17 comments

  • Jeff CouturierJeff Couturier, almost 6 years ago (edited almost 6 years ago )

    "Design" is the whole product, not just the visual aesthetic or a coat of paint on top of the app. When you look at design this way—as design of the whole rather than "which colors does it use"—then this debate changes.

    From the article:

    Slack’s design is not secret sauce. It’s one ingredient in a delicious recipe.

    No. Slack's design is a cohesive, well-executed whole. And in that sense, design is precisely what makes Slack so successful. We shouldn't diminish it (and by extension, the design field as a whole) by finding alternate ways to say "yeah, but being pretty isn't everything." We know full well that design means more than a coat of paint.

    It's sad, if not disturbing, to see a Senior Product Designer at such a prominent company go to such lengths to degrade his own profession by shaving "design" down to nothing more than veneer.

    19 points
    • A B, almost 6 years ago

      Exactly. A lot of design is invisible to the end user. This is by design, pun intended. Great design is non-obtrusive to the end goals of the user.

      3 points
    • Jim SilvermanJim Silverman, almost 6 years ago

      It's sad, if not disturbing, to see a Senior Product Designer at such a prominent company go to such lengths to degrade his own profession by shaving "design" down to nothing more than veneer.

      confused by this extreme reaction. i didn't see anything in the post that marginalizes the incredibly important role of design in a product's success. (and definitely nothing that reduces design to pure aesthetics.) the author is simply stating that there are other attributing factors that are worth noting.

      3 points
      • Jeff CouturierJeff Couturier, almost 6 years ago

        I don't think he realizes he's doing it, just as many others in this field don't realize that defining design to mean merely visual aesthetic degrades their profession.

        The author repeatedly makes the point that design is just the look, and uses that as the foundation for his entire premise: that design alone isn't responsible for Slack being such a great app.

        The point I'm making here is that this narrow definition of design is not only incorrect, but it harms us as designers by depleting the value of design itself. It reduces design to just the paint applied to the widget. For a much more detailed explanation of what I'm referring to, I highly recommend reading this (as well as the rest of the series).

        0 points
        • Jim SilvermanJim Silverman, almost 6 years ago

          The author repeatedly makes the point that design is just the look

          I'm longer certain we're reading the same post. Yes, he mentions visual design. But he also mentions that it's fun to use. Regardless, his definition of design is a minute aspect of the post as it's focused on factors that most certainly are not design - timing, pr, team-building, etc.

          But in regards to the post you've referenced, I'm certain that author would argue that Slack does not value design in the slightest because there are no gradients in the UI.

          0 points
  • Andrew WilkinsonAndrew Wilkinson, almost 6 years ago

    He makes some great points, but I certainly wasn't trying to imply that design was the only factor in Slack's success. I certainly touched on design, but most of what I talked about was copywriting, build quality, interaction, and the other ways that Slack set itself apart.

    9 points
    • Chris Howard, almost 6 years ago

      Ya, but you called that stuff "the secret sauce" as if it was the key factor in Slack's success.

      Matt's point is, it wasn't the difference. All those other things he raised had significant impact on Slack's ability to succeed, and some of them, quite probably had greater impact.

      Your original piece implied all developers had to do to succeed was use your secret sauce.

      It's nice to make a product that stands out from the crowd for funkiness. Many have succeeded with that as part of their strategy. But when you're telling developers that's what it takes, most will be sadly disappointed if they rely on that advice.

      Matt was just attempting to put right that misrepresentation.

      1 point
  • pjotr .pjotr ., almost 6 years ago (edited almost 6 years ago )

    This article is absurd.

    But here’s the thing — a lot of nicely designed products never take off or get noticed. Good design is not enough.

    I don't see the point in this bit. Good design isn't enough. Great design often is. The point of Wilkinson’s article is that Slack's ability to "get a product out ahead of the pack" was their design aesthetic (and to a certain extent, other visual aspects of the product [copy, animation, etc.])

    The list from the article is vacuous. There could be any number of factors that go into any specific product. That's not the point of anything anyone is saying. No one is saying design is or is not important to Slack. They're saying that design in this specific case was the reason Slack beat out competitors.

    Stop degrading design.

    6 points
  • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, almost 6 years ago

    Saying that a product succeeded because of its design feels scary, because it implies that a product might conversely not succeed because its design isn't up to par.

    And maybe you don't want that pressure as a designer, so it's easier to say that design is just one element among many others.

    I don't think we should let that scare us though. If MetaLab wants to make the case that Slack succeeded in large part because of its design (as far as I can tell they never said it succeeded only because of its design), more power to them.

    5 points
    • Joel CalifaJoel Califa, almost 6 years ago

      I was having this conversation with another designer a few days ago and he said something interesting. "Secret Sauce" is actually the perfect term for this. A secret sauce isn't the only thing in the dish. The secret sauce on its own isn't really a meal. It's the hard-to-capture thing that elevates the dish to new heights.

      I disagreed with Andrew's initial article as it focused mostly on shallow, face value things. But given some time to think, I kind of agree that the design went a long way to turn Slack into what it is today.

      The brand alone makes me so happy every time I see it.

      7 points
      • Chris Aalid, almost 6 years ago

        A secret sauce isn't the only thing in the dish. The secret sauce on its own isn't really a meal. It's the hard-to-capture thing that elevates the dish to new heights.

        Very well said.

        1 point
      • Aaron DavisAaron Davis, almost 6 years ago

        Completely agree. Oftentimes design isn't the "secret sauce". It was in this case.

        0 points
  • Spencer RirieSpencer Ririe, almost 6 years ago (edited almost 6 years ago )

    I do agree that Stewart was in a very unique and favorable position to launch a product in this category. Marketing and execution are vital to the success of any startup. But imagine he approached the WSJ with an app that had the same enterprise dinosaur look and feel of '2013 HipChat', would Slack have had the same reception? (Food for thought).

    Hats off to the team at Atlassian, their product has improved by leaps and bounds since the introduction of Slack. Take a stroll down memory lane via the web archive to see how much their design approach has changed in the last two years.

    Design can easily be defended as the tipping point / secret sauce.

    3 points
  • Account deleted almost 6 years ago

    Very well said. I think it's also important to remember that it wasn't Slack that was tooting it's horn... it was the design agency that was hired by them to give it the sexy.

    From that standpoint, of course the agency is going to toot IT'S horn and push the basic vision that "design = success"... it's in their best business interests.

    I feel some of the detractors are losing sight of this. They are simply marketing their services... and are proud of them.

    2 points
  • Prabhu SPrabhu S, almost 6 years ago

    UI, UX, & Marketting have a lot to do with Slack's success i mean just look at it.. its just IRC + File Sharing.. none of the technology is new or revolutionary in any way.. its not even faster.. there is no metric on which slack is better than the completion in terms of technology. The only thing that works for slack is anyone who uses it instantly falls in love.. and thats what great designers do, they make people fall in love with their products.

    0 points
    • Chris Howard, almost 6 years ago

      Nope, I never fell in love with it. I use it because that is what the teams I'm in uses those some have switched to Glip). It works, it does the job, although will get hammered by Glip if the Slack team keeps up the hubris.

      If Slack get on the defensive over Matt's article, you can't trust their future.

      Many a company has been brought to its knees by its own hubris.

      0 points
  • Jono HerringtonJono Herrington, almost 6 years ago

    Well said!

    0 points