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Digital tools can now make brainstorming as easy, efficient, and generative for distributed teams as it is for in-person meetings. We tested a number of online whiteboarding platforms marketed as brainstorming tools, and we found Mural and FigJam to be the most intuitive and seamless to use.
Like most digital brainstorming tools currently on the market, our picks share many of the same core features: a shared workspace with the ability to add and arrange text, sticky notes, and shapes on any number of different digital whiteboards. Users can either start with a blank whiteboard and create a bespoke document tailored to their team’s brainstorming process, or choose from any number of pre-made and crowdsourced templates within the platform. Mural’s template library is particularly extensive and well-organized. Both also help users facilitate discussion and build consensus with features like timers, voting, reactions, chats, and integrations to video-conferencing and messaging softwares.
Both of our picks have multiple subscription levels, with a free version that includes a limited number of boards and sharing permissions, a paid individual plan, and more expensive team and/or enterprise-level plans. (See the Pricing Deep Dive section below for more on how to choose a subscription tier for your team’s needs.)
Given that the brainstorming process differs so widely between teams, organizations, and industries, we highly recommend trying out a few free versions of these tools before making a final decision to understand which is best for your team’s specific needs, but either of our two picks would be a great place to start.
FigJam is the online whiteboard tool from Figma, the cloud-based design platform. It offers an intuitive digital whiteboard on a dynamic, customizable, and fun interface, with plenty of user-generated and native templates for a number of purposes.
- Starting at $3 monthly per user for the first pricing tier, it’s among the most affordable brainstorming tools we’ve tried, while not sacrificing on usability and features.
- FigJam is among the easiest to use, particularly with the keyboard shortcuts that allow you to add new stickies and shapes with just one keystroke.
- FigJam is legitimately fun to use, with bright colors, a built in music player, and widgets like a photobooth, rock paper scissors, and warm-up questions from team-building software Donut.
- The user-generated templates are in a separate library from the pre-loaded ones, which makes them more of a pain to use.
- While FigJam offers an integration with Microsoft Teams for brainstorming within a video call, it doesn’t offer a Zoom integration, so workplaces that use Zoom will have to share their screen to brainstorm during a meeting.
- Boasts an impressive set of integrations that includes Teams, Airtable, Adobe creative cloud, Asana, Figma, Google Workplace, Notion, Slack, Zoom, and others.
- Features a particularly organized, searchable, and extensive template library, with both Mural templates and community-created templates in the same place.
- Balances a clean interface with an extensive, intuitive menu of built-in features, including a timer, voting (with options for multiple votes, anonymous voting, and timed voting), and stamps and reactions.
- Mural is the most expensive option of any that we tested, and though the templates and features are worth the cost, teams with less intense brainstorming needs may find lower or no-cost software a better choice.
Read the full review at charterworks.com.