Salesforce, Slack and the Art of the Possible

The Conceptual Future of Communities from a UX Perspective

Brad Hollander

If you’ve ever been introduced to a Salesforce collaboration portal, whether you’re an implementation partner, business stakeholder, or end user, you undoubtedly know about Chatter. Touted by Salesforce in 2010 as “the industry‚Äôs first cloud-based enterprise social collaboration application and platform”, Chatter brought the social features of Facebook and Twitter to the enterprise space. It wasn’t for posting vacation pictures, though, this was the future of work. It was to be the first swing of the hammer that would topple the silos dampening intra-organizational dialog. It’s been chipping away ever since, but not without an increase in competition. Of all the things Salesforce enables businesses to achieve, Chatter is simply falling behind in the tech world’s quest to make communication effortless and more effective.

Rising above the Chatter

On numerous community demos we hear the inevitable client request: “Can we make the discussion feeds… better?” More like Facebook, more like Jive, more like SLACK?” We would then come out of the clouds and explain that Chatter is a very complex component that is quite difficult to break apart and modify. Who could blame them for asking, though? I myself can attest to the delight and ease that Slack’s interface provides. Although we have our own employee community on Salesforce, we’ve adopted Slack for years. The unspoken hope remained in the back of everyone’s mind that one day we’d be able to package such a beautiful collaboration tool into one of our client’s communities. Angels would descend and trumpets would sound.

Years down the road we may be reminiscing with our bourbon, or wine, or White Claws while asking each other, “Do you remember where you were when you heard about the Slack acquisition? Boy, I sure do!” Ok, that was a little dramatic, and White Claw will be long gone in a couple of years. However, as a user experience designer, this is huge news. What doors could this open to help shape the next generation of community experiences?

The Slack Dream

While many are talking about the numbers behind the acquisition and competitive advantage Salesforce may gain over Microsoft, not so many have speculated about the execution. What it might actually look and feel like. What it means to the end user and the businesses serving them. And maybe for good reason. But as a creative and a bit of a dreamer, I can’t help but reach out to that pie in the sky that suddenly seems more like a very real option on the menu. How might our favorite collaboration tool behave and function inside our beloved CRM? We may now be able to interact with the stockpile of our sweet data in ways we didn’t think about before. Or at least, never dared ask Chatter to attempt.

I spent some time picking apart Slack’s interface; held it up to the light, put it under a microscope, and poked at it a bit. I was first curious about how Slack’s current app UI would fit into a web page experience that wasn’t strictly dedicated to channels and threads. What if we had the ability to embed a Slack feed on a community page along with the myriad of intelligent components we enjoy today? The truth is we don’t know at all what community components we’ll be given as a result of this acquisition. But gosh darn it’s sure fun to think about!

Here are 3 ways we might use Slack’s current UI inside of a Salesforce Community experience:

Stacked Threads

I would bet that most Slack users consider the thread interactions to be one of the most delightful features of the app. Along with being intuitive and using space effectively, vertical panels allow the user to dig into deeper levels of content without losing context to where they started. These panels also allow the user to continue browsing outside of the current thread they’re interacting with without losing their place.

However, this UI construct is only useful when you have the full window of real estate at your disposal. What if we needed to embed this experience onto a web page with other components? We may choose to use an interface closer to Facebook or Instagram that shows the threads stacked; revealing the most recent replies first and then giving the user an option to reveal previous:

Content Sharing

Sharing of individual posts and questions is something that already exists in Chatter today. 7Summits also has built a component that allows us to share community pages across outside social media channels. One thing we get asked for quite often, though, is the ability to share a community blog article, for example, with a community group to have private discussion around it.

Right now the best we can do is place the URL into a post inside a group, but requires some manual copy/paste and doesn’t keep a connection with the source content. Wouldn’t it be great if we could not only share the content from its detail page, but also preview the Salesforce content in the post? Each thread created from the Share might be able to maintain a relationship with the source content, allowing us to report on the engagement of a single record across multiple threads and groups:

Integrated Support

The example shows how a support case might be created from a Slack post. However, this concept could apply to many different processes and flows! Instead of relying on the user to make a decision about how they want to interact with the community, we may provide them with smart prompts based on the content of their message.

Here we see a simple question being asked. For better visibility, we may encourage the user to add more detail to create a formal question to their peers. If the question is more geared toward customer support, we may recommend creating a case. The cherry on top would be to deflect the inquiry all together by pulling recommended articles directly into the feed:

Bonus:

I hope these quick concepts sparked some new ideas of your own! Consider a few additional thoughts that haven’t made it to my artboard just yet:

  • Feed component variations (default to sort order, post type, topic, group, etc. filter to include and/or exclude)
  • Threads in search results
  • Community channel navigator
  • Robust post detail pages could provide more insight to overall engagement and the participants
  • Slack app itself may evolve to include channel types such as groups, topics and other community constructs.
Brad Hollander, Contributor

Brad Hollander is a UI/UX designer that has been with 7Summits for almost a decade. His background is in visual design and branding, and now works as an experience lead to promote positive change through empathy and understanding of both our client and their customers.

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