What is a visual collaboration workspace?
A visual collaboration workspace leverages modern technology to create a collaborative online environment where multiple users interact with content in a visual and interactive manner, in real-time.
Essentially, a visual collaboration workspace enables virtual teams to work remotely in an effective manner, thus making it a vital component for any organization looking to hire a global workforce. But to create a visual collaboration workspace, organizations need to invest in visual collaboration tools.
Types of visual collaboration tools
With virtual work environments expanding on a daily basis, more and more tools are being created to solve specific remote work challenges. But, broadly speaking, there are 3 types of visual collaboration tools.
- Meeting platforms: The most commonly used visual collaboration tools are meeting platforms like Zoom, Teams, or Google Meet. They became household names during the pandemic and their primary use case has been to enable remote meetings. Most people use them for their video chat and screen sharing functionalities.
- Virtual collaborative spaces: Virtual collaborative spaces also enable people to meet each other over video chat, but are specifically designed to support collaboration in online workspaces. They have specific collaborative functionalities that make the meeting experience more intuitive and enable two-way interaction, as opposed to the one-way interaction of meeting tools, i.e., one person presents, while others are passive listeners.
- Whiteboards: Whiteboarding tools provide you with an unlimited canvas to add different kinds of content onto the virtual whiteboard and brainstorm ideas with your teammates. Multiple team members can add content like shapes and sticky notes, attach files, and create diagrams or illustrations in real-time, or asynchronously – making this an effective tool for remote collaboration.
How to choose a visual collaboration tool
While choosing a visual collaboration tool depends entirely on your use case and the specific requirements of your industry, there are certain points you should consider before investing in a tool.
- Visual: Naturally, a visual collaboration tool has to be, well, visual. But what does that mean exactly? As visual learners, humans understand and digest visual information with relative ease. So the tools we use should ideally have specific features that enable us to annotate, take notes, draw, or make illustrations.
Side note: Check out Frost and Sullivan’s report on visual engagement, which breaks down the 4 most popular visual engagement tools — co-browsing, video, screen sharing, and annotations.
- Multiplayer: To collaborate effectively with others, the tool has to be multiplayer. This means that multiple users should be able to actively participate and interact with the content that is being presented at the same time.
- Intuitive: Visual collaboration tools need to be intuitive as their main goal is to improve team productivity while collaborating online. It’s best to test some solutions with your team and try to see how comfortable they feel with the tool. Consider the fact that if it is not intuitive, you’d require extra product training sessions to understand how to use it, thus increasing the risk of non-adoption.
- Installation: Do you need to install third-party software to use the full capabilities of the tool? That’s an added step while constituting a security risk for users. And speaking of…
- Security: Ensure that the solution complies with industry-standard security certifications and deploys regular scans and testing on their tools. To deep dive further, you can ask the vendor the following questions:
- How is data handled by the solution between the different participants?
- Which data is stored, and for what purpose?
- Where is it processed? Do you have control over these entities?
- Are there features to guard against man-in-the-middle attacks?
- Are there features to protect consumers’ data/logins/private info from the company agents?
- Are the user logins shared? Where are the cookies stored?
- Compliance: Do you work in a highly regulated environment? In that case, a fully compliant tool is a must-have. The solution must meet all compliance and industry-specific regulations regarding the security, auditing, and use of individual data. Furthermore, consider thinking about the following questions:
- Does the solution allow you to audit the actions committed by your users within the session?
- Is it a requirement that your users’ data never leaves your country, location, or even your own data centers?
- Do you need some kind of custom deployment to ensure compliance? Is the vendor able to provide that to you?
- Integration: Does the tool need to be integrated into your internal platforms? If so, you will need development resources and need to commit to implementing the tool over a period of a few months/years. It is always better to look for a native web-based option that just works from the get-go. Furthermore, think about how well the tool integrates with your existing tech stack. A good visual collaboration tool should play well with your existing platforms and third-party tools.
Top visual collaboration tools
Miro is one of the most popular whiteboarding tools in the market that enables users to collaborate over a digital whiteboard in real time while communicating via video or chat. It’s perfect for brainstorming, strategizing & planning, diagramming, workshops, and more.
Zoom is a meeting platform used to virtually meet other people. You can connect with others over video, audio, phone, and chat. The downside with Zoom is that you need to download the app to enjoy the full experience.
Spaces, by Surfly is a collaborative space where multiple users can share content simultaneously and interact with each other’s content in real time. You can also communicate via voice, video, and chat. The best part – it is a plug-and-play solution that works without any setup or installations, and also enables you to collaborate on third-party websites.
Wonder is a visual collaboration space that has a virtual office interface to promote collaboration. It aims to create a more intuitive workspace in which you can just drop by certain rooms and speak to your colleagues – just like a physical office!
Mural is a whiteboarding tool that competes with Miro. The main difference is that Mural is more cost-effective, but lacks the intuitiveness of Miro. Miro has a large number of pre-existing templates and mapping and diagramming features that make your job a lot easier.