Recently, Anita reviewed an online drawing collaboration application called Scriblink. The tool offers the ability to draw with others remotely via an online whiteboard displayed in a web browser. It can be used to brainstorm graphics ideas or plans, or just for simple drawing.
There are a few more tools in this vein, so we wanted to look at a couple of the others that are available and do a quick comparison. The two we’ll be looking at are Skrbl and a GE proof-of-concept, Imagination Cubed.
Imagination Cubed allows a few users to draw on an online whiteboard, very similar to what Scriblink offers. With IC, you don’t need an account, but are limited to just two other collaborators. There’s a range of different tools and colors that can be used in your drawing and the interface for selecting them is very smooth and intuitive. There is a limit to how much you can draw, indicated by an “ink” meter at the top of the page. All in all, a fun application, but maybe not so useful for more than just simple sketching.
Skrbl offers similar capabilities to the others, with some expanded options … for a price. The free version has many of the same features, although the tools are not quite as easy, nor do they offer quite as many options (colors, stamps, drawing tools). There are a few things that look familiar in Skrbl though, specifically the Word-esque tool bar and work space. One great feature Skrbl offers is a free button that can be placed on a site with a snippet of code that allows users to start a collaboration session directly from your site with a single click.
Having the ability to draw ON a picture or design you upload would be an excellent way to use these tools. Unfortunately, only one of them has this killer feature, Skrbl Team. For $10/month you can upload and share documents, as well as view web pages with other team members (up to 5, with unlimited guests). This is the feature that makes the application useful for teams reviewing design work.
As anyone who has worked on a design project before can tell you, design by committee is usually a very bad thing. You end up with competing preferences and styles, and ultimately what is produced can look like a big mess.
That’s one of the reasons that I think the place for these applications is later in the design cycle, for review and comment. Giving a team the ability to mark up an existing design is a much better way to work than trying to get your team to think creatively together.
Also entering the scene are products like Stixy, YuuGuu, and Dimdim that offer various forms of online collaboration, meeting and file / screen sharing.
The market for these tools is probably going to start small as businesses learn to apply them. I imagine that a few will be acquired by larger hosted applications to add functionality. That said, there’s still a place for this kind of tool, it’s just a matter of figuring out how you might use it in your business.
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About: Aaron Smith is the owner of Mixotic Technology Solutions. Aaron started his own business after seeing so many of the businesses he had worked for struggling with their technology, trying to figure out what tools to use, how to use them, and how to train staff. He believes that companies that don’t explore new technology solutions give up a competitive advantage.