On a winter day in 2017, a researcher in Slack’s offices in San Francisco began walking five people through a new version of Slack for the first time. They were testing out a new signup flow designed by Merci Grace, one of Slack’s product managers. It so happened that Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s co-founder, was going over the same prototype in a different room unware of the user testing. Butterfield narrated his experience with the new version of Slack, making suggestions along the way. Grace took notes. Later that day, an employee met Grace to relay the first-time users’ comments. Grace looked down at her notes with Butterfield.
“Stewart had said verbatim the things those five non-Slack users had said,” she said. “Stewart has put in his 10,000 hours of watching people using software…He has an uncanny ability to predict what someone using a piece of software is going to think. He’s incredible.”
Until Slack, no one had cracked social media at work. For years, Facebook and the iPhone conditioned people to expect the same seamless experience in the office as they had on their own devices. Nothing delivered, until Slack.