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Pat Dryburgh

Disclaimer: I purchased shares in Slack days after their IPO, when the price was at its highest. Currently, the stock is worth ~78% of what I paid. I feel like this blog post isn’t likely to cause any real change in the value of the 9 shares I own, but I am probably obligated to let you know this before I continue.

Slack recently updated their iPhone app and it looks really nice. Where before the menu for viewing your channels was always set to white text on a dark background regardless of your device’s Appearance settings, now every screen in the app matches the Appearance setting of Light or Dark. It’s a nice refinement that I think makes Slack feel more at home on the iPhone.

The update also introduces a new tab bar along the bottom of the screen that improves how you access your conversations. The tab bar includes:

  • Home, which lists all of your channels;
  • DMs, which shows just your direct messages with one or more people;
  • Mentions, which shows you all of the messages in which you were mentioned;
  • You, where you can update your Status and update other aspects of your Slack profile.

All of this feels really great, however I have one complaint that reveals the designers at Slack are not reading my blog:

Slack’s new first-run experience sucks.

I wish I had taken screenshots, but I couldn’t. Why? Because I opened the new version of Slack in an attempt to join a meeting with my client that was just about to begin. However instead of having the freedom to use the application, I was forced to quickly skim my way through a first-use tutorial instructing me to swipe from one screen to the next in order to appease their desire to show me their new-fangled navigation design.

Maybe there was a “Skip” button I missed. Regardless, just like Brent Simmons predicted, I don’t remember a goddamn thing Slack was trying to teach me.

As it turns out, I was unknowingly 5 minutes early to my meeting, which ultimately got rescheduled, so all my rushing about was for naught. But, do you see where the issue is? Instead of helping me, Slack impeded my ability to do what I needed to do in the moment I needed to do it.

As I look at the app now, there’s only one thing I see that I feel isn’t quite as discoverable as the rest: the menu for navigating between Slack organizations (it’s your organization’s icon in the top left of the screen). I don’t know the numbers on this, but my assumption would be that the majority of Slack users belong to a single organization, so making this less prominent than the other areas of the app is A-ok by me.

Other than that, I don’t quite get why Slack felt the need to include this first-run tutorial.

It’s easy to criticize from a distance, though I imagine it’s pretty clear that despite this complaint, I still love Slack. I think the people that work there are among the brightest and most compassionate in the industry.

My only intention for bringing this to light is because I think it is a perfect example of how easy it is to slap a first-run tutorial into an app without fully thinking through how it will impact its users. Far worse things have come out of tech companies in the last decade and this is no where near that level. But, as my friend Shawn once wrote, “delight is in the details.”

My work is decidedly not “essential” (a realization I had well before this pandemic, though its truth has certainly been deepened and reenforced), but I do believe it is important. I strive to design and develop systems that are respectful of the user and accessible to everyone. I don’t always meet my ideals and I’ve made my share of mistakes. We all do. The beauty of the Internet and in particular of independent personal blogs is that we can all learn from one another’s mistakes and together find a better path forward.

Permalink for post published on May 19, 2020 at 12:51:00 PM