How to design products that delight your users with Slack’s VP of design Ethan Eismann

Product Hunt Radio

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56:08

March 24, 2020, 9 p.m.

On this episode Abadesi talks to Ethan Eismann, VP of Design at Slack. He has previously worked on flagship products at Google, Uber, and Airbnb, as well as at Adobe back when Flash was still a thing!

In this episode they talk about...

The consumerization of the enterprise and bringing personality to software

“You need somebody who is really able to think of your customers first and who can translate your customers’ perspective into your own unique tone and personality.”

Ethan talks about the trend of the “consumerization” of the enterprise, why workers are demanding better software, and how Slack has played a role in the trend. He talks about how they’ve brought some personality to software that is typically utilitarian, to the delight of millions of users. Ethan tells the story of the pivot that Slack made from being a gaming company called Glitch to a communication tool for the enterprise. He also talks about how one of the early employees helped to shape the unique personality that Slack has today.

The design philosophy at Slack and how they use hypotheses in designing their products

“It’s critically important to have a perspective on what your customers need. They will often tell you where to focus. They have these unsatisfied needs and deep wants and desires. They will tell you the path.”

Ethan breaks down the design philosophy at Slack, explaining some of the unique processes that they use to develop software. He says that they iterate rapidly, and are constantly testing new features on their own live data from their internal Slack channels. He says that they encourage their engineering teams to contribute design ideas as well.

“We try to keep a history of our prototypes and we document the learning that comes along with each prototype. We have a library of the past experiments that we’ve tried and what we’ve learned.”

He explains their process for testing their hypotheses and how they determine what to do based on the results of their experiments. He says that sometimes they find unexpected results which change the direction of their efforts.

“When you're thinking about your product, consider that people only have so many cognitive calories to spend at any given moment. If you have a complex product that could be okay, as long as you break it down into simple concepts that people can consume.”

Customer-centric design and what it means to communicate energy as well as information

“Fundamentally, the companies that have been most successful are the ones that have prioritized their customers. They’re always making time every week to get closer to customers. Having a customer-centric company means that everyone has a perspective because everyone in the company is spending time with them.”

Ethan talks about the importance of listening closely to what your customers have to say. He says that at Slack they are constantly co-creating with their users. He breaks down exactly how they do this, including how they uses shared channels to interface with power users around the world who are always sharing feedback and helping them shape the direction of the product. He also breaks down why communication is not only about information, how they are using things like emojis to communicate energy in addition to information, and how this is allowing workers to express their unique voice.

“Communication is information as well as energy. Software tools are often great at allowing you to create information but don’t always let you express energy. We try to design in a way that allows individual personalities to shine.”

We’ll be back next week so be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Overcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. Big thanks to Headspin, Safety Wing, and Trulioo for their support. 😸

Companies and Products Recommended on This Episode

OP-Z Synthesizer — An advanced fully portable 16-track sequencer and synthesizer.

OXO Spatulas — Designed to serve dishes with comfort, efficiency and style.

Slack Shared Channels — Allows Slack teams in different organizations to use Slack to collaborate together as easily and productively as they do internally.