General design guidelines for Slack apps
Storyboarding your app will give a rough idea of the visual composition of your app's workflows. Now is the time to refine those sketches into fully-realized designs.
This guide contains a non-exhaustive series of tips and best practices to keep in mind when composing your app's surfaces.
- Keep it glance-able
- Keep text segments bite-sized and conversational
- Pictures are worth a thousand words
- Use interactivity to reduce complexity
- Choose sensible default options
- Cleaning up after your app
- Use the right surface for the task
Layout blocks allow you to compose visually rich layouts with interactive elements such as buttons, menus, and date pickers. With the ability to use so many different blocks in different ways, it’s easy to overload. For example, take a look at this message:
While all of those actions are valuable, it’s difficult to intuit the most important action to take on the message.
Interactions should focus on what members are trying to do right then and there. Focus on the simple, common tasks that make sense to complete inside Slack. In this case, we could use the overflow menu to de-emphasize the less important actions:
People don’t read big blocks of text. They do read short ones.
Sometimes faces can be better than names, or maps better than addresses. Sprinkle image elements into blocks to remove some of that text.
This message is okay:
But this version is more interesting, without losing any vital information:
The workflow within apps might be complex, with many options along the way, but the face they present doesn't have to be. Use interactive components to break workflows into steps, and only show what’s needed for the current step. Let interaction choices reveal further information or options when they’re necessary, not before.
For example, this calendar app has a lot of information and interactive options to display:
But it could achieve the same functionality by keeping advanced options tucked away until they're needed. Here's the same app using context blocks to better organize info, and an overflow menu to store lesser-used options:
Save people work wherever you can by minimizing the choices they have to make. When you give select menus and buttons good default values, you decrease the number of choices they have to make from many to a simple one - yes or no.
Say your app helps people buy coffee. Instead of presenting a full menu of choices every time someone orders, you could make the user’s last order the default option. In the best case scenario, this reduces the coffee order to a single click.
Visually rich messages are great in the moment you receive them: they’re easy to read, nice to look at, and simple to interact with. They also take up a lot of space on a person’s screen:
Think about what a person will need to remember about their interaction with your app when they come back to it later, at the end of the message’s life—or after an exchange of several messages. Do those buttons and menus need to stick around, or can you condense the message down to a simple text record of what happened?
Be considerate and update your message after the interactive flow or the conversation expires:
Read our guide to updating messages to see how you can cleanup after your app has done some work.
When workflows are directly invoked by users, your app will need to use a bit of contextual knowledge to figure out the best place to respond.
Just because the invocation happened in a channel doesn't mean that the other members of that channel need to see the rest of the process, or even the end result.
Perhaps the right thing to do is to take things to a modal, where information can be collected, decisions made, and workflows finalized, quietly and privately.