We Switched from HipChat to Slack. Here’s Why.

It’s hard to believe there was a time when our team used email to communicate with each other.

As Big Fish grew, it became painful.

Around that time, one of our developers recommended Slack. I signed up to try it out, and investigated some of their competitors. After a lot of discussions, and reading countless reviews, the search was narrowed down to Slack and HipChat.

I chose HipChat. At that time the two platforms appeared pretty similar, here’s what influenced my choice:

  • Clean, minimal UI
  • HipChat is an Atlassian product (we already use Jira and Bitbucket)
  • Better pricing (HipChat’s paid plans are a third of the cost of Slack’s)
  • Great reviews and word of mouth (though, Slack also had this)
  • Similar features (at the time)

For awhile HipChat seemed to be meeting our needs. It was flying under the radar. I hadn’t spent enough time using Slack to know what I was missing out on and no one was complaining (at first).

Then things changed.

Here’s Why We Switched from HipChat to Slack.

Miss a Message? Ready, Set, GO Find It!

Both Slack and HipChat run in your web browser.

Let’s say you close your browser, or the tab that has HipChat open, then go back later. There is absolutely no indication of whether or not you missed messages while you were away.

But you most certainly did, and the only way to find them is to open every single chat room you’re part of, and every single private chat, to look for messages you might have missed.

You will not see notifications beside rooms to indicate unread messages.

What results is an effort in lost productivity.

A little trick we discovered to help out with this is to never, never ever ever, close the browser tab that has HipChat open. As long as you keep it open HipChat will ping you when a new messages arrives.

What Happens in HipChat Stays in HipChat

Accidentally post your message in the wrong room? Ooops, sorry @all.

Send a message and realize you made a problematic typo? There are no edits or deletes here. Instead you must post a separate correction message.

Like email, in HipChat you will not be able to edit or delete your sent messages. But wait, isn’t that a pain point of email? Are we not using HipChat to reduce our pain? The lack of edit/delete capability may not be a deal-breaker on its own, but not having it felt a big hole in the feature set.

For those with admin access to your HipChat account, I discovered that you can sign into a separate admin portal, search through message histories, find a message and delete it. Hardly worth it, but good in an extreme case; like when someone accidentally types their password into a team room.

Threaded Conversations

So let’s say you have a room (in Slack they’re called Channels) set up with 7 people to discuss a client project and conversations are flying…as they do in group rooms.

You see a note that Steve posted earlier in the day and want to add a comment. In HipChat you have one option – add your comment to the end of the main thread out of logical sequence to the conversation.

As a result, Steve may not notice your reply directed to him. Yes, you can tag @Steve with your comment in an attempt to give him a heads up…but if Steve doesn’t have HipChat open when you post it he may never see it among the swell of new messages.

Slack, on the other hand, recently added threaded conversations so you can reply directly to Steve’s comment, get his attention and avoid cluttering the main thread.

A Better Mobile App

Staying signed into HipChat’s mobile app is helpful as it’s the only way to be notified of new messages or mentions (unless you want to set up email notifications….because you definitely need more emails).

But, it’s pretty basic, and as a team of app developers, the internal complaints were piling up.

Slack’s app, on the other hand, is impressive. HipChat pales in comparison.

Serious Downtime Issues with HipChat

When using a platform for team communication it’s critical that the platform remain available and stable.

Unfortunately this just wasn’t the case with HipChat. Some of our developers were randomly unable to log in for days at a time, and experienced frequent-enough-to-be-annoying crashes of the app.

The strange outages wound up being the final kick in the ass I needed to switch to Slack.

Final Thoughts

Looking back at HipChat, and in comparison to the competition, I’m left with a sense that Atlassian created it to round out their suite of software, and get a piece of the team communication pie, but has not been heavily vested in improving it.

HipChat feels like a bare minimum product.

Slack, on the other hand, stands on its own.

It’s early yet, but I think it’s safe to say we’ll be happy here for a very long time.

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Sara @ Big Fish

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara MacQueen is the Founder and President at Big Fish - an app design, development and consulting studio in Tampa, Florida. She was named one of "25 Mobile Women to Watch" and has been interviewed by local and national media for her expertise in mobile technology and business.
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