What’s the most important element of a successful website project?

  • A clear vision?
  • Technical know-how?
  • Strong coffee?

No surprise cats jumping out of unseen bags, here, but after nearly a decade of building websites for clients full-time, I’d have to say it’s communication. (Good coffee does help, though.)

The best projects I’ve had are the ones where the communication between designer and client(s) is clear and streamlined.

But hey, I’m guessing I’m not preaching to the choir, here – you’re most likely already on board with the idea that communication is important. The only question that remains is, “How to improve it?”

Enter Slack.

After many exhausting projects where we relied on email for all communication, I knew I needed a better alternative.

I tried using collaborative to-do list software, complex project management apps, and at one point I even set up a private forum with dedicated channels for each project. You name it, I tried it.

What I found was that it wasn’t so much the tasks that needed the attention, it was the interaction between me and the people I was working with. To be able to converse freely about the project, rather than just ticking boxes and marking off items on a list, really allowed us to get to the meat of the matter, and create the site they were really looking for.

The Top Three Things I Love About Slack

1. Channels

slack channelsYou know what really sucks about email? Losing things.

It’s too common to get an email with five different actionable items in it, along with three questions, two corrections from last time, and it’s usually bookended with casual banter (because we’re humans after all, not problem-solving machines). Which is great, don’t hold back – but by the time the questions get answered, updates on the action items happen and the banter is returned, you’re looking at a potentially looong email.

Then that email gets returned with a whole new set of items, answers, more questions, and before you know it, you’ve got a huge mess on your hands.

Wait – did you notice you missed one of the items? Because you did. And if you didn’t, chances are they did.

And then days, weeks, or months down the line, you’ve got something itching at you, but you don’t know what it was… oh, right, that thing you forgot. Too bad they forgot it, too, and now it’s left undone.

What’s a person to do?

Stop using email. Let me clarify: email is great for the “getting to know you” phase. But when it’s time to get things done, you need a better system.

Slack has channels to give you the focus you need.

Slack lets you set up different channels – like individually chat rooms – for each aspect of your project, which keeps your conversation tight and focused. For example, all my projects start with channels for Administrative, Design, Content, Front Page (because the front page of a site is usually pretty unique), etc.

One of the great things about this is that if you’re away from the project for a while, it’s easy to drop back in and see what, if anything, has changed, and get caught right back up again.

Keeping conversations on track? Sign me up.

2. Archives FTW

Ever have to search back through your old emails to find a particular nugget? Lame, right? First you’ve gotta sift through all the emails that aren’t from the person you’re looking for, and then scroll through all the replies (which usually quote every message before it… you know the pain.

Slack archives are easy to search, easy to filter, and are all hotlinked to the original conversation, so you can find what you need, fast.

3. Drag it in. Drag it all in.

You know what’s great about file sharing? Nothing. Not the way it’s typically done.

But with Slack, just drag ’em in.

  • Got images to share? Drag ’em in, and they’ll upload to Slack.
  • Got copy for your pages to share? Drag ’em in. What kind of file are they? Doesn’t matter – it’ll work. But they’re in Google Docs/Dropbox/somewhere else already! Sweet. Drag (or paste) the link in. It’ll work.

And I’m just scratching the surface here

What if you’ve got people on your team who you don’t want to have access to everything, but still need to be in on part of the conversation? You can limit what channels someone belongs to, and they won’t even see the others.

If something would be easier said than typed, and you want to hop on a call with them, you can talk via Slack. It’s built right in. Video chat, too, if that’s your thing. (Personally, I like to stick with voice only – I work from home, and no one wants to see if I’m my pj’s. Who am I kidding, of course I am.)

Slack also integrates with a ton of other services/apps.

  • Want to do a conference call? Use Zoom (or GoToMeeting, etc.), and you can start the meeting from right inside Slack.
  • Want to get updates from your team on certain action items? In email, that’d kill you – all the replies zinging everywhere? Hurts my head just thinking about it. Instead, integrate with Standuply. Done.
  • Want to skip all the document-dragging and use Google Apps, or Dropbox Paper? Those integrates with Slack, too.
  • Want to cut loose and have some fun from time to time? Add Giphy, and you can embed sweet gifs with just a keystroke.

via GIPHY

Look, there are so many ways to integrate Slack with other apps, it’s crazy. I tend to only use a few, but that’s because of how I work. Depending on you work, you might end up using a bunch of them.

Slack is so darn awesome, I’ve had a few projects where I transfer ownership the Slack board over to the client at the end of the project so they can start using it with their entire company. It’s just the bees knees.

If you haven’t tried Slack yet, give it a shot.

No, I’m not being paid to say any of this, and no, you’ll find no referral links anywhere (I don’t even know if they have them).

But I’m sold on the awesomeness of Slack, and my guess is you will be, too.

Have fun getting more done (and having more fun).

via GIPHY

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