How to choose virtual whiteboard software: A guide for product teams

Whiteboard software is growing in popularity as more companies embrace remote and hybrid work environments. In addition to being accessible from anywhere, virtual whiteboards offer a number of benefits that make them excellent replacements for traditional ones:

  • Drawing, diagramming, and text editing

  • Limitless canvas (sometimes with built-in templates)

  • Ability to save and share with others

  • Real-time collaboration

Seems like a no-brainer, right? A virtual whiteboard is an obvious choice for the same reasons you would choose instant messaging over a fax machine these days. But beyond modern convenience, virtual whiteboards can offer a boost to productivity and collaboration — especially for product development teams that puzzle over product requirements, create wireframes and mockups, or do user story mapping to give the team the context they need to build the right solution.

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This guide covers the different types of virtual whiteboards, use cases for product teams, and what to look for in a tool. Let's dive in.

What is a virtual whiteboard?

A virtual whiteboard is a tool for capturing thoughts, creating diagrams and sketches, and collaborating on ideas with others. Depending on the tool, you may start with a blank canvas or have the option to choose from a library of whiteboard templates. Virtual whiteboards are especially helpful for facilitating both real-time and asynchronous collaboration on remote teams. Everyone can view the same virtual whiteboards at their convenience, in their own time zones — and without worrying about the contents getting erased.

Use exceptional diagramming functionality to design stunning whiteboards.

Types of virtual whiteboards

Many whiteboarding tools offer the same core features like templates and live collaboration. But you can generally separate them into two categories — all-purpose and purpose-built.

All-purpose whiteboard tools are made for anyone to use. Meant to replace physical in-office whiteboards, many include templates for a wide mix of uses — everything from team icebreakers to IT work order processes and sales presentations. Some support video conferencing as well. This broad range of uses makes all-purpose whiteboards appealing to many organizations for online collaboration.

Purpose-built virtual whiteboards are thoughtfully designed for a particular use case. They include features tailored to specific audiences and ideally integrate with tools you already use to get work done. For example, whiteboard tools exist for teachers that help with lesson planning and connect with learning management systems. Another example is whiteboard software intended for design work — with features like freehand drawing, annotations, and built-in wireframes plus integrations with other design tools.

This was our approach to developing Aha! Create. As fellow product builders, we wanted a virtual whiteboard made for our daily work. Aha! Create brings together note-taking with whiteboarding and even includes templates geared toward product development tasks, like feature prioritization and customer journey mapping. It also integrates seamlessly with Aha! Roadmaps so you can connect ideas to actionable roadmap items within the same software environment.

If you are considering a virtual whiteboard for your product team, think about how you really want to use it. Most likely you will need it for more complex work than a generic whiteboard tool can support. Instead, choose a virtual whiteboard designed for product development that will enhance everything you do — from creative brainstorming to roadmap planning.

How product development teams use virtual whiteboards

While "product team" can refer to the core product management and UX groups, we consider the broader product development team to be more cross-functional — encompassing engineering, product marketing, and customer support teams as well. Virtual whiteboarding is effective for each of these teams as a way to organize information, whiteboard new ideas, and collaborate with peers.

Here are a few examples of how virtual whiteboards come in handy for product building:

Team

Use cases for virtual whiteboards

Customer support

  • Document customer-facing processes

  • Write and share team meeting notes

Engineering

Leadership

  • Capture business and product strategy

  • Reviewing mockups, diagrams, and other early-stage work from various functions

  • Workshop business plans

Product management

Product marketing

  • Brainstorm go-to-market ideas

  • Plan marketing content calendars

  • Workshop product positioning and customer personas

Sales

  • Capture takeaways from conversations with prospective customers

  • Explore ways to improve customer touchpoints

UX

Related:

Weigh the pros and cons of different product solutions with Aha! whiteboards.

What to look for in a virtual whiteboard

What makes an exceptional virtual whiteboard? An all-purpose whiteboard offers the most versatility. But something intended for general use will not always give you everything you need.

If you work in an area that requires a tightly integrated tech stack, agile workflows, and rapid innovation — like product development — purpose-built virtual whiteboards are the way to go.

With that in mind, here is a checklist of what to look for:

  • Templates included that apply to your work

  • Engaging visual elements like shapes, digital sticky notes, and emojis

  • Real-time or asynchronous collaboration and sharing

  • Ability to save multiple whiteboards and view version history

  • Purpose-built features for your type of work, business model, or industry

  • Integrations with the tools you use to manage your daily work

  • Ability to connect items on the whiteboard with real work on your product roadmap

Your product team can host collaborative retrospectives with Aha! whiteboards.

Aha! Create is designed to help you do all of the above — and we are rapidly adding even more features for product builders. Get started for free and then let us know how we can make our digital notebook the best it can be for your team.

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