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Picking Up The Slack On Voice Messaging

Justin Mitchell
May 15, 2020

Why Slack’s feature limitations are making it impossible for startups to bring audio-first messaging to the tech giant’s platform.

Recording and sharing audio messages through Slack is an awful experience right now. Teams everywhere are building products to make voice messaging a simple, seamless part of Slack, but none have built anything exceptional to date.

Why? Restrictions from Slack have made this task nearly impossible. Features like one-click voice messages, broadcasting, transcription, audio search, user stories, and private team messages aren’t supported by Slack, limiting the effectiveness of voice communication.

By now, audio and voice messaging in Slack is a well-documented problem. Slack users have been asking for these features since at least 2016.

Tweet: @SlackHQ voice note feature would be so helpful rn for my slack channel. Sometimes team needs to hear it haha.

While Slack’s engineering team is undoubtedly busy, 4 years of ‘passing along’ a feature request seems like a kind way of saying “this isn’t a priority”.

In 2018, Slack doubled down, making it clear they were not planning a voice note feature.

Tweet: Hey @SlackHQ you know I love you guys and would never take out my time to tweet for nothing. I beg you to add vn to slack we are in 2018. Sometimes we just want to send a voice note you know?

But just a few weeks ago, Slack acknowledged the suggestion of a voice note feature. This is progress, but we’re not getting our hopes up just yet.

Tweet: How come @SlackHQ still doesn't have audio/video messages?!

Why do we care so much about Slack’s product pipeline? Yac users want a Slack integration, but Slack’s input is necessary to build an exceptional audio messaging product.

In April, we sent out a user survey to discover what exactly people need in a voice-first app like Yac. The result? Integrations were the most requested feature for Yac V2 by a mile. Even more surprising, ⅓ of our users specifically wanted a Slack integration.

Integration Breakdown (VD+SD)

We also discovered that everyone has a different idea of what a seamless, Slack voice message integration should look like.

How should one start a voice message? How should it go to Slack? What should the output file look like? There is no consensus on the correct answer.

Earlier in May we ran into this question again. Ben Tossell recently tweeted out looking for a solution to his voice messaging problem, and we weren’t as equipped to handle it as we thought:

Tweet: Easiest way for sending voice notes through slack?

Our community rallied behind us, but Ben was spot on with his question. There truly aren’t any good Slack voice note solutions out there.

And because there’s no native Slack solution, the demand for a seamless voice messaging experience has helped us at Yac. In fact, we found one of our investors through a tweet about sending Slack voice messages with variable controls!

But even still, Slack is the central app of today’s most productive companies, and it’s time to solve Slack’s voice messaging mess once and for all.

Audio and Voice Messages Deserve Better

To improve audio and voice messaging, we are calling on Slack to meet us halfway. A truly seamless voice messaging experience depends on deep integrations and well-thought-out details.

So what’s missing right now? Today Slack doesn’t give apps enough control over the audio and video messaging experience to make an integration within Slack effective for Yac users.

Media files are displayed without audio/speed controls within the Slack app, making for an awful user experience. To get around this, other integrations depend on extra steps and sidestep hacks for recording and listening.

To record, most integrations have you click a button to go outside of Slack to their website. Then comes the process of actually recording, editing, and sending a voice message. On average, we found that Slack integrations take 7-8 clicks just to record a message.

Building a truly seamless experience (like the one in the Yac app today) means 1 or 2 clicks maximum.

Testing Recordfy in Slack

The listening experience in Slack is not optimal either. To bridge the design gaps, teams like Recordfy include a transcription alongside the recording file shown in the sidebar above.

It’s a step up from dropping an mp3 file into slack labeled “Voice message” but this workaround can still be so much better.

Contrast the Slack experience above with video integrations such as Zoom and you’ll see why the voice-first movement has struggled to gain traction.

We recognize the poor user experience of a Slack voice integration, and that’s actually why Yac is a standalone app today.

At some point we will need to build a Slack integration, but we’re not going to rush out a product that doesn’t improve the way teams communicate.

Getting this integration right will require input from both the Yac and Slack teams, which makes it difficult to set a firm release date. Until then, the Yac app is the fastest way to share voice and video messages with your team.