For years, I assumed that Slack was a website for developers, with no real functionality for anyone outside of tech. This was based on my second-hand exposure to the platform, through friends who worked in programming.
When I signed up for my first UX/UI course, I was required to use slack to communicate with my peers and teachers, and realized two things:
1. It is an amazing platform.
2. A lot of people don’t consider it for their use because of the connotation it carries.
Although I can assume many people reading this know what Slack does, for those of you who don’t, here’s a brief explanation:
Slack is a messaging app for use in an organization. It allows for direct and group messages to peers, as well as the creation of subject-specific “channels.” It has a clean UI and allows integrations with external apps to expand its functionality. (Get GIPHY!)
Integration of multiple workplaces is seamless, not requiring the nightmarish “log in/log out” scenario so many apps require.
Slack’s integration with other software, such as Google Drive, adds another layer of appeal to an already ideal product.
Slack’s recently updated search function allows you to search any word and it will show you every instance of it throughout a given channel or message. This is great for those times you remember that a coworker posted a great article about wireframes but don’t want to scroll back three weeks to find it. Search “wireframes” and voila.
The issue I have with slack has nothing to do with its design or functionality.
The issue I have is with the way it’s perceived by many in the outside world.
For a number of years, I worked as a teacher at an afterschool program. Slack would have been an ideal communication tool, yet after asking countless teachers and administrators if they’d heard of Slack, the answers ranged from “no” to “yeah, isn’t that like Facebook for tech people?”
This past year has been nightmarish for teachers. The move to remote, hybrid, and the pandemic version of in-person education, has added enormous strain to the already overworked population of educators. My partner is a music teacher in a public school and I watched as she dealt with multiple sub-par tech solutions. She also was forced to try to manage multiple different streams of communication with email being too slow and easy to miss, and text being too unprofessional, and an abuse of the work/life divide. In a profession where quick communication is vital, Slack would be an ideal tool and a vast improvement on what currently is used.
The ease in which schools could be divided into workspaces. The district could have its own workspace with departments as channels, and channels for things like HR and other administrative departments. The ease in which resources could be shared, important conversations could be pinned, and help could be requested when necessary, is hard to overstate.
Slack’s big shortcoming is not marketing to other sectors. Corporate America benefits daily from Slack, it’s time for those benefits to be known by so many other work environments, especially education.
Edit: The music department at my partner’s district created a slack account. It’s a small step as most departments and schools continue to remain oblivious to the tool, but it’s already proven successful on this small scale.