For one week we switched from HipChat to Slack. Here’s how it went down.
Original message I sent to our team about why we should try Slack
So i thought it might be a good idea to try HipChat competitor, Slack for a week to see how we like it.
1. Slack’s search actually works.
2. Slack’s mobile apps have gotten way better and might be better than Hipchat’s now.
3. I would bet that Slack will eventually get so much better than Hipchat within about a year we’ll probably end up switching anyway.
4. It will be easier to make our fun integrations with Slack’s API, like what we did with our Team page, and share with the Slack crowd (many could be potential customers of Crew).
5. We can make public rooms with customers or invite potential customers to chat with us.
6. And, we can import everything from hipchat: https://slack.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/201748703-Importing-message-history
Steph: the one difference you’ll care about is we need pay per person/month: https://slack.com/pricing
But if you think about the amount of time we spend in Hipchat and the benefits above, I think it will be worth it.
Any objections on trying it out for a week?
(Ironically sending this message in Hipchat)
We started a channel to keep track of likes and dislikes.
First comments on #slackvshipchat
Day 1: How do you feel about Slack vs. HipChat?
After the first day using Slack, we polled the team to see how Slack stacked up to HipChat. Here were the results.
I love Slack:
13% (2 people)
I like Slack:
47% (7 people)
I’m indifferent. Slack/Hipchat. I don’t give a shit as long as it’s not Skype:
27% (4 people)
I like HipChat:
13% (2 people)
I love HipChat:
The majority of our team (60%) liked/loved Slack after one day of using it. Two Crew teammates liked HipChat but no one loved it.
Day 1: Likes/Dislikes Poll
As part of the poll, we asked each person what they liked and disliked most about both Slack and HipChat. Here’s a few things people said in raw format:
What do you like and dislike most about Slack?
“Like: the notification system – different badges for mentions/direct messages vs. group chats Dislike: even with the different skins, it’s really busy compared to HipChat”
“Like: the giphy integration, feels fast Dislike: lack of simplicity, no statuses, feels very noisy, the confusion between groups and channels, no video calls, difficult for me to follow the conversation”
“Like: Search Dislike: The channels / groups / DMs organization. Everything from having a ’#’ only for channels to having no capital letters to the sidebar split of groups and channels and putting the DMs between them. WTF is that about? And the +5 thing. And the DMs don’t sort by status. The whole sidebar is a giant pile of poorly organized trash that should only exist in the nightmares of an institutionalized non-functional OCD patient”
What do you like and dislike most about HipChat?
“Hipchat, I like the ability to reorder the rooms. Dislike. Just about everything else. The UI is dated. Constantly loading. The mobile app is impossible to use w/ out a wifi connection. The notifications don’t roll up so I get an email every time the sender hits return.”
“Like: Simple messaging and less noise Dislike: Unreliable service (servers are down or slow)”
“Like: simplicity Dislike: constant server down, not super fast, takes long to view past messages (never ending cursor)”
We reviewed all the comments and made this cleaned up comparison summary between Slack and HipChat:
Day 1: Most liked things about Slack
The most liked thing about Slack was its notification system which worked well across all devices and included timely reminders, favorites, and unread message prompts.
Day 1: Most disliked things about Slack
1. Slack’s interface design was voted the biggest dislike by far (80%). My teammates said Slack felt busy compared to HipChat.
Design can refer to many factors, but the ones that annoyed us the most were:
a. Slack’s sidebar. The ’+3 More…’ grouping of Channels and Private Groups made it harder to quickly access different conversation threads in comparison to HipChat.
b. The differentiation between Channels and Groups was also not immediately clear and was hard to visually follow because of where they were located in the sidebar.
c. We also felt it was hard to follow files and links within conversation threads. Things seemed like they were floating and we didn’t know where to immediately look or click.
2. The second dislike was the lack of custom online/offline statuses. In HipChat you can leave a custom status to say what you’re working on. For example:
This can’t be done in Slack. Yet.
Most liked things about HipChat
HipChat’s interface was liked by every teammate that responded to the survey. The things we liked most about HipChat’s design included: more compact messages, it felt less busy, and had better sidebar arrangement.
Most disliked things about HipChat
Out of 15 responses, 10 people said HipChat’s reliability was the biggest issue. Reliability meaning: inconsistent/unreliable messages/notifications, slow server, frequent connection issues and bugs.
Best of #slackvshipchat
A selection of things we found as we tried Slack.
1. Deleting messages
3. Word highlighting
6. Video calls
Making Slack work for us.
Out-of-the-box, Slack was not a perfect fit for everyone on our team. Here’s some useful things we did to customize our setups:
1. Cleaning up the sidebar. My teammate Angus wanted Slack’s sidebar to be more organized. He did this by starring all channels and groups so they would appear in the same visual area yet still separated from direct 1-1 messages with people.
2. Custom theme design. Most of us felt Slack’s design was too busy. To solve this, my teammates Kirill and Luke changed themes to a color scheme that felt less busy.
Here’s the custom theme values we used:
#2A2A2A, #2A2A2A, #454647, #FFFFFF, #454647, #FFFFFF, #3DBA0F, #EF4933
Default Slack theme:
New Slack theme:
To make things feel more HipChat-esque, you can zoom this level out one level.
3. Never miss a mention. If someone forgets to @mention your name in a room, Angus programmed Slackbot to automatically @mention the name.
4. Using Slackbot Direct Messages thread as a to-do list. My teammate Steph showed me this tip. Because you can delete/favorite messages in Slack, you can use the Slackbot direct message thread as a to-do list that syncs across all your devices.
5. Removing most Slackbot message notification triggers. Slackbot was fun for a little while but the trigger messages for keywords got annoying. So we said goodbye to most of them.
Day 7: Likes/Dislikes poll
On the 7th day we polled our team asking the same questions we did on Day 1.
Here were the results.
Day 1 vs Day 7
We used HipChat for over a year before giving Slack a shot for a week.
According to our polls, Slack proved to be a better fit for us since the first day we tried it.
Slack may look like the runaway winner but there was one part of Slack where most of our team felt it fell short compared to HipChat, even on the 7th day.
Slack’s design was the top dislike from our team on Day 1 and Day 7 (although, there was a substantial decrease in the number of dislikes on Day 7).
Top Slack Dislikes: Day 1 vs Day 7
After looking at the comments from the polls, the negative feelings toward Slack’s interface design seem to be related mostly to us being used to the interface of HipChat. We used HipChat every day for over a year and got used to where things were and how they worked.
When that changed all of a sudden it was like when your mom or dad used to clean your room and move stuff around. Everything is (mostly) still there, it just feels out of place.
Slack’s default design may have been distracting and harder for us to follow initially, but by Day 7 many of us that had an issue with the design got over it by making custom changes to things like Slack’s theme and the look of the sidebar. Many of my teammates also said they got used to Slack’s default interface so it became less of an interference.
These seem to be the two main reasons behind the decrease in negative feelings toward Slack’s design by Day 7.
The things that Slack does well however, outweighed our issues with its design.
The thing we liked most about Slack were its reliable notifications. We felt we could count on Slack’s notification system to work well across all devices, all the time. We felt like we never missed an alert or an unread message—something that happened all too often when we used HipChat.
On Day 7, notifications remained the most liked quality by our team followed by Slack’s mobile app and Giphy integration.
Top Slack Likes: Day 1 vs Day 7
We didn’t have much of a chance to try Slack’s mobile app or use Giphy on Day 1 so our liking of these probably came as a result of us using Slack more.
Giphy + Slack in use
Many of my teammates also noted an added bonus on Slack was how it made them feel. Slack felt fun to use. As one of my teammates said in the Day 7 poll,
“Slack is like when your mom buys you Nikes as a kid. Hipchat is like when she buys you Sketchers. All the cool kids are wearing Nikes, Mom.”
Our choice: Slack
After testing Slack for a week and considering all the factors, we chose Slack as our team communication tool.
Although we landed on Slack as our choice, HipChat was by no means a hundred times worse. We thought Slack was 10-20% better.
A more important factor for us was seeing what Slack has already done in just a couple years of development. We figured they’d improve at a rate faster than HipChat, meaning the things we have issues with today will likely be considered and improved upon quickly. And things we haven’t considered that make communication even easier are likely in the works.
Why we made this
Finding the right communication tool for your team is incredibly important.
If your team communicates mostly not-in-person, then your communication tool acts like an office—a place where you’ll likely spend more of your time than anywhere else.
And just like a good office, a communication tool needs to create an environment that’s optimal for everyone to do their best work and get things done.
With the help of tools like HipChat and Slack, it’s amazing what can be done today with an internet connection and laptop. We have more power than ever before to work from anywhere. HipChat and Slack make working from anywhere not only possible, but easy and fun.
Thanks for reading,