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Slack targets non-tech users, with changes to the user interface design

Slack targets non-tech users, with changes to the user interface design

Slack has introduced a number of changes to its team chat application that aims to create a simpler and more intuitive user experience, targeting a wider range of users. This includes a «compose» button, easier navigation and customizable sidebars.

Slack’s early followers were technology professionals working in IT or software development. But as the use of Slack has exploded in the six years since its launch, with 12 million daily active users, including many large companies, the types of application-dependent workers have evolved to work with colleagues. According to technology professionals, the fastest growing use cases are now in sales, marketing and customer service, Slack said.

“The mission remains the same; it makes people’s professional life simpler, more enjoyable and more productive. What changes are the people. «

Friendly features for beginners

The purpose of the features announced on Wednesday is to ease the transition for workers to accept Slack as a new way of working.

Following the example of email client applications, a «dial» button at the top left of the application allows users to initiate a message before deciding who or who to send it to. And, as with email applications, the draft message will be saved automatically if left unfinished.

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The «compose» feature will be familiar to users when switching from email to Slack. (Click on the image to enlarge it).

This should make Slack less intimidating for new users who may be overwhelmed by the many channels and direct messaging options available.

«We wanted to eliminate the stress when you go into Slack, where it’s like, ‘Wait a second, now you have to decide which channel to put it in,'» Frank said. In this case, when you click the «compose» button, you will get a panel that allows you to write the new message. Only after you have written the message and saved it as a draft will you need to choose a DM or channel to include it. «

He added: «You could think of a future in which Slack suggests communication channels, based on what you have written and where you will get the most effective response.»

Another addition to the navigation bar is a pair of arrow buttons to move back and forth between channels, rather than relying on keyboard shortcuts. Only a small portion of users actually use keyboard shortcuts, Slack said. Along with the navigation arrows, a clock icon will display your browsing history to allow users to quickly jump to previous channels.

The sidebar panel is now customizable with the ability to create folder-like sections. Users do this by dragging and dropping channels, direct messages, and applications to classify and prioritize them. Sections can be created for a specific project or simply to group new «urgent» conversations.

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The sections in the sidebar can be opened or narrowed by clicking the small triangular button on the left. (Click on the image to enlarge it).

The ability to access third-party applications, such as video conferencing or polling tools, is an important part of the Slack experience for many users, with over 1,800 third-party integrations available, as well as internal applications and workflows. But they do not always feel accessible to new users. Adding a «flash» button to the message entry field serves as a shortcut to access applications without changing windows.

Teamwork is becoming mainstream

The demand for team collaboration tools has increased significantly in recent years, and channel-based communications provide an alternative to e-mail for peer interactions, as well as supporting collaboration with teleworkers. The social software and workplace collaboration market will reach $ 4.8 billion in 2023, according to Gartner .

Slack’s success has attracted others to the market, especially Microsoft, which launched its rival Teams app in 2017.

Although Microsoft is a major rival, Slack publicly hailed the competition, saying it was a validation of channel-based communications (although disputed strong Complaints regarding the adoption of users from Microsoft).

Larry Cannell, research director at Gartner, said the Slack updates are part of a broader long-term «integration» of products such as Slack and Teams.

This is necessary for two reasons, he said: “First, to make them more accessible and less intimidating for non-technical users. Not everyone is comfortable with things like slash commands or can remember where to find a useful function. These tools should work for late users. «

Second, he said, these products need to be able to evolve along with how users incorporate them into their daily workflow. Think about how different Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat are today because of the features that users have benefited the most from. This is a dance in constant change between form and function «, he said.

The new features in the Slack interface will start launching today and will be completed in the next «few weeks». The features will be available to users at all paid levels of Slack, including the free version, although the channel sections in the sidebar will only be available on paid plans.