Why we left Slack

Since the beginning of MelonDev, we’ve relied on Slack for all of our internal and client communication. The channel-based structure with instant access to DMs with any team member you needed was really helpful. Addicting, almost. At a glance, you can see what was going on with any project you needed, just by jumping to a channel. We invited in our clients as Single Channel Guests so they could participate in the discussion, too.

For a while, it worked really well. For 2 years, actually. However, as we started expanding our client base and team, we realized the inherit flaws Slack had. The biggest pain points we had could be summarized as the following:

  • Things get lost.

  • Things get cluttered.

  • Clients get confused.

Things get lost.

The initial look of Slack is great until you realize how much is going on at once. When you have clients, team members, files, and integrations all chatting at once, things add up quickly, and it’s easy to miss key points in the discussion. To help with this, there is message threading, but we never used it since we felt as though nobody ever checked in on threads. They were difficult to follow and were almost treated as their own mini feature-limited channels.

Things get cluttered.

For each client project we brought on board, we had no less than 4 channels. This does a lot to your channel sidebar when you realize that Slack lacks basic features like folders or moving channels around. These 4 channels generally would consist of:

  • Discussion Channel with Client. Generally, our entire team would be here, with up to 3 Slack accounts for each client. (Slack imposes limits on how many single-channel guests you can add to your workspace per paid member, so we want to make sure we left space open for any vendor accounts we needed.)

  • Discussion Channel with Team. Same as the other one, but it would just consist fo our own team.

  • Channel for GitLab. A feed of commits and activity for a project so we can see where things were at at-a-glance

  • Channel for Meetings and Notes. Anytime we held a meeting or shared notes we’d publish them here. Using Slacks “Files in this Channel” feature proved to be hit or miss when you have a lot going on at once.

Multiply these 4 channels times 10 or more active clients in any given month and you have a lot to sift through whenever you’re trying to find when a specific deadline was supposed to be, who was supposed to handle revising a logo on a client site, or what changes someone wanted to their Roblox game.

Clients get confused.

Clients weren’t able to get access to these other organization channels we had created because they were single-channel guests. Slack considers any account that has access to more than just a single channel to be a paid user. This means that anytime we uploaded a file or had git activity in one of our internal channels, someone would have to tell the client about it.

That didn’t always happen…

It was also really difficult to keep track of what was being handled by who. Did Stuart have the time to pick up another task for this client? Was Kyle finished with his tasks for another assignment? The only way to answer these questions would be either to sift through the clutter, browse mostly-cryptic git commit activity, or DM the person directly. There were a lot of DMs.

In fact, thanks to Slack’s analytics tool, we can see that out of our 204,000+ messages over the life of us using it, 68% of all of them happened in DMs! That’s nearly 140,000 messages asking people about what they’re up to, what their availability is like, and where things were at on projects they were assigned to. That is a LOT of DMs!

And finally, the last straw on top of all of this was the price.

At the end of the day, we strongly believe that Slack is just a glorified IRC client. The integrations were sometimes useful, but not nearly to the tune of $8 per user per month when paid monthly. For our use case, we were paying about $1,600/year to be able to live chat somewhere with our logo on it, and it didn’t help us stay any more organized than something like Telegram or Discord would have.

Image courtesy of   Basecamp  .

Image courtesy of Basecamp.

So we made the switch.

In early March, I started looking around for alternative project management and communication software. After all, with Slack being worth $7 billion, it must mean there were others trying to get a piece of the pie.

It wasn’t until we started working with XSolla on a new project and I was introduced to their Basecamp workspace that I found the perfect new tool for us.

Basecamp was everything we had ever wanted in Slack with very few drawbacks. And best of all? It was less than half the cost of what we paid for Slack.

  • One flat monthly cost for unlimited users, projects, teams, AND clients with a generous 1TB of storage

  • Built-in task management, scheduling, and automatic check-ins for projects

  • “Campfire” live chat to allow people to still talk in real time about projects

  • A centralized place for files for every project so things didn’t need to be double uploaded

For us, we had officially found our Slack replacement. Since our switch, our clients have been much happier, everyone is much more accountable for the work they do, and we no longer have to browse the clutter that is a sidebar of 100+ channels.

That said…

Slack is a great piece of software. The team behind it works very hard and it’s one of the most polished products I’ve used to date. It was great while we had a small team and it fit our needs for a while, but it definitely has it’s growing pains. There are also definitely ways to improve your Slack experience with integrations like Asana, but we just really couldn’t justify paying even more per user just to have a fancy to-do list.

Don’t be afraid to look at other options besides what everyone decides to use. Something else may be an even better fit for your team!

No hard feelings, Slack! ❤️