We Don’t Sell Saddles Here

Links, On Startups

The memo below was sent to the team at Tiny Speck, the makers of Slack, on July 31st, 2013. It had been a little under seven months since development began and was two weeks before the launch of Slack’s ‘Preview Release’.

It is presented verbatim, as written (including original pull-quotes), with two exceptions: the removal of an introductory section discussing launch logistics and replacement of a link which pointed to an internal company resource with the equivalent public link.

Just the first part of the memo is handy:

Build Something People Want

We know that we have built something which is genuinely useful: almost any team which adopts Slack as their central application for communication would be significantly better off than they were before. That means we have something people want. However, almost all of them have no idea that they want Slack. How could they? They’ve never heard of it. And only a vanishingly small number will have imagined it on their own. They think they want something different (if they think they want anything at all). They definitely are not looking for Slack. (But then no-one was looking for Post-it notes or GUIs either.)
Just as much as our job is to build something genuinely useful, something which really does make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive, our job is also to understand what people think they want and then translate the value of Slack into their terms.

A good part of that is “just marketing,” but even the best slogans, ads, landing pages, PR campaigns, etc., will fall down if they are not supported by the experience people have when they hit our site, when they sign up for an account, when they first begin using the product and when they start using it day in, day out.

Therefore, “understanding what people think they want and then translating the value of Slack into their terms” is something we all work on. It is the sum of the exercise of all our crafts. We do it with copy accompanying signup forms, with fast-loading pages, with good welcome emails, with comprehensive and accurate search, with purposeful loading screens, and with thoughtfully implemented and well-functioning features of all kinds.

Build something people want, before they know they want it...

The rest of this memo is just as good to read.