Your Slack app is a representation of your brand, and the way your app communicates will become part of your brand voice, especially if you’re building a conversational interface.
No matter how small your team is, even if your team is just you, if you're putting an app into the world (and into Slack), then you have a brand voice. Even if the only place it’s used right now is in this one app.
This presents a great opportunity: you can thoughtfully define what your brand voice is. The best thing to do is think of this voice as an extension of your own voice.
If you stick to being clear, concise, and human, you can’t go wrong. Whatever you’re trying to say, think about how you would explain it first.
You might find it helpful to jot down some attributes or characteristics of your brand voice (e.g. friendly, authoritative), once you’ve thought about it. MailChimp’s Voice and Tone guide (styleguide.mailchimp.com/voice-and-tone) is a widely-admired example.
Always remember that your app’s primary purpose is to help users accomplish a task - even if that task is inherently entertaining, like finding just the right cat GIF. It's great if your app sounds clever and entertaining - just please ensure that these traits don't obstruct the user's ability to complete the work your app is assisting them with.
Foreground the information necessary to the task at hand, then add voice and tone elements like you would add seasoning to your favorite dish. They should enhance what’s already there, not overpower or overwhelm the reader’s senses.
You want your voice to differentiate yourself from the crowd. We recommend keeping these guidelines in mind as you craft it:
A little goes a long way. We cannot say this enough.
Nearly every word your app says should facilitate an interaction (courteous parts of speech, such as greetings, are also useful). Don’t add a joke or aside just to be glib.
Not like this
The first example still has plenty of distinctive personality, but gets straight to the point, and doesn’t risk users tuning out/not wanting to wade through unimportant content.
Words and copy used in your interactions should be easily understood even by someone who doesn’t speak the same language fluently. That means:
Not like this
The second example is confusing in two ways: it includes a reference to an obscure film, and the emojis it uses may stall some users as they try to decipher their meanings (“Fire... meat? Firemeat?”).
The message button copy is also unclear and confusing, potentially preventing users from selecting any response at all. We recommend using standard combinations on buttons (Attend/Decline, Confirm/Cancel) to help your users have a smooth, simple experience with your app.
Read over your copy and ask yourself, “Is there anywhere a user may pause in confusion?” If so, rewrite.
All kinds of people use Slack, and we previously described how important it is to understand that variation in terms of their ability to use your app properly. But that diversity is also important when thinking about the tone you use to communicate with them.
Ensure that your voice and tone express empathy toward every single person who uses your app. Some basic steps to take include:
We spend a good amount of time at Slack writing, rewriting, agonizing over, and then rewriting just once more to get every sentence as good as we can make it. If you’ve worked with a professional writer before, you know that no one gets it right the first time.
Here are some techniques we find helpful in revising:
After a few rounds of revision, your app should be ready to help your users accomplish tasks in Slack, while avoiding confusion, frustration, and consternation. Congratulations!