Twist It Up: Replace Chatty for Calm and Deep Dive Into Doist’s Team Chat App

Monday, November 5, 2018
Catherine Morin
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While live chat applications can promote teamwork, their real-time nature often discourages deep, thoughtful conversations. Aiming to offer a more organized and meaningful way for teammates to collaborate, Doist, the company behind the popular ToDoist task manager, created Twist, a calmer, and more efficient communication tool.

Designed to compete with existing chat apps like Slack, Stride, and Carrot.io, Twist creates a streamlined workflow that helps ToDoist users interact more efficiently and boost their productivity.

Many work teams use Slack as their go-to communication solution. Up until about four years ago, so did Doist.

The remote company relied on Slack because it facilitated collaboration by allowing for real-time group chats, direct messages, and file sharing in a central place. However, they also discovered a few shortcomings which ultimately impaired productivity. Being a company all about productivity, Doist created Twist to address Slack’s pain points while promoting a more balanced approach to work and life.

Image credit: Twist

Doist does it calmer

In Slack, conversations take place in long chat feeds in which users can create threads in response to individual comments. While Slack promo claims the app is a place, “where work happens,” searching through chat histories to find specific information eats up a lot of valuable time. Not only is it easy for communication to quickly become disorganized and chaotic, but with numerous exchanges between co-workers, the entire real-time communication technique can at times seem downright shallow.

Doist replaces the continuous stream of comments with interactions that take place in threads right from the start, allowing for asynchronous communication. Composing a new thread looks and feels like writing an email, except that other team members can initiate conversations in response to an original post.  After naming their thread, users can write multiple paragraphs, attach files, and notify some or all members of their team.

The paragraph feature is important because it promotes more in-depth thought. A writing exercise that encourages prose over text-format communication. And since users cannot discuss outside of threads, everything is more organized.

Image credit: Doist Blog

Deep dive into calmer and more productive work

According to Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, the deep work practice is defined by, “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task...a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.”   

So how does the Doist team apply deep work to their communication platform? By significantly decreasing the risk of distraction.

With Twist, you can actually avoid reading posts about an unrelated event or subject. The concept, meant to encourage in-depth conversations, also offers a calmer user experience by avoiding the sense of urgency that typically comes with live discussions.

Traditional chat applications move quickly, and users run the risk of missing out on relevant conversations if they are offline. The real-time nature of these tools creates a habit of being consistently connected.

Getting pulled into conversation after conversation throughout the day can leave employees feeling overwhelmed and unproductive.

Twist allows team members to snooze notifications and finish what they are working on before responding to comments in a thread. Any work tool that promotes a snooze button has got to be a good one right?

And if you feel you’ve snoozed too much, don’t worry, you won't miss out. The application includes an Inbox that groups together threads a user is involved in to ensure he or she knows when other teammates make updates.

Another pain point for real-time, by the minute conversations, is time zone. Luckily, a topic familiar to Doist, a completely remote company. Twist’s asynchronous communication makes collaboration with team members from other countries much more manageable.

Twist still allows for real-time conversations, but users have to start them as direct messages in a different tab. While threads are employed to express more complete thoughts and have long-term discussions, team members mostly use private messages for quick check-ins or socializing. With two separate tabs for threads and messages, users can check one without getting distracted by the other.

Keeping messages in separate tabs gives the space to display a preview of a new message before a user opens it. Employees can determine the importance of a message at a glance and decide when to answer.

Less anxiety by design

With their constant stream of notifications, applications like Slack and Stride can be very distracting, borderline annoying, and anxiety-inducing.

With Twist, users can choose whom they want to notify when they start a thread or comment on existing posts. Co-workers can discuss specific issues without bothering the whole team.

Image credit: Doist Blog

Not only does Twist offer the user more control, but it has also omitted the dreaded read receipts feature. So no more “read” or “seen”-induced anxiety attacks. The decision to 86 this feature is a conscious move on Twist’s part to apply a more human approach to team communication.

A “Time Off” mode can silence notifications for an extended period and let other users know that an employee is absent or on vacation. Team members can also specify their regular schedule to avoid late-night alerts.

The Doist team believes that online presence indicators included in most communication apps can quickly become “expectation tools.”  When they see a teammate online, users tend to anticipate an immediate answer. Without a presence indicator, Twist lets conversations happen over a slower period, promoting deep work and giving team members time to reflect before answering.

Take a load off

Doist considers that teams deserve less pressure to always keep up with group conversations and more time to focus on important work. Twist represents the company’s bet against workplace cultures that require people to be continuously connected. With its distinctive features, the solution prioritizes meaningful productivity and lets employees sign out guilt-free at the end of the day.

According to Twist, nothing you see in the chat platform is an accident – everything is a conscious design choice. And with more mindful design comes a more balanced approach to communication, something every worker can agree is something to work towards.

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