Coming together in a physical space to brainstorm may seem like an activity of a time long, long ago. However, now more than ever, we need effective tools to collaborate in real time. At The Vida Agency, brainstorming and dialogue are a part of every project, so when the pandemic hit, our research team began scaling methods for these activities in the digital space.

We needed a tool that brought the authentic feeling of community, creativity, and ideation. We needed post-it notes to share thoughts and ideas, a whiteboard for mapping concepts, and a way to breathe life in this virtual space.

Today, I’ll share with you the tools we reviewed, our analysis of their current capabilities and effectiveness, and ultimately, what we’ve been using at TVA.

We compared four virtual whiteboard tools, all around an average monthly price of $15. On paper, each offered similar capabilities. In actuality, they function very differently.

MIRO

Miro (formerly Realtime Board) is a collaborative, whiteboard platform that enables teams to build and develop ideas, utilize templates for SCRUM and other methodologies, run meetings and workshops, and co-create virtually. While still offering the capabilities to create your own boards from scratch, Miro offers a range of templates tailored to your process.

Things we like:

  • From concept maps and user story maps, to SMART goal templates, Miro has a diverse library of templates.
  • Enables collaborators to draw and write directly on the template boards or utilize sticky notes to write or add links.
  • You can upload pictures, PDFs, files, and videos from YouTube or Vimeo directly onto the board.
  • They offer remote meetings tool kits and advanced attention management, that include voting functions, timers, chat functions, and a ‘bring to me’ tool to draw the viewers to where you are on the board.
  • Sharing boards with team members who aren’t on Miro is as simple as sharing a link or exporting your board as an image or PDF.

Miro allows working in real-time with others or asynchronously and integrates with a vast number of virtual tools your company may already utilize, such as, DropBox, Slack, Google Suite, and so on.

It also offers audio and video conferencing within whiteboards, a function we were excited to pilot. However, during testing of this feature, we ran into bugs with video connectivity and calls being dropped. We look forward to this feature being more developed in the future.

Ultimately, this is the platform we’ve adopted at TVA for facilitating virtual workshops, focus groups, and brainstorms, and it’s fast become a central research and collaboration tool of our team.

Out of all the following whiteboard visualization tools, Miro seems to offer the best format for formal presentations. Because the backend can be confusing due to the unlimited nature of each whiteboard, when sharing a board, we use the presentation feature to offer a clean, fixed view of each frame in the board.

Miro offers you a cost-free trial for up to three editable boards. This free membership still grants you access to their premade templates and their core integrations. Next membership they offer is the Team membership. This gets you an unlimited amount of boards, private board sharing, other project management tool integration and so much more. This membership is best for smaller teams and costs you $8 a month billed annually.

With the business membership, for $16 a month, you get all of the same features offered in the Team membership in addition to a Single Sign-on, day passes for external collaborators, as well as access for those external users to edit. Their highest tier is the Enterprise membership with custom pricing, which offers everything the lower tiers have with even more advanced integrations and premium support.

MURAL

Mural offers similar functionalities to Miro, depending on the membership level you select. With a focus on design, Mural enables teams to collaborate, create lists, flowcharts, diagrams, frameworks, methods, and drawings on their platform. Mural offers task and content management, chat functionality, and discussion boards for your team to work as one.

Unfortunately, Mural does not offer audio and video conferencing. When testing this tool, Mural did not feel as user friendly and interactive as Miro. Both Miro and Mural offer video tutorial on how to utilize their tools.

Currently, Mural is offering a 90-day free trial to get a feel for their remote capabilities. Their Starter membership is $12 a month and offers unlimited rooms and mural boards. This membership also gets you access to their frameworks and premade templates. With this tier, you get an unlimited number of visitors to your board (visitors do not have editorial capabilities).

CONCEPTBOARD

Concept board, with a lower price point, offers a web-based visual collaboration platform for teams and enterprises. Concept board coins themselves as the best for large, complex formats of design such as storyboarding or multi-page design revision.

Like Miro, it enables users to embed audio and video content into whiteboards. Team members and collaborators utilizing this tool can also chat, leave comments directly on the board, and assign each other tasks within the board. Concept board platform offers audio and video conferencing but does not have its own content management.

They offer a free trial with unlimited board but only up to 100 objects on the boards. Next, they have the Premium membership for $6 a month and the Business membership for $9.50. Both offer a 30-day free trial. Business and Premier subscriptions also available.

Explain Everything

Explain Everything platform is known best for their video whiteboard collaboration. Explain Everything lets you draw, edit, upload files, add text or write directly on the boards. Explain Everything only offers voice memos voice-chat as means of communication.

Users can sign up for a free account with up to three projects, then pricing is $6.99 a month moving forward.

CHOOSING A VIRTUAL COLLABORATION PLATFORM

Choosing an online collaboration platform depends on the priority features for you and your team.

  • Who will be collaborating in the whiteboard, either directly or indirectly?
  • How central whiteboarding is in your process?
  • How many collaboration features do you need? How important are templates?
  • Will you be presenting the whiteboards to external parties

It is essential to pick a tool that caters to the communication and collaboration needs of your team.

At TVA, our decision to use Miro was based on ability to easily ideate with team members directly, ability to integrate with Zoom to present a public-facing version of whiteboards for virtual focus group and workshop participants, and ease of use in building out new whiteboards.

What virtual tools are you using to collaborate that we are totally missing?

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