A developer’s inside look at where Slack started — and where it’s headed

A developer's inside look at where Slack started -- and where it’s headed

Presented by OutSystems

In 2020, Slack nearly doubled its paying customer base year over year thanks to the pandemic and was recently acquired by Salesforce for over $ 27 billion. According to Justin Hardin, senior software engineer at Slack, the product originally started out as a gaming platform that failed to catch on.

“Unfortunately they ran out of money and had to fire people. So they turned around and asked, ‘Which piece of our product works? ‘And that was the chat aspect,’ says Hardin on the latest installment of Decoded, OutSystems’ podcast for the next generation of developers.

However, the app’s friendly human tone was inspired by its gaming roots.

“They let the writer know who did the dialogues for the games and she let the dialogues for the product instead,” he says. “That way, you have this enterprise chat platform with help messaging and onboarding that is in a more chatty tone that defines the product experience.”

Listen to the conversation with Justin Hardin here.

Build a global experience

Since Slack’s early linchpin, Hardin has said that Slack was very much by design as it has expanded internationally. Not only does Slack create server caches around the world to reduce latency, it also completely locates them as new markets enter. The product team, marketing team, corporate team, app store team, and others localize the entire Slack experience to make sure it’s relevant to every user, no matter where they are.

“Not only do we localize the language itself, we also localize the images and graphics to make sure they are contextual for the countries we are in,” he says. “We make sure that the blog is not only localized, but also empowers marketers from any country to create their own articles targeting their specific market.”

Hardin believes this reflects the fact that the technology is less focused on Silicon Valley.

“Slack is a very American company, but that’s not how the world will see technology move forward in the future,” he explains. “Tech should be a global entity, not just a Silicon Valley thing. In a post-pandemic world, the entire term Silicon Valley should exist on the internet. It shouldn’t be a specific place. “

Winning with consistency

Thanks to its dedication to creating an intuitive user interface and human experience, Slack originally found success with enterprise development teams. This led to adoption by companies that ranged from small startups to Amazon, and then spread to other functions like marketing, sales, and finance. In order to ensure that Slack is relevant and useful to all types of users, the main focus of the team is on delivering a consistent experience, according to Hardin.

“How can we make our front end consistent through the product and the marketing site? How can we have a design system? How can we use components? ” he says. “Here I see Slack as a kind of innovator in this area: How can you create consistency? Part of it is getting everyone on the same page, but other times it is about how to create tools that developers can’t think about. “

With more people than ever using Slack from home, that consistency, along with rigorous testing, has helped Hardin scale the business to meet growing demand. The result is a product that people love so much and that has been so successful that if the product has a problem, there will be news.

“When things don’t go well, we’re trending on Twitter.”

Check out this week’s Decoded Podcast Learn more about how Justin Hardin started his career in software development, working at Slack, and co-founder of Climatebase.org, a climate, education and impact platform.

Listen now and subscribe to future episodes today.

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