Mural v Miro: Which Remote Digital Whiteboard Should You Choose?
When it comes to digital tools, there are many things that remain better done in-person. As a consultant, my professional advice to clients is to keep creative activities like strategy development, ideation and journey mapping as in-person as possible.
The ranking goes:
With the pandemonium of 2020, distancing requirements meant option 1 was no longer an option (nor, thankfully, was #3).
There are a lot of digital tools that can be used to bring people together to collaborate on ideas. Your organisation may have a subscription to Microsoft Office365 or Google’s Gsuite, both of which contain tools that can (with a little extra work) be crafted into effective remote facilitated collaboration spaces.
Miro vs Mural: Specialised digital facilitation tools
However, if you are considering purpose built digital facilitation tools, the two names you are most likely to come across in 2020 are Mural and Miro. Both have made a name for themselves amongst facilitators as the go-to tools for taking your group creativity digital.
You may have also heard of RealtimeBoard. Miro is the new name for RealtimeBoard. Rebranding your startup for no good reason is normally not a great sign, but so far the branding agency has been contained to the superficial and the product remains sound (for now).
Our use cases
For our business, we have two main domains where digital whiteboards and facilitation tools have been key to our ability to take our work remote. Our primary consulting business needed the right tools to continue to facilitate business strategy sessions, product development and organisation design work as clients adapt.
In recent years, we have also worked in partnership with a university client to turn our consulting expertise into postgraduate and executive training. Through this programme we deliver courses to MBA students and Executives on the topics of Design Thinking and Customer Experience Strategy.
This has given us a fairly diverse range of users and scenarios to account for in assessing these solutions. However if you feel your use case is not well accounted for here, please feel welcome to share your specific challenge in the comments to discuss.
Recommendation: Whatever you have already.
As consultants, we encounter a range of pre-installed tech in our clients’ businesses. Our job is to be adaptable in order to deliver value. That means working with what we have, not complaining about what don’t.
If there is an existing solution, we generally recommend to use it. The technology the group is most familiar with will help us spend less time doing tech training and more time adding value to the client. Our purpose is not to support adoption of a tech tool, but to support clients to overcome their business challenges.
Our Winner: Mural
On a feature by feature basis, both options are well matched. Digital sticky notes, public and private libraries of templates and frameworks, the ability to draw participant attention. The similarity of the two in terms of their User Interface designs may reflect a level of competitive inspiration or simply dominant design convergence. In either case it makes for easy switching between them from project to project.
When there isn’t prior familiarity, preference or an existing tool in place, we currently tend to choose Mural. Mural has a programme specifically for consultants that has helped us onboard it in our own business. This has also helped us bring Mural into boardrooms and classrooms without adding software licencing costs to our clients and students.
We have found it requires minimal tech support when used with clients or MBA and Executive Education students. Mural also has an education program which offers a similar level of free resources and support for educators that is worth exploring if you are an academic or teacher.
Mural also became a value unlock for our students. A few months after completing one of our classes, an MBA took the time to kindly write to share their experience taking Mural into another subject:
“For our group assignment we also employed the Mural to collate and brainstorm all our ideas for the assignment at random times, my group loved it and I think I have convinced them all to do your Masterclass. So I also want to thank you for introducing us to that tool. It made life so much easier for group work.”
Being consultant friendly has helped make Mural our go-to choice. We have been able to build out workspaces ahead of workshops and classes within our team, provide clients and students with guest accounts and scale up to extra seats when a project requires. Collectively, this support has proved to be a useful workflow and given us a better value offering vs Miro.
Why not Miro?
Miro is great too. We have no shade to throw on their product (just their terrible, terrible rebrand). In our use cases as consultants and educators, Mural simply offers better value.
Miro is a great competitor to Mural and has no doubt been a positive influence on Mural’s product development. Looking specifically at extensibility, Miro has long had a head start on integrations with other popular digital productivity tools (Slack, Zapier, Gsuite, etc.).
It has only been in recent months that Mural has begun to par this integration advantage and started to participate in the productivity ecosystem. At the start of 2020, Mural’s willingness to push data to other apps was basically non-existent while Miro’s was already robust.
After client workshops, we create reports and analysis to generate insights and support clients in turning their creativity into reality. Miro’s push data integrations are a big advantage in our post workshop productivity workflows (both relative to Mural and in-person sessions).
Miro’s lead in taking an open system strategy (similar to Slack and Zoom) has motivated Mural to be a better product. By mid 2020, we have started to see Mural take similar steps to be an open collaborator with a half decent Zapier integration currently in beta.
Miro also invests in building and supporting useful native add-ons. Miro’s native Wireframing library is an example of how Miro creates useful native extensions while also supporting and integrating apps like InVision for advanced UI design and prototyping.
In short, Miro is a cool product. If you or your organisation are already set up with Miro, you honestly have no good reason to switch over to Mural. As a user of both, there are definitely times when I’d like to be able to tap an integration only to remember I’m in Mural.
The key difference is Mural goes out of their way to specifically support consultants and educators. When a project calls for a workflow better suited to Miro (say, where we would like to be able to push data and content from our boards into other apps or formats), we can switch it on for the project. Most of the time Mural does the job for us.
Pricing and Value
If you are a small to medium enterprise looking for a standard solution, features between the two are fairly even so your choice may come down to price rather than quality. Personally, I find Mural’s price structure fairly straight forward with the $12/user/month Starter plan being plenty for most SMEs looking to use the tool with internal teams. Miro’s pricing is by comparison more complex but paid plans do start lower at $8/user/month.
If you are working in a large organisation where procurement processes are inspired by the 9th circle of hell, you may find that Miro is the better choice for you right now. While you won’t always need all those nice integrations and extra features, you have relatively less freedom to switch in and out of tools.
If you aren’t sure, both Miro and Mural offer Free plans to give you a chance to try their services and get a sense of which product is right for your team. Miro’s Free plan is resource restricted, while Mural’s is time limited. Both also offer enterprise pricing plans if you are looking to roll out paid accounts to more than 50 people and want to haggle for a discount.
Both Mural and Miro are useful tools for facilitating groups and hosting remote workshops. You are likely to be well served by either if you are looking for the next best alternative to a real-world whiteboard and sticky notes.
For those with the autonomy to choose their tools on a project by project basis and specifically for consultants and educators, Mural will be sufficient for most of your use cases.
This is an evolving space and in the current environment, digital facilitation will continue to play a role in moving work forward. We can hope to see more innovation from both competitors in their battle to be the best tool to share ideas and collaborate.
Whichever way you go, please do let me know which tool you chose and why!