Is MURAL right for you?
Posted on June 03, 2017
By Rose Anderson and Thomas Yung
Why MURAL Exists
There is a trend toward remote collaboration beyond just presenting / talking to one another. And therefore a need for a space where the work can get done. And in UX “the work” is often the visualization of information, looking for pattern, pooling perspectives. Mural provides a way to move the traditional whiteboard and post-its into the digital space. It’s a great tool for teams working in the Discovery phase of projects and is becoming an industry standard for user experience / design research work.
What it Can Do
Multiple users can input observations and insights from field research together, collaborate synchronously (in real-time) in order to group those findings into themes and easily export the information back out in a form that can be re-formatted for a report. This is extremely useful for teams that are trying to collaborate in the definition / discovery phases of a project, but who aren’t colocated. Even for co-located team members, it is much more efficient than the handwritten post-it notes we’ve historically used for the synthesis of field research.
Why We Like It
Our teams are increasingly distributed across sites and now we can share our synthesis process with remote members. We can let them peek into and contribute to a shared online meeting space.
This also helps us introduce user experience design tools and techniques to team members who might not normally be embedded in the early stages of the design process. The real power of the tool is building a shared understanding right from the beginning. Instead of starting from a whiteboard with stickies, we were forced to start from MURAL since our team members were remote. I think that is a key that many teams (that only occasionally pull in remote members) miss. MURAL can also be used asynchronously (non-real-time). Even if members are not able to meet synchronously for the online work sessions, they can still contribute asynchronously (on their own time).
Power of Templates
MURAL’s templates allow for a range of different team collaborative activities. You can ask participants to do some homework beforehand offline, using one of the guided templates, that clearly show the process steps being used in the workshop. Many of your introverted participants will appreciate this. :-) This will give overall transparency to the activity, as participants can see where they are headed and how to get there.
Top 5 Features
Our top 5 favorite MURAL features:
The iPad and iPhone app allow users to quickly snap pictures and upload directly to the mural board. This is a real time saver. Easy to import text from multiple sources and convert into color-coded digital post-its.
Ability to have multiple Mural boards and invite/manage access for team collaborators.
Visual templates which can be used for analysis of qualitative data through thematic sorting.
Synchronous collaboration, being able to interact with multiple remote users – a team can be moving/adding/changing things on the Mural at the same time.
Easy to export text from Mural.ly to convert back into Word for written Discovery reports.
Challenges Using MURAL
There are challenges that come with any new way of working collaboratively.
Before doing any workshops or meetings using MURAL, make sure people are comfortable using it. Help everyone get to a point where they aren’t struggling with using the tool. If you don’t do this, you will waste a quarter of your meeting doing tech support.
Get used to panning and zooming in/out of your mural. Panning and zooming are not always intuitive for new users on desktop computers. You start with the big picture view, but very often, you will need to zoom in to view the content. The iPad app is a much better experience for doing this, since all you need to do is pinch to zoom.
If there are more than 10 participants, for new users, it can get very difficult to concentrate on your contributions since everyone’s sticky notes will begin populating the board in real-time.
Workshop video: https://vimeo.com/207624347/c3f5dafa0c
- Remote Design at IBM: Best Practices for Facilitation