Watch Slack’s Simon Vallee explain what makes a beautiful and highly-usable product

simon vallee

This past Product Hunt Toronto was a special one, with product enthusiasts celebrating the event’s one-year anniversary, the unveiling of the first annual Product of The Year Award, and Slack product manager and native Montrealer Simon Vallee flying down from San Francisco to deliver a keynote address.

“Avoid getting lost in the intellectual abstraction of the design.”

Vallee’s talk focused on his journey as an entrepreneur and how to build better and highly-usable products. “The number one thing is utility-first, listening to your users and then building a components-based UI,” he says, alluding to Zelda in what he called the Product Triforce.

When building a product, utility should be at the forefront of what you’re doing, Vallee says. “Avoid getting lost in the intellectual abstraction of the design. Slack, for me, has been a constant reminder of that.” Utility is mostly determined by two levels: whether the product solves an actual need, and whether it is actually optimized for users.

Vallee explains that no matter how good of a job you do on your product, there will always be blind spots — which highlights the importance of listening to the user. “Your users are there to tell you about these blind spots, and all you have to do is open the channels to this,” he says. At Slack, the company has its Twitter feed piped into one of its team channels, so anyone can follow along for insight. The product team or the engineering team also has to spend two hours a week doing customer support. “That really helps us keep our pulse on the product and how people are using it,” says Vallee.

Here’s the full video of Vallee’s keynote:

And the slides to go with it:

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