Slack isn’t just a messaging app. The main factor driving the rise of this $ 7.1 billion platform is that it has gradually become the crux of the way people work, thanks to integrations with Jira, Trello and other work tools. popular. To help increase the number of integrations available to its users, Slack today introduces a new WYSIWYG UI tool called Block Kit Builder.
At the heart of it all is a UI framework called – you guessed it – Block Kit, which sets a standard for how Slack apps work. It compartmentalizes Slack apps into stackable blocks, allowing developers to better visualize and order how information is presented to the user.
So what does this look like in practice? Take a look at this sample expense report app. At the top is the most important information. Below you have the actions available to the user. At the very bottom is contextual information – things that are not exactly relevant to the task at hand, but that help place the main information in a larger picture.
With Slack now available on mobile, web, and desktop, Block Kit automatically handles the heavy lifting of the visual work, ensuring apps look consistent across platforms. Slack developed the framework with its UI best practices involved, and Block Kit apps have a “write once, run anywhere” philosophy.
To reinforce that, it is a very simple development platform. The Block Kit Builder itself is a WYSIWYG tool, allowing users to develop applications visually, without having to write hundreds of lines of code. Speaking to TNW, Douglas bear, director of developer relations at Slack, explained that this would lower the barrier to entry for new developers, while making existing Slack app developers much more productive.
“The great thing about Block Kit Builder is that you don’t need to have context on what’s possible in the Slack message or the Slack app,” she told me.
“Suppose I was working on an app for the Slack directory and I told my designer to ‘you should go design my Slack interface.’ Without knowing anything about Slack, they would be able to drag and drop components to get the message across so that it gets the user experience they are looking for, ”added Douglas.
Slack, when compared to the larger workplace messaging market, isn’t particularly noteworthy. What makes it unique is the ease with which third-party companies can add integrations, allowing teams to be more productive and communicative. Block Kit dramatically reduces the number of entries for app developers to create for Slack. In our conversation, Douglas suggested that it might even be used by non-technical people.
That said, building the back-end of a Slack app remains a complex affair. Reconstructing the myriad of business logic continues to require a skilled developer. However, on that note, there is some good news. In August 2017, Slack acquired a company called Missions. This code-free platform allows users to visually build Slack apps.
Slack is integrating missions into the enterprise, and later users can expect to see an official way to build Slack app workflows without having to write a single line of code. Unfortunately, there is no official launch date for this.