Pretend Product: Slack Improvement - “Mark as read when”

Pretend Product is a series of product improvements or inventions based on my everyday problems.

I am writing this from my own perspective with the assumption that others can relate. That may be a wrong assumption but I hope you enjoy reading my thought process if the problem itself doesn’t resonate with you.

Every good product starts with a user problem to solve

User problem: I forget to respond to a message that I clicked into or briefly read but did not actually think about answering/actually answer.

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Current options on a Slack message
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If I had a dollar for every one of these Slackbot notifications, I’d buy an ergonomic chair
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A screenshot from the day I found out about the mark unread feature. Laugh at my embarrassing pain.
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You can design a great water glass and users will still drink it in every way that you don't want.

Proposed Solution

You can maintain current default functionality while allowing users in preferences to customize what behavior constitutes a message as read.

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I see this “mark as read when” preference setting being an option introduced under the additional options

“a message has been opened for x seconds”

“Mark as read when a message has been opened for x seconds” where x defaults to whatever the value is in your system at present, let’s say 2 seconds. I can then adjust this between 0 and 60 seconds. 0 at the lowest end because users can read a message in the notification pop up already before clicking into it. 60 seconds because I am making the assumption that the users who need messages to remain open for any time frame longer than an entire minute are a negligible user base.

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adjustable number input field

“I react to a message”

“Mark as read when I react to a message” A reaction being any emoji reaction to a message. Users who begin to react by opening the emoji menu will not be considered a reaction because that behavior indicates that you may have changed your mind and will come back to it later (which is the behavior we are trying to support with this feature improvement).

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In other news: why are these the three default reactions instead of rotating out with my most frequently or recently used emoji reactions?

“I start typing a response”

“Mark a message as read when I start typing a response” is an option for those users who can consume a message in varying amounts of time so customizing a time threshold may not make the most sense. They may also not use reactions all that much because they want to keep it all ~professional~. This option is for them.

Edge cases

What if you selected to mark unread after 4 seconds and you spend 6 seconds on the emoji menu but never pick an emoji? In those cases, it will be marked read upon whichever condition is reached first.

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Think of this edge case as operating as the “whichever is earlier” clause in legal terms and agreement documents
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A view of Gmail’s nudge feature
Virtual Assistant vs 1995 Wizard. 4 design principles for creating a… | by  Pat Harrington | Prototypr
The original Slackbot. RIP old friend.

Does this matter?

Let us return to the basics.

Thoughts?

I’d love to hear your feedback on this idea. Is this something that you’ve thought about? Disagree with? Have improvements for my suggested improvement?

Written by

Product manager | Leading with empathy.

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