The Unexpected Design Challenge Behind Slack’s New Threaded Conversations

For years, Slack has known that people wanted discussions to appear in clusters. It just wanted to do it right rather than do it quickly.

At first blush, threaded conversations sound like one of the most thoroughly mundane features a messaging app could introduce.

After all, the idea of neatly bundling up a specific message and its replies in one place–rather than weaving them willy-nilly with unrelated items–has been around since the days of dial-up bulletin boards. In one form or another, it’s present in Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and innumerable other places where people communicate with each other.

But when Slack‘s users started asking for threaded conversations, the company behind the web development and design soon concluded that the capability wasn’t something it could whip up in a jiffy. It did, however, begin to noodle around with the idea–and try different approaches. And, eventually, to use a prototype version internally while continuing to polish it up for public consumption. In all, that unhurried exploration has taken nearly two years and around six significant iterations of the prototype, during which Slack usage has grown eightfold to 4 million daily active users. Now the company is finally rolling out threaded conversations–which it logically calls Threads–to every team, including both paying customers and those who use the freebie version.

Threads aren’t just a major new Slack feature. They’re also a case study in how its designers approach product development. The company has never operated under the guiding principle that Mark Zuckerberg once famously summed up as “move fast and break things.” Instead, it has thrived in part because it aspires to offer tools that feel fully baked from the get-go. Its fit and finish resemble those of the slickest consumer apps, in a world in which many business-centric tools still don’t feel like they were designed for use by human beings.

Even by Slack standards, threaded conversations got extra TLC, because their impact is so great and so many people had been asking for them for so long. “Threads are so close to the heart of what Slack is that they might be an escalated case,” says Joshua Goldenberg, head of design.

What Slack ended up building bears only so much resemblance to threading as it appears in other products. “It kind of seems like this is a solved problem,” said April Underwood, Slack’s VP of product, at a press briefing about the new feature. “But not in the context of work.”


One of the most fundamental questions Slack faced about threaded conversations was where to put them. The most obvious answer was to stick them in-line with all the other items in a channel. So that’s where the company started. By late 2015, it had a functional prototype; web application development after some additional refinement, it started using this version in-house in its own everyday work.

By putting this rough draft through its paces, Slack discovered that putting threaded conversations inside a channel didn’t so much eliminate clutter as reshuffle it. People didn’t always remember that responses should be part of a thread, which turned channels into a mishmash of threaded and unthreaded discussions. The company’s designers also concluded that one possible approach to tidying things up–showing threads in collapsed form and allowing users to expand them–would cause conscientious employees to obsessively expand conversations to see what was in them.

“We could have brought this product to market maybe even a year ago, if in-line was okay,” said Paul Rosania, Slack’s core product lead, at the media briefing. Instead, the company turned off the prototype it was using and began the search for a way to wrangle threads that actually helped reduce cacophony.

The answer turned out to be putting threads alongside the main river of channel messages, in the section along the right-hand edge of the Slack interface—officially called the “flex pane”—that is also home to elements such as search results. When people start responding to a message, thereby spawning a thread, the channel displays a counter of how many replies there are, along with thumbnail images of folks who have chimed in. If you click to expand a thread, it opens up in the flex pane, providing a degree of separation from the main conversation in the channel.

Another design decision the company made in the interest of keeping conversations from getting tangled: The replies in a thread can’t spawn further levels of threaded discussion. “A thread can only hang off a single message, and that’s the entirety of its depth,” says Goldenberg.


Once Slack had relocated Threads to the flex pane, its designers had other critical decisions left to make. One was how to handle notifications so that people who cared about a thread could keep tabs, and those who didn’t could ignore it. Anyone who posts a message that results in a thread gets notifications about replies, as does anyone who is @-mentioned in the resulting conversation. Other users can choose to receive notifications by following individual threads.

“We’re moving away from the idea that everyone needs to see everything all the time in a channel.”

“View All Threads,” a new view accessible from the left-hand channel sidebar, lets people see all the threads they’re following in one place—similar to how Slack already lets you view all the unread messages in all your channels. web page development “It’s an extra layer of making sure that you don’t have to go diving for things within a channel,” Goldenberg says.

At one point during development of Threads, Slack pondered whether to let users cut off a thread by declaring it to be closed–an option that’s available on many message boards that support threading, and is often used to perform tasks such as declaring a tech-support query to have been answered.

In the end, letting people close threads “seemed a little bit too heavyweight,” says Goldenberg. “A little too prescriptive for casual use.”

But even if Slack’s designers didn’t want to encourage anyone to shut down a conversation in process, they did think that some threads would wind down in ways that mattered to people who weren’t part of the discussion. “Sometimes there will be a critical decision that everyone needs to see,” says Goldenberg. The result: Threads offers a check box that lets you post a reply back to the channel as well as the thread. Select it, and the service puts a summary in the channel showing the original message and the most recent one.

That summary is important because the act of putting threads in the flex pane is, in part, a statement that Slack doesn’t expect people to try to keep up with all of them from top to bottom. “We’re moving away from the idea that everyone needs to see everything all the time in a channel,” Goldenberg explains.


As it worked on Threads, Slack did some user research and exposed the feature to some of its own partners, such as its PR firm, that spent time inside its internal Slack channels. But the main thing that informed development of Threads was the experience of using it in prototype form and thinking about feedback that the company gets from Slack users–both specific feature requests and more open-ended pleas for new ways to get stuff done and combat information overload.

“We are really immersed in the problems our customers are trying to solve,” Rosania said at the media briefing. “That gives us some clarity about where to go.”

“It can be easy to build something that people request,” added Christina Holsberry Janzer, Slack’s group manager for user research. “But what’s really important is to build what they need.” The lengthy development process for Threads was about trying to accomplish that as thoughtfully as possible. But as the feature reaches millions of users in the days to come, it won’t take long at all until the company knows if it has succeeded.


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John Maeda: If You Want to Survive in Design, You Better Learn to Code

SILICON VALLEY FINALLY UNDERSTANDS the essential role of design. Products look better than ever, interfaces feel intuitive, and companies are hiring designers at an increasing rate. But the designer’s role in tech is changing. It’s no longer enough to iterate and understand your user. What companies need now are designers who can empathize and bang out lines of Java script. web page development

These computational designers exist in a hazy middle ground—not quite pure engineers, not quite pure designers—but their hybrid status is increasingly attractive to technology companies that are looking for employees who can both identify problems and build solutions. “When you can do both, you can do things that no one else can do,” says John Maeda. “Technology companies that innovate tend to have these unique people.”

Maeda is to design what Warren Buffet is to finance—a seasoned technologist who spent more than a decade at the MIT Media Lab before becoming president of the Rhode Island School of Design, a partner at VC powerhouse Kleiner Perkins, and now the head of computational design and inclusion at Automatic, Word Press .com’s parent company. Every year, Maeda travels to South By Southwest to deliver his Design in Technology report, a sprawling presentation that outlines the field’s growing impact on technology and business.

One takeaway: Design is still having a moment. Since 2004, corporations like Accenture, Capital One, and Deloitte have scooped up more than 71 independent design consultancies, with 50 of those multi-million dollar talent grabs happening in the past two years. Meanwhile business schools, starting with the Yale School of Management, have begun web designing services to their core curriculum. Companies like McKinsey and IBM have promoted designers to the top level of management, an acknowledgment that design has, in many ways already proven itself.

But design’s role in this world is constantly shifting. In his 2017 report Maeda makes the case that the most successful designers will be those who can work with intangible materials—code, words, and voice. These are the designers who craft experiences for the chatbots and voice interfaces people are increasingly interacting with. Maeda cites a blog post from last spring, in which UX designer Susan Stuart makes the case that writing and UX design

aren’t so different. “Here’s where I’d like to draw the parallel with writing — because a core skill of the interaction designer is imagining users (characters), motivations, actions, reactions, obstacles, successes, and a complete set of ‘what if’ scenarios,” she said. “These are the skills of a writer.”

This year, Maeda goes deep on this idea of skills, focusing his own on the growing field of computational design (a field he’s pioneered since the mid-1990s). In the report Maeda makes the distinction between “classic” designer, the makers of finite objects for a select group of people (think graphic designer, industrial designer, furniture designer) and “computational” designers, who deal mostly in code and build constantly evolving products that impact millions of people’s lives.

Take Instagram, professional website design which from the start had to balance engineering and design constraints. In its infancy, the company was too computationally expensive to allow for both landscape and portrait mode; instead of limiting the interface to one or the other, Instagram’s designers decided to make every photo a square. “By being square you didn’t have to choose anymore,” Maeda says. “It was a great design decision.”

Designers who can code and write have always been attractive to tech companies, but Maeda’s report foretells an inflection point for the field. As the distinction between engineering, writing, and design becomes blurrier, design’s role in technology only stands to become more ingrained in the product development process. In the end, design, as a singular field, could become less visible but more relevant. And someday, design might not need Maeda’s 50-page reports to extol its virtues.


Enthusiastic Web Design – Future Web Links

Speaking to the feelings of your site clients is just the same old thing new and surely something that advertisers and marking specialists will have a lot of involvement and authority learning of professional web design company. But since the online world is winding up plainly so soaked with substance, and in light of the fact that initial introductions number, making individuals feel in a split second at home on your website has never been more imperative.

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With SEO marketing specialists buckling down on recounting that terrifically vital brand story and staggering pictures that move and inspire your guests, you may think you have everything secured. Be web design and development company that as it may, in the event that you haven’t taken a gander at your utilization of hues in a while, you may miss a trap.


The basic reality is that shading is the primary thing that guests absorb when they land on your site. It precedes pictures, typefaces, body duplicate or other online substance, and without individuals web design company notwithstanding acknowledging it, can change the way they think and act. People are customized to compare hues to feelings, so whether you plan to relieve, empower, energize or advance trust, it’s basic to pick your hues admirably.

Which hues would it be advisable for you to utilize?

Your decision and mix of hues will obviously rely on your web architecture, your corporate marking character and particularly your crowd. What sort of impression would you like to give? An organization hoping to depict a sentiment security, insight and constancy, would likely pick diverse hues to one needing to show energy, control and the fervor of living on the edge.

Essential shading implications include:


Energetic love, brutality, peril, outrage, quality, youth, fire, blood, enchantment, religion, valor, stop, good fortunes (in Asia). Red is additionally worn by ladies in India and Nepal and in Japan, a red kimono symbolizes satisfaction and good fortunes, and red is such a famous shading, to the point that it is incorporated into 77% of every single world banner. Being such an obvious shading (second just to yellow for human sight), you don’t have to utilize highly red to make a website composition with effect. It is a shading regularly used to catch quick consideration and functions admirably as a complement shading.


Albeit yellow is the shade of bliss, hopefulness, warmth, illumination, clearness, daylight, and spring, it likewise has a couple negative meanings as well, as weakness, selling out, frenzy and sickness.

Yellow is the most obvious shading to the human eye, so is incredible for use in territories that you need to attract regard for. It is likewise exceedingly intelligent so can disturb the eyes if utilized unnecessarily.


Blue has been indicated over and over to be the vast majority’s most loved shading. It is found in nature in water and sky, and along these lines frequently gives a feeling of tranquility, peace and vastness. It is additionally observed as the shade of knowledge, devotion and expert however can – contingent upon the shade of blue utilized – be icy, pitiful or utilitarian.

Albeit blue is the most widely recognized shading in corporate character configuration, there are a lot of inconsistencies when utilizing the shading in a worldwide sense. For instance, in Korea, dim blue is the shade of grieving.

Plan astute, blue is utilized so regularly that it can be viewed as rather exhausted, however cooperated with different hues, can function admirably crosswise over numerous ranges and ventures.

Different ideas and feelings regularly associated with specific hues include:

  • Green – peace, nature, development, recuperating, sympathy, imperativeness, freshness, life, unwinding, eco-accommodating, natural
  • Orange – kind disposition, innovativeness, warmth, brightness, inspiration, excitement, experience, fun, movement
  • Purple – riches, lavishness, complexity, inventiveness, dream, dreams, otherworldly existence, adolescence
  • Pink – confident, non-undermining, ladylike, sentimental love, sympathy, supporting, guiltlessness, inability, instinct, juvenile
  • Grey – adjust, lack of bias, unwavering quality, knowledge, security, development, proficient, contemporary, forlorn, dull

Hues and culture

Obviously, shading implications can vary broadly as indicated by culture thus when picking hues, it’s essential to consider these distinctions, especially on the off chance that you realize that a huge extent of your universal guests are situated in a specific piece of the world or originated from a specific culture.


In spite of the fact that there has been a narrowing of shading implications between nations as of late (due in substantial part to the web), it is astute to watch that you haven’t made a social shading botch before you settle your site palette.

Hues and sex

Since shading brain research appears to have such a substantial influence in individuals’ passionate states and resulting acquiring choices, it’s nothing unexpected that there has been a lot of research into which hues are the “right” ones to utilize.

Explore by Kissmetrics, for instance, taken a gander at shading inclinations as indicated by sexual orientation. In a review of 232 individuals from 22 nations around the globe, they found that blue, purple and green were the main three most loved hues utilized as a part of website composition for ladies, contrasted with blue, green and dark in website composition for men. Slightest most loved hues for both men and ladies were orange and dark colored.

Testing, testing

Maybe the most essential thing to do, once you’ve taken a gander at your motivation, your group of onlookers and your site promoting methodology, and once you’ve experienced the shading hypothesis side of things, is to do site part testing on a couple shading varieties of your site to an example crowd.

By asking custom-made inquiries, you will soon gage a comprehension of how your clients feel when they arrive on your site and explore through. Could they give a few words to portray how they feel? Are there any regions where the differentiation between hues isn’t sufficiently clear? Are a few hues bumping to the eyes? Give them a chance to let you know and accept their answers.