Back in 2020 during the height of the pandemic, I polled fellow designers on Instagram to see if they needed an open minded community. Surprisingly to me, a good majority said yes and our design community, The Designers’ Cohort was born!
The Designers’ Cohort is a space for the girls, gays, and theys that want to avoid gatekeeping in the design community. This group was built so designers can share thoughts on the industry, get feedback on their client work, and have a safe space to rant about the daily life of being a business owner.
Originally the group was started on slack and grew from a free community to a small paid membership with monthly expert live chats and yearly retreats. As the membership grew, our needs did as well, and Slack wasn’t cutting it anymore. Here’s a step-by-step look at how and why I moved my design community from Slack to Discord.
Why Our Online Design Community Started On Slack
Before we talk about the move, let’s jump into what worked really well at first: Slack. Slack was a great option for our group to start out on because it had a free plan and did everything a new online community would need. We were able to use a platform where the conversation came first. Slack was easy to use and navigate conversations because everything had threads and channels to group conversations in one place. Coming from a world of too many designer focused Facebook groups I loved the organization that Slack gave the group and that was the primary reason why we decided to start there.
Why Our Online Design Community Moved Away From Slack
While Slack was a great place to start out, after 2 years the platform had changed and the community needed more. As the group grew, we added quite a few new features to help everyone succeed and we needed a platform that made everything work together seamlessly.
The first thing we needed was an events section. Every month we have both guest experts and virtual co-working sessions to help everyone learn and grow in their business. To schedule these we were using Zoom for meetings and Mixily for event scheduling. While this wasn’t a big hurdle, having separate places outside of our main platform to schedule events was an extra step I didn’t want to continue to make. Going forward, I looked at platforms that had schedule features included.
The next problem, which ultimately made us leave Slack, was a limited message history. When we first started out on Slack in 2020, the communication platform allowed up to 10K of message history and 5GB of files on their free plan which was A TON for the number of people we had, this could last us months. In September 2022, Slack changed its free plan from a 10K message history and 5GB of file storage to only messages from the last 90 days. This drastically changed the group because we lost so many conversations people routinely revisited. It eventually felt like we had to start over.
Originally we wanted to stay on Slack but realized the high cost of a paid plan would ultimately make us raise the price of the membership and that was something we didn’t want to do. Here’s a breakdown of what that cost would look like for the group if we had only 100 members: Slack charges $8.75 for each active member in a group per month, if 100 members are active, that is $875 per month or $10,500 per year. It may change per active person but it probably won’t budge much if your group is pretty active. Because I take pride in the group having a low membership fee, these prices were another reason why we needed to move away from Slack.
3 Other Slack Alternatives
Here’s a look at the other platforms we considered.
1. Facebook Groups
Availability: Android, iOS, and web
While Facebook groups are free to use when we polled the group we all had strong feelings about the platform. First, a lot of people hate Facebook or just aren’t on the app. And if they do use the app it’s primarily for the groups that they’re in. Our small community thrives on the constant communication that happens in our group and we felt that Facebook would slow us down in a way.
Availability: iOS and web
Price: Basic – $39; Professional – $99
Circle has a lot of the features we wanted plus some extra that would have been nice to use. Half of our community wanted to move here for its simplicity, clean interface (hello we are designers!), and in-app events. However, the platform still doesn’t have an Android or desktop app. These lacking features put the other half of the group off of Circle because they wouldn’t be able to use it on the go or without distractions from their multiple other tabs on the web. Again conversation is our main goal and Circle missed the mark, especially for the price.
Availability: iOS, Android, web, and macOS, and web
The Geneva app is mostly used by university students but someone mentioned it up as something The Cohort might want to look into. We saw promise with the app, but no one used it before and didn’t want to risk getting into an app that we eventually didn’t like and would have to change again.
Why I Moved Our Online Design Community to Discord
Availability: iOS, Android, web, macOS, and web
Price: Free; Nitro Lite: $2.99/month; Nitro: $9.99/month
Out of all of our options, Discord was the one app that met all of our must-haves: 1) an events section 2) unlimited message history 3) flexible payments, and 4) mobile and desktop apps that worked for everyone. Even though Discord is mostly used in the gaming community, it was a free space we could use to have instant conversations with others in The Cohort.
Discord is the most like Slack so it had the smallest learning curve compared to the other options we voted on. Plus a good majority of the group already used it for their gaming communities (win-win).
One thing I loved about discord is the number of different ways you can communicate with your community.
In Slack, you can only create 1 type of channel, a text channel, where threads can be used to group conversations. In Discord, there are 5 different ways you can communicate with your group.
- Text: This is the most similar to what a Slack channel looks like.
- Voice: This channel is more like Zoom. You can show up or come off camera, only talk through voice, and even share your screen with others.
- Forum: In my opinion, this is a better way to group conversations around a centralized theme (sorry Slack but Discord does it better). If you want to start a conversation you’ll need a title of what you’re talking about and a description. People are also only allowed to respond in the thread attached to the forum.
- Announcement: This is mostly for moderators and admins that need to push important announcements to the entire community.
- Stage: Remember Clubhouse, the voice-only social media app? Yeah, this is just like that. The stage channel is built to have people speak to an audience through voice only. Stage moderators can determine who comes up on stage, who to mute, and who can speak during a chat.
So far, The Designers Cohort members love discord and don’t have any complaints. If you have a community, where are you hosting yours?
If you’re interested in joining The Designers’ Cohort is a $15/month membership for the girls, gays, and theys in the design industry who want to spread knowledge and build a community.