It is often suggested that we don’t communicate as much now that we are all “glued to our phones,” but I would like to argue that the opposite is true. There are now more ways to communicate than ever (which is not necessarily a good thing, but that’s for another time) and the real struggle is working out what is and isn’t worth your time.
A lot of social chatting apps, such as Kik (remember that!) and the classic Whatsapp, have been critiqued to death, and there has, of late, been a trend for apps that are specifically for teams or businesses to use on projects. As easy to use as Facebook Messenger is, it’s not wholly appropriate for work messages, and Whatsapp would require you to have the phone numbers of all of your colleagues (and for them to have yours. No thank you!).
Two of the big dogs of team communication are Slack and HipChat, but which is the right one for you and why should you care about them?
The first reason that these services are a great investment is that email is not always practical when you are trying to have a back-and-forth discussion about something. Reply-all emails are not the solution and can be hard to follow, whereas instant messages are much more user-friendly and evoke a lot more idea sharing and collaborative thinking.
Furthermore, they can be accessed on a variety of devices, quickly and easily. For example, both Slack and HipChat have native apps on iOS and Android, as well as Windows and Mac desktop apps and a web browser version for those reluctant to download anything. The messages are kept updated across all versions so you can simply pick up a conversation on whatever device is closest at any time.
File sharing is also a great reason to use apps such as these. With simple sharing of photos, documents, and videos, it saves time sending across devices, especially for those quick things you want to send for immediate feedback.
One of the biggest differences in the two apps is their pricing. Slack offers a free tier which keeps your 10,000 most recent messages and allows you to integrate up to ten apps and services. You can also use voice and video calls between two people, and each person gets 5GB of storage. The next tier is the standard and costs $8 per active user per month if billed monthly, or a reduction to $6.67 if paid annually. This doubles the storage per person, allows unlimited app integration, searchable message archive, and priority support. Finally, the Plus membership which has a whole host of perks including 24/7 support (with a guaranteed 4-hour response) and 2-GB file storage per person.
The important thing to note here is that Slack charges per active user, which means that even if you sign your whole staff up if someone doesn’t use it, you don’t pay! They are also pretty generous in helping out nonprofits and educational establishments with special rates.
HipChat has a much simpler payment plan, with the Basic plan being free, and the Plus plan costing $2 per user per month. For the extra money, you get unlimited file storage (as opposed to the 5GB available with free) and unlimited searchable message history where the free plan has 25,000 messages. You can also share screens with the group and video chat too, on the Plus plan.
Slack is used by such big names as Pinterest, Buzzfeed, Ticketmaster, Linkedin, Time and Airbnb, whereas HipChat’s list is not quite as extensive but still impressive, with Fitbit, Squarespace, and Expedia using their app.
There are two huge areas in which the two differ greatly and looking at reviews, are the most polarizing aspects. The first is the design of both. Although customizable, many prefer HipChat’s interface as it is less “messy” than Slack, although they do both take some getting used to. For example, Slack doesn’t use capital letters for names of channels, groups or users (oh, these creative types!) which is a bugbear for some, as is differentiating between channels and groups at all!
That said, HipChat is not known for its reliability – an important aspect when you are working on something important. Slack, on the other hand, is quick to load and easy to use with reliable servers.
Both seem very secure, although Slack do operate a lot of extra compliance and assurance programs to really ensure data is kept safe.
Although on the surface both apps seem to do exactly the same, there are some unique features to them both.
For example, it may seem small, but there is a lot of love for HipChat’s ability to have custom online/offline status’ – something that is not yet enabled in Slack.
One of Slack’s best features is Slackbot, which is not only designed to help you around the app but also can be used as an online todo list to yourself and by using ‘/reminder’ can even be used to set reminders for certain days and times. In fact, notifications on Slack are exemplary. You can set your own highlight/notification words which will let you know whenever particular things are said and by @’ing a member of the chat, they will receive a specific notification. In fact, you can set your status to ‘Busy’ which will mute all notifications unless your name is mentioned – great for those chats that go off topic!
Link expansion on Slack is also particularly aesthetically pleasing and makes seeing what is being sent, a lot easier. There is also the option to ‘pin’ specific messages or documents to the top of a group or channel, to keep order and organization.
Although both have their merits, Slack really does streak ahead of HipChat. The slightly busier user face aside, the support is great, notifications go above and beyond, and it is really user-friendly – particularly with customization and extra features. Also, although ‘Slack’ isn’t the coolest of names, ‘HipChat’ sounds like it was ironically named by someone’s grandpa!