Every Slack team starts with a #general and a #random channel, and most grow from there. Figuring out how to organize all of a company’s information around channels can be challenging, but with a bit of forethought and planning, you can keep everyone up to date and on the same page.
To help, we made a short video on everything you need to know about using channels in Slack. We’ll hit on some high points below as well.
Public and private channels, as well as direct messages, are listed in the left sidebar.
Keep as much discussion as possible in public channels, so everyone can see how and why decisions are made — like when a new logo is decided by the #design-team, everyone in #sales can review the process if they like. Public channels can be searched by anyone at a later date, which grows increasingly important the longer your team uses Slack. New hires can also quickly get up to speed thanks to scrolling up through history to read any channel applicable to their new position. Private channels can only be seen by invited members and are best limited to discussions of sensitive or confidential matters.
It’s a good idea to start small in new teams, limiting conversations to a handful of channels covering broad topics. If you ever feel discussions are moving too quickly or covering too many disparate subjects, that might be the time to siphon off activity into new, more specific channels.
You’ll likely first want to add channels that correspond to teams inside a company. For example, #sales, #marketing, #engineering, and #design channels. Then as those get busy, you can add sub-topics like #engineering-ios, #engineering-desktop, and #engineering-android channels for people working on specific projects. This helps ensure that no one is distracted by discussions that they don’t need to be a part of.
Naming conventions are great for helping your team find everything they need. The key to a good channel naming policy is making things predictable for employees looking for information later on. So that might mean all project channels start with #proj- followed by the title of the project, and channels that grow from general groups maintain the name of the original, like a #sales-survey channel discussing customer survey results is clearly part of the sales team’s work. For additional ideas, we have an article in our help center dedicated to naming conventions.
Tips for reducing noise and staying focused
Everyone is automatically part of the #general channel, so you might want to limit it to just important company announcements that everyone needs to see. You may also want to establish a default common chat area like #random as the place for informal discussions among your team.
It’s good to keep work channels focused on the work. You can always ask that people move chatter into #random or point out more appropriate channels if their posts are off-topic or out of place.
A great way to track your most important channels, especially in busy teams, is to use the star feature. Star your favorite channels and they’ll rise to the top of the left sidebar, making it easy to stay up to date on discussions.
And it’s quite alright to leave channels you don’t need to be in. Remember you can always search for things in channels you’re not in, while keeping your channel list limited to your most important discussions.
Matt Haughey probably follows 200 out of the 1729 channels at Slack.