Chapter 5
Case Study #1 - Slack

Slack is an amazing company. The much loved team communication and collaboration tool is used by over 750,000 people daily, and it continues to drive rapid growth and innovation. Slack has an extraordinary, versatile product that people love and can’t live without. 

Although Slack has been wildly successful, the widespread adoption it’s seen can primarily be attributed to word of mouth rather than the strength of its SaaS marketing site. 

As a company that has achieved wide product/market fit, Slack presents a wealth of insight analyzed through the lens of data. We recorded users as they browsed the Slack website and performed a series of tasks including describing the product and choosing a plan. Users were largely unfamiliar with Slack, and their experience browsing through its website presents a fascinating opportunity to examine the effectiveness of the site in communicating the well-established value of its product—taking off the rose-colored glasses that Slack is typically seen with.

Homepage: Ease of Information

When asked how difficult or easy it was to understand the information on Slack’s Homepage, users rated it a 4, on a scale of 1-5 [1=very difficult, 5=very easy]

Understanding Slack's homepage
Slack's homepage

Straight from the homepage, users quickly understood Slack to be a hub for both communication and collaboration—the two main benefits that drive its product/market fit. Although not all users were familiar with Slack, a brief look at the homepage allowed them to compare it to other services they did know, like Yammer and JIRA. 

The main tagline is a customer quote, followed by: “The Sandwich Video team tried Slack. Turns out it really did change the way they communicate.” Buttressed by marketing copy written in plain, benefit-driven language, it does a great job of hooking users in deeper into to the marketing site. Instead of telling users how Slack changes team communication, the homepage gets users wondering how Slack changes team communication.

From the start, users got the sense that Slack’s product could serve a broad range of practical applications, and immediately started thinking about how they would use it. One user intuitively picked up on the ability to communicate with and manage remote teams with Slack, after a cursory look at the homepage. 

Users suggested that they would watch the above-the-fold video before actually signing up for a free trial, or purchasing Slack’s product—none, however, felt compelled to actually watch the video during the user testing experience.

Take the tour

Rather than opting to watch the video to find out more about Slack, they gravitated towards clicking on the “Take the Tour” link to deepen their understanding of Slack’s platform. This took them through Slack’s product tour, which intersperses product features with dashboard screenshots, customer testimonials, and logos.

Slack's product marketing

Throughout the homepage and tour page, Slack does a great job of pulling users deeper into its product, and implementing a repetitive pedagogy to impart key benefits to users. It reiterates key information in different forms, alternating between marketing copy, customer quotes, and dashboard screenshots.

Quotes from the responses:

  • "It was very easy, the information on the homepage is very easy understand. I know what I'm looking at, the video opens really nicely, it doesn't take me away, it just brings it right on top so I can get back and out."
  • "I love the integration page, so yeah, everything on the home page is great—really good branding, the logo here, [and] a good focus on getting people to signup."
  • "You know what, I'm actual going to go with more difficult in this case. The layout and everything makes sense, but I wanted more information about to make me more intrigued about what product you're offering."

Pricing Page: Picking a Plan

After the users had spent some time playing with the pricing page, they were asked about how useful they found the information on Slack’s various product offerings, rating it on a scale of 1-5 [1=not useful, 5=very useful]. Slack rated a 3 on this front.

Ease of picking a Slack pricing plan
Slack pricing page

Slack’s pricing page didn’t present a unified experience for users, who found it difficult to find the information they needed to pick a plan. The pricing page was dominated by a long features table, and users spent a lot of time scrolling up and down on the page in order to compare different plans. 

Users found it difficult to understand more complicated features in the matrix, like “Integrations,” “Simple usage statistics,” and “Single Sign-on,” and multiple users suggested adding explanatory tooltips next to these features. One pointed out that if she wanted to learn more about Slack’s specific integrations—not just how many each plan offered— she had to return all the way back to the homepage first. 

Although Slack’s pricing page looks simple, the way that it presents extra information was confusing for users. Hovering over each of the four different plan options displayed a “Click to see details” tooltip, but most users missed this, and didn’t realize that they could click through to discover more about the plans on offer. Adding to the confusion, two of the plans led to a modal window with more information, while another had a dedicated landing page. These inconsistencies made it difficult for users to differentiate between plans and make a choice.

Slack pricing specifics

Clicking on the Standard plan, for example, launched a modal window with a pricing calculator that showed how much the plan would cost based on team size. However, only one user actually realized she could click on the Standard plan, rendering the window a missed opportunity.

Meanwhile, clicking on the Plus plan took users to a separate page that ran through the specifics of the plan. While this page is well-designed, with marketing copy that emphasizes the clear benefits of each feature, users didn’t spend much time on this page, only giving it a couple of seconds before returning to the pricing page. 

Slack’s pricing page did link to an FAQs page to address common questions and concerns, but the link was placed in small print at the very bottom of the site.  One user wanted to know what would happen if the 10,000 message limit was hit in the free plan, but couldn’t be bothered to click through to the FAQs page. 

Quotes from the responses:

  • "I mean I know separately what each of those words means but I have no idea what that means in relation to this product. So again I would kind of hope for something I could click on, see an image, get an explanation of what does this mean, what does this do, again maybe a little bit of here's why you want this."
  • "Well honestly it’s very difficult [to pick a plan], because I had to go through creating account, and I just wanted to see pricing."
  • "I like how it's broken out here, I think there is a lot of detail. I can understand what the various services are, and how that increases based on how much you're paying per month."

Organization: Ease of Navigation

To test Slack’s marketing site for ease of navigation, we asked users to find the product, service, or plan that would best suit their work needs, and to rate it on a scale of 1-5 [1= very easy, 5 = very difficult].

Slack's ease of organization

Navigation for Slack’s marketing site was nestled at the bottom of the homepage, and most of the site lacked an actual navigation bar. The product tour section, for example, forced users through it with no navigation options beyond next and back buttons, and repeated free trial CTAs on each page. 

Due to the linear flow of the website’s organization, users couldn’t intuitively explore the site on their own. While this organizational structure was good at familiarizing users with the company’s actual product, it confused and frustrated users trying to learn more about Slack at their own pace, and made it difficult for them to accomplish simple navigational tasks.

At the end of the product tour is a link to Slack’s pricing page—but users who didn’t go through all four pages of the tour missed it completely. Most completely overlooked the navigation options available to them. While trying to locate specific feature descriptions or more information, users wasted time scanning pages and hitting the back and forward buttons in their browsers. 

From the homepage, only one user was actually able to find the pricing page on their own—the others had to wait for the interface to provide them with the pricing page link. One user was so lost on the marketing site that he signed up for Slack’s free trial, trying to get to the pricing page—and ultimately rated Ease of Navigation with a 1. 

Quotes from the Responses:

  • "I wanted to click on a menu to find products and services, or basically some sort of information—that they’re going to tell me if it’s free or if it costs money."
  • "I’m just going to take the tour and that will possibly take me to a page with more navigation, and the features and the service that I want to use."
  • "I assumed that there are different tiers of service but it looks like I just need to move forward with testing for service and sign up for it."
  • "The main page doesn't have a breakdown of the different packages. Nor is there really any indication that this service ever has any pricing structure until you look at the pricing page in particular."

Brand: Recommending your Brand

Users were asked how likely they they were to recommend Slack to a friend or colleague on a scale of 1-10 [1= very unlikely, 10 = very likely]. They were then asked specifically how they might persuade a boss to actually purchase Slack.

Slack recommendation

Slack does a fantastic job of integrating customer testimonials and quotes throughout the site rather than keeping them in one section. Quotes alternate between dashboard screenshots and feature descriptions, and one single page on the product tour managed to seamlessly pack in six different quotes from customers. 

It’s hard to describe why customers like your product, because they’re often the ones who do it the best. Slack allows customers to speak on its behalf. Customer testimonials on the site go beyond mere social proof—they also present great use-cases of Slack’s product, and often replaced standard marketing copy. 

This went a long way toward boosting confidence in Slack’s brand, as a big part of the way users actually learned about the company was through its existing customers. When asked how they would convince a boss to purchase the product, most highlighted the team building elements of Slack and its productivity implications. 

Due to the implementation of customer quotes and testimonials, these higher-level benefits were supplemented by a range of specific use cases for how users would apply Slack’s product to their own lives—from reducing email and centralizing team communication, to the faster onboarding of new team members. Their ability to see how they themselves would use Slack was key to how they connected with its brand, and their eagerness to recommend its product. 

Quotes from the Responses:

  • "For example, if I’m on a team with designer and a developer and have a general question, I could email one of them or I could instant message one of them individually, but with [Slack] I could ask the question, and the person who’s best qualified to answer that question will answer most quickly. If that was something blocking me from doing my work, I’d be on my way to do it."
  • "Right now employee discussions take place through several mediums, email, instant message…We need something to kind of centralize communications, not just for a specific group of employees or specific department, but really for everybody."
  • "Having one chat environment, one messaging environment means that we could see things that are being shared, we could have different rooms—I could see it as definitely a team building component."
  • "If we can get people communicating about a project and work [in Slack] then we have a record, we have the links, we have that back knowledge that we don’t lose when somebody leaves the company."

Conclusion & Main Takeaways

Within a year of launch from February of 2014, Slack saw daily users skyrocket from 15,000 to 500,000, and this remarkable growth is one of the reasons why people love talking about the company. Yet for naive users, Slack is just another SaaS product of many. Disconnected from the hype, user testing data presents a vital perspective on further optimizing the company’s website and self-service model—and building its trajectory of growth into the future.

Users described Slack as: 

By observing recorded videos of user interaction with Slack’s marketing site, we were able to drill down into specific recommendations for each aspect of its marketing site—from homepage to pricing page to organization to brand.

Homepage Recommendations

Slack’s minimal homepage did a great job of engaging naive users, and building interest and curiosity in its product. Because the homepage is so simple, it's all the more important that each element on it is optimized for drawing users deeper into the larger experience of the website.

  • Incentivize taking the product tour immediately from the homepage. The product tour section of the website is how users actually get to know Slack’s product—consider eliminating the link to the integrations page in order to guide more users through the tour. Users who went to integrations often didn’t return to take the tour.
  • Make the video more appealing to actually watch. The video above the fold on Slack’s homepage shows a small thumbnail image of a person sitting in front of a computer. Users noticed the video, but didn’t feel compelled to watch it.
  • Provide more information on Slack’s product on its homepage. While the homepage does a good job of communicating the high-level benefits of Slack, it didn’t provide users a more concrete sense of Slack’s product.
Pricing page recommendations

The main goal of Slack's marketing site is getting users to sign up for a free trial and quickly hooking them on Slack's product. Users unfamiliar with Slack's product, however, found the pricing experience disjointed and had a difficult time finding the information they would need to make a purchase.

  • Create a more parallel pricing page experience. Users should be able to easily compare plans and explore features without getting lost.
  • Connect the high-level benefits of Slack more concretely to specific features. While users got a great sense of Slack’s communication and team-building advantages from the rest of Slack’s marketing site, they didn’t see how specific features in the paid plans would help enable these benefits.
  • Include explanatory feature tooltips and an FAQs section. Many users had basic questions and concerns that could have been easily resolved by more readily accessible information on the pricing page.
Organization recommendations

The organization of Slack's site drives users through a linear process that moves from homepage to product tour to pricing page. This structure, however, often impeded user navigation and interaction with the website, making them dependent on their browser's back button.

  • Conduct further user  and A/B testing to optimize the length of the Product Tour. Most users grew bored with the product tour after the first two pages, and hit the back button to navigate back to the home page rather than continuing to pricing.
  • Consider implementing a floating navigation bar to help guide users through the site. Slack’s site is geared towards getting users to sign up for a free-trial, but often users explicitly wanted to find out more information before actually signing up with their email address, and couldn’t do so at their own pace.
  • Create more consistency across the marketing site. Even with minimal navigation, consider placing navigation options at the bottom of each page throughout the site rather then including them on some pages and not others.
Brand recommendations

Slack does a great job of channeling the excitement its users and evangelists feel for its product by including customer quotes and testimonials throughout the marketing site. Building excitement with Slack's product into excitement with its brand would allow the company to expand its pool of active promoters even further.

  • Increase excitement with the brand by drawing a concrete relationship between Slack’s mission and its product benefits.  Users understood how Slack could improve team communication and productivity, but didn’t identify these features as “must-haves.” Narrow in on ways Slack dramatically alters communication.
  • Distinguish Slack from its competitors by honing in on its unique advantages. Users compared Slack to similar messaging services, like Yammer, but weren’t able to say why Slack might be better.
  • Emphasize the benefits of the paid plan. While users across the board were willing to recommend Slack’s free product, they didn’t always find compelling reasons to pay for it.
<< Chapter 4: SaaS BrandingChapter 6: Case Study - Wistia >>