immaculately. For example, here is some insight into how they improved the quick switcher:

Excerpt from slacks improving the quick switcher piece

3. Giphy and emoji integrations.

4. Cool loading and error screens.

5. Culture. Slack affords a culture of transparency in the org, but it also seems to afford culture and humanizing being a worker. Here is an example: It introduced statuses, but instead of a textfield, it forces you to pick a single emoji. Slack actually has a whole feature set for uploading custom emojis- furthering the affordance of expressivity.


The “craft” (their words not mine) and execution on what seems like literally everything results in a unicorn in the software business. People don’t just like Slack, they freaking love it.

Thanks for reading. Check me out at rickswette.info