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Slack’s emoji reactions are playful product design in action

Last week Slack launched their Emo­ji reac­tions fea­ture. This allows you to attach emo­ji to a mes­sage and for oth­ers to chime in and vote for an emo­ji or add their own. I am very excit­ed by this for a num­ber of reasons.


We use Slack fair­ly heav­i­ly. We have chan­nels for spe­cif­ic projects and we have chan­nels that cre­ate a frame of shared pres­ence and cul­tur­al ref­er­ence for our close net­work. In these chan­nels we already use emo­ji and ani­mat­ed GIFs quite inten­sive­ly. They are visu­al frag­ments of emo­tion that can be quick­ly thrown across the dig­i­tal divide. Many peo­ple like to triv­i­alise these but they are in fact essen­tial non-ver­bal cues.

Slack nailed the prod­uct design of this new fea­ture. That much is to be expect­ed from a com­pa­ny with their track record. What makes it par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant for me to write about here is that this fea­ture is a great exam­ple of play­ful design. Kars iden­ti­fied it as flux in action because: “This is adding vari­abil­i­ty to what used to be one-dimensional.”

With the emo­ji fea­ture Slack has iden­ti­fied an exist­ing behav­iour that they could bet­ter sup­port. Peo­ple respond to each oth­er with emo­ji and oth­er images. This is fun but it can quick­ly become over­whelm­ing. Emo­ji reac­tions are just the right amount of func­tion­al­i­ty and struc­ture to allow peo­ple to more rich­ly express them­selves. The result is more expres­sive inter­ac­tions and more effec­tive communication.

Emo­ji reac­tions is a great new fea­ture that will see a lot of use (at least from us) and it demon­strates how play­ful design is a cen­tral part of prod­uct design.

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