I love the use of a whiteboard in collaborative meetings. It was one of my favorite things about meeting in-person and felt like it was a major loss when moving to a largely remote culture. I needed to replace the collaborative experience with something and also make way for a Hybrid workplace. Enter, Microsoft Whiteboard. I want to love it, in many ways I do, but there are also things about it that bug me. So far, it’s the best whiteboard technology I’ve encountered for many scenarios, but also has weaknesses I’d love to see addressed. So, here are 5 things I love and 5 things I hate about Microsoft Whiteboard.
Things I Love about Microsoft Whiteboard
Here are the things I LOVE about Microsoft Whiteboard, although some come with caveats. This is why I use Whiteboard regularly and you should too!
Love 1: The Pen Experience:
I find the pen experience of Microsoft Whiteboard to be extraordinary. I’ve been somewhat of an aficionado of whiteboard systems and have always hated the ones where the pen experience felt overly digital, slow, or choppy. I want ink to be ink, not some approximation of it. It needs to FEEL like a pen, not feel like a digital line. I don’t want exact correction, I want to feel like I’m using a notebook. Pre-Microsoft Whiteboard I always felt like the smartboards got it wrong and it never had the same usage experience as an actual whiteboard.
Love 2: The Sharing of the Whiteboard with a Teams Meeting
I appreciate the ability to have a Whiteboard accessible from a Teams meeting, to actively collaborate on it, to have multiple people working within it. This is a great way to connect people not in the same room, to be more inclusive to different working situations, and to connect the teams.
Love 3: The Retention of the Whiteboard Artifact with a Teams Meeting
In addition to liking using Whiteboard with meetings, I appreciate the in-line artifact is retained with the Teams meeting to go back to later. The alignment of shared documents, content, and collaboration (in Whiteboard) with the historical meeting makes a big difference.
Love 4: Posting, Sending, and Sharing
I appreciate that the artifact of the drawing is not lost and can be shared with others after. This could be just an image, or the actual whiteboard accessible via the Whiteboard interface. I even had my kids at the office and they drew some interesting pictures I wanted to share, which was easy as finding a person’s name in the directory.
Love 5: Multiple Actors at Once
The core part of a whiteboard is being able to have multiple people acting at once in collaboration. If that doesn’t exist a serious part of the collaborative effect is lost. Whiteboard can take multiple inputs from multiple places. There are opportunities for this to improve, but we’ll leave it there for a second. I appreciate that the Whiteboard team has thought about the requirement of multiple inputs.
What I Hate about Microsoft Whiteboard
Here are the things I really wish could be improved or changed about Microsoft Whiteboard. These all bug the hell out of me and I’m looking forward to them being addressed someday.
Hate 1: The Sometimes Ink, Sometimes Not Experience
I hate that some of the components don’t respect Ink and leave the Ink as Ink. I actually DO NOT want you to turn my Ink into computer text. I find drawings that have half converted text annoying and remove the experience of collaboration. Perhaps later I’d like to convert, but real-time… NO. Or at least let me choose. For example, this list input won’t even take ink input to turn into text.
Hate 3: Collaboration / Sharing Between Surface Whiteboard and a Remote User Whiteboard
The sharing experience between a Surface Room whiteboard and a remote user whiteboard should also be dead simple for the Hybrid workplace. It’s close, it sort-of works, but it doesn’t REALLY work. This needs to be examined as a user Cx flow and make it dead simple, easy to consume. It should show nearly real time where people are drawing and who is doing it. The drawing should be integrated into the Teams experience and take advantage of it, vs. being a very separate experience. If a Surface Device opens a whiteboard, that whiteboard should be easily collaborated on via the remote devices with little effort or configuration.
Second, I’ve found the collaboration experience to be wanting with other elements, like doing a sprint plan, or brainstorming. For a better example of real time collaboration, check our MURAL, which would be pretty easy to copy in Whiteboard.
Hate 4: Loading Experience and Disconnecting
The loading experience for Whiteboard is slow and annoying. If you accidentally click off, especially in the Teams experience, you will have to completely re-load the Whiteboard. The experience is jarring and slow vs. persistent. It should feel more like a chat asset (always available) vs. like a sharing asset. The circle of death below is my least favorite part of the product.
Hate 5: Lack of Connection to Other Platforms (OneNote and Visio)
What is the best whiteboarding product? Is it Whiteboard or OneNote? Why do we even have two platforms? I sincerely wish they were just the same thing and there was some relationship between a Whiteboard I created and my OneNote, or visa versa. In many cases I’ve switched to OneNote for individual note taking, but WHY? Why not just have Whiteboard be the thing? Also, until some of the usability issues are fixed, I’ll still be switching over to OneNote and sharing my desktop (which tells you there are major failure points).
Second on this, why has nobody ever created a Visio connector for OneNote? It seems so obvious. Every architect has gone up to the board and drawn the architecture of a platform. Visio has been absolutely stagnant for YEARS. Why can I not draw an architectural diagram on Whiteboard and have it turn into a digital Visio. Just give me that one feature (that works properly) and I’ll be happy forever. Just a “turn into Visio diagram” button. Or, a mode where the Visio diagram is created hot as the drawing is going on real time.
So, in closing, Microsoft Whiteboard has such promise and a lot of things to love presently. It also has a lot of opportunities for improvement. Microsoft… I’ll be watching to see how you make this better! I’m a user, but also wanting to see it get better, for all our sakes. I believe that a collaborative whiteboard experience is very meaningful to an engaging Hybrid workplace.