Comparing and contrasting two remote collaboration tools
As we pass the one-year mark of global shutdowns and the onset of remote working, there’s a lot we’ve learned about the collaboration required to enable workforces to peak perform from anywhere. We’ve all had to experiment with new ways to stay connected–but the good news is that we are collaborators at heart, and that hasn’t changed since we’ve left the office.
Clients bring our agency on to creatively solve problems, and workshops play a huge role in both the way we approach projects and the way we develop relationships with those clients. These workshops once relied heavily on in-person interaction to collaborate with clients and gather insights to best address their needs. Visualizing ideas, strategies and long-term goals is key to setting the stage for a successful project. While in-person workshops have been put on hold, we haven’t lost the magic that workshops create.
One of the largest hurdles in this transition has been finding a platform that displays visual elements of our workshops like the trusty whiteboard and sticky notes. Enter: MURAL and Miro. They are both effective tools to do this, so we put them to the test. Here’s our overview so that you can decide which works better for your collaboration needs:
The reality is that tools are very similar, and you can’t go wrong with whichever one you choose. In addition to being offered at similar price points, both Miro and MURAL enable users to brainstorm ideas on digital sticky notes, cluster them, vote for ideas, and run timers. Each has limitless white space that you can structure through frames, which are essentially slides. This allows facilitators of online workshops to frame content for participants, and the limitless working space gives users the ability to move from idea generation to idea development quickly. At redpepper, we’ve utilized the framing tool as a replacement for slide decks to centralize our presentations rather than switching between multiple platforms.
For online workshops specifically, MURAL allows facilitators to adjust their own screen to lead participants to a certain part of the whitespace. “Take Control” is a new feature that further enhances this ability, allowing facilitators more control over meeting flows by locking collaborators’ screens to their own. On Miro, facilitators don’t have the same capability. Instead, users themselves have to move the board to the facilitator’s location, making it hard to know what participants are looking at on the board. However, Miro has a screen sharing mode that can make up for this difference. It functions much like the screensharing you’re used to on Zoom and other conferencing apps.
In terms of ease of use, it truly depends on user preference. While MURAL’s design is more simplistic, if you are looking for quick access to tools, you’ll want to go with Miro.
Both apps allow you create your own templates. At redpepper, we already have workshop templates we love—like our empathy and user journey maps—so, we simply upload those templates to the boards. Once uploaded, digital sticky notes can be added to them, just as they would in a typical workshop. Except this time, it’s impossible for them to fall off the whiteboard. Both Miro and MURAL offer export mechanisms that allow users to download full or partial boards after collaborating on a template.
While both applications’ templates make workshop planning a bit easier, MURAL’s templates are much simpler, making them more ideal for sessions with groups who may be unfamiliar with digital whiteboard platforms. MURAL also offers a “private mode” where a template can be visible only to the facilitator to assist in planning and execution.
Miro’s templates come with helper text and facilitator tips that make them more robust–but also more complicated. However, a big advantage Miro has here is the ability of the facilitator to set the starter view on a template or board. This is a feature that isn’t currently available on MURAL and allows for smoother onboarding experiences by preventing participants from feeling lost when they enter a workshop. Bottom line: if you’re looking for simplicity and speed, use MURAL, and if you’re looking for help planning robust workshops, use Miro.
At redpepper, we have found Miro’s unique video chat application to be one of the largest differentiators between the two platforms. As mentioned earlier, we’re all about face-to-face interaction. Miro’s video chat feature helps to solve for this by allowing users to collaborate on a board while seeing each other’s faces, making the workshop or meeting more personable.
However, Miro’s video chat feature can only handle a few participants at a time, so it does not completely address one of our largest hurdles. It also lacks breakout room capabilities, so, as a facilitator, you don’t have the ability to split participants into groups. At redpepper, we’ve been using Zoom’s screen share feature and breakout rooms as supplementary tools that give us the ability to see each other, while collaborating as a team.
While MURAL recently introduced Quick Talk, a feature that allows collaborators to jump on voice calls, it doesn’t currently include its own video chatting capabilities. New updates on the platform aim to enhance real-time collaboration in other ways, though–workshop participants can now use reactions like smiles, nods, and laughs to mirror the kind of immediate feedback you might hear during an in-person session.
Apps & Integrations
The biggest difference between Miro and MURAL is the number of integrations each app provides. Both platforms have apps that allow for integration into your workflow, but Miro’s extensive list of third-party integrations is much longer. For example, redpepper has found Miro’s iFrame tool and webpage capture to be particularly helpful. With the iFrame capabilities, the user can upload YouTube videos or Keynote presentations directly to the collaborative board.
The webpage capture allows the user to directly import complete web pages onto the board simply by inputting the URL when prompted. Miro also has an open API, meaning developers can craft their own apps to integrate with Miro. While MURAL’s integration capabilities are less extensive, the updates they’ve introduced here in the past year have set them on the trajectory to be catching up soon. Plus, its website does ask for feedback on potential capabilities and apps.
Great news: both products are effective tools that will serve most of your online collaboration needs to facilitate successful virtual workshops during the pandemic and beyond. However, if you’re looking for the “smarter” of the two apps, Miro definitely has a wider range of integrations. At redpepper, we have found Miro’s unique video chat application and broad integrations to be particularly helpful. However, if you want a simple, clean, easy to understand collaboration tool, MURAL has that covered.
Both tools include a long trial period and a helpful customer service team to enable you to assess what will work best for your team. And remember, oftentimes the success of a tool does not depend on the tool itself, but on how well it is applied.
We’ve also outlined the capabilities of both tools below: