Do you know the modern alternatives to using a whiteboard?

Last updated by Brady Stroud [SSW] 14 days ago.See history

A great way of collaborating with a team or presenting a new solution to a client is using a visual display of your recommendations.

Using a whiteboard is a great way of collaborating and brainstorming which works quite well. But a physical whiteboard is a large ugly object that takes up a fair amount of room, often isn’t kept clean, and doesn’t allow for people to collaborate remotely. There are modern alternatives that work even better, let's have a look at them.

Scenario: Software consultants often use architecture diagrams to present a solution to the client. These graphical representations are used to help all of the stakeholders, the developers, the designers, and the clients visualize the high-level structure of the system or application to ensure it covers all of the client requirements.

bad paper draw
Figure: Bad example - When working with people online, drawing on some paper, taking a photo, and emailing it... is the least collaborative way to work

team whiteboard
Figure: OK example - Teams Whiteboard is a good collaborating tool while working online. (Using a pen and touch device provides the best experience, using a mouse is not pleasant)

architecture diagram
Figure: Good example - An architecture diagram exists on established projects after many discussions

If you are in a situation where you just need to show someone what you are doing then you can use your laptop or iPad and cast it to a monitor or a remote screen.

There are 2 ways to open the Teams Whiteboard:

  1. In video chat the Share Icon | Whiteboard
  2. In Teams chat window Click + | Whiteboard

Figure: Using Whiteboard in Microsoft Teams

 

Figure: Using Microsoft Whiteboard App #2 Tech Whiteboard replacement

#2 Electronic whiteboard alternatives

  • Samsung Flip ($3k AUD)

Figure: Using Samsung Flip

 

samsung flip
Figure: Samsung Flip can be flipped from horizontal to vertical

 

  • Microsoft Surface Hub 2 (about $12K AUD)

Figure: Using Microsoft Surface Hub

#3 Paper Whiteboard (Low tech – a large piece of paper)

Old school but it is great to have a pen in hand, you can always just grab a big piece of paper and draw on it together.

Bear in mind that paper is not ideal because you can’t wipe it out... you have to start again #ouch

paperboard
Figure: Paper whiteboards don't work when someone is in Sydney and the other attendee is in Melbourne

#4 Whiteboard and marker - Low tech (ugly)

The traditional whiteboard.

Quote from Adam Cogan (apparently not a fan of whiteboards in a tech office):

I believe whiteboards are a sign of an old office… and they are ugly. They’re not a sign of a modern office. Sometimes they are useful and I know some people really like them (generally older people). I have seen the digital whiteboards (usually targeted at teachers) but I think they are horrible to use. The common scenario is for a Spec Review. I am always happy when I see devs using their device and casting to the TV. And the subsequent notes get saved to Microsoft Teams.

whiteboard marker
Figure: Whiteboards are not a sign of a modern office

#5 Writable wall - Low tech (ugly)

Low tech (ugly) – Paint a wall to be writable or put some writable film on an office glass wall

glass wall
Figure: Writable walls can be dirty even after cleaning up


Suggestions for sketching software

There are many apps that allow you to sketch what you're talking about e.g.:

  • PowerPoint
  • Visio
  • OneNote
  • Mural (collaborative app)
  • Miro (whiteboard app)
  • Microsoft Teams Whiteboard
  • Microsoft Whiteboard
  • diagrams.net (was draw.io) ⭐️ - often collaborative sketches generated above enable the creation of a beautiful architecture diagram (Do you make awesome documentation?)

Note: These work fine with a mouse, they work even better with touch screens, or pens/styluses

surface pen
Figure: Pens/Styluses help to draw better sketches

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