Over the past few years, remote work has become a mainstream option across industries and job roles. In response to this major shift, the number of online collaboration tools has grown rapidly, allowing team members to collaborate with each other in a variety of ways, from instant messaging to video calling.
Granted, many UX designers have already been utilizing online collaboration tools as a core part of their work software, since the nature of UX is primarily digital, and easier to collaborate on projects remotely across online platforms, rather than in person.
To help us narrow down the top online collaboration tools for those working in the UX design industry, we tested dozens of apps and connected with Designlab team members and professional UX designers to uncover some of the best collaboration platform options available for UX designers.
Remote Visual Brainstorming Tools
In an office, brainstorming often takes place in front of a giant whiteboard, where rough ideas can be written (or added via sticky notes) quickly, then clarified and refined as needed.
Remote visual brainstorming tools often mimic this environment, by maintaining the look and feel of pen and paper, with UIs that often look like sticky notes, whiteboards, or notebooks. They provide the added benefit of real-time team collaboration across time zones and superior digital organization.
MURAL is an online web based whiteboard that offers real-time collaboration within a drag and drop interface.
You can add sticky notes, shapes, text, visuals, and more to each board, and invite team members to view-only or edit-access as well. Once your team members join, you can chat with them, mark up your document with comments, or even conduct a voting session to help arrive at a quick and fair decision.
“We originally started using Mural as a team for group brainstorming and problem-solving. The collaboration features, like voting sessions and being able to "follow" the screen of facilitators, are really useful.
What I've been surprised by is that recently, Mural has replaced notepads and documents as my go-to tool for personal note-taking as well. It's so much easier to quickly get ideas down as sticky notes, to group concepts visually, and to form connections between different ideas. I've lately been storyboarding talks and meetings to more effectively plan productive group sessions, as the visual format makes it a lot clearer to understand the flow of a meeting. The mobile app is also better than you'd expect.” - Harish Venkatesan, Co-founder and CEO at Designlab
Price: MURAL's free plan limits you to 5 boards. Paid plans start at $9.99/month for unlimited boards and additional privacy controls.
FigJam is a free online collaboration tool that is built into the Figma interface. Add shapes, post it notes, text, stickers, stamps, and more as your work in real time with your team members. While you can certainly start with a blank whiteboard for your collaboration session, you can also search through the Figma community to find FigJam templates for brainstorming, user flows, and more.
Some of the more unique team collaboration features include a cursor chat (a speech bubble connected to your cursor) and a timer that allows you to ensure that your sessions are focused and productive.
“When it comes to collaborating with designers, FigJam is a favorite. Not only does it give designers a place to come up with ideas together, but it also gives non-designers a place to participate in the brainstorm. What's great is we can leverage our Figma design library in FigJam to create artifacts that are consistent and on-brand.” - Nicola Bolton, UI Developer at Designlab
Price: Free for 3 Figma files and 3 FigJams (and unlimited personal files). Paid plans start at $3/editor/month for unlimited FigJam files.
Whimsical is a straightforward, hassle-free tool that can be used for visual collaboration on projects like mapping out user flows, task flows, and rudimentary journey maps. It's a fantastic way for those who think in flowcharts to illustrate their ideas quickly and efficiently, without needing to make every single rectangle and arrow bespoke.
Whimsical includes templates for sitemaps, affinity diagrams, wireframes, mind maps, flowcharts, and more, which makes it easy to visualize the elements that you need to decide on for your own brainstorming or collaboration session.
“Whimsical is a straightforward, hassle-free tool that can be used for visual collaboration. I use it primarily for user flows, task flows, and rudimentary journey maps. It's a fantastic way for those who think in flowcharts to show people what they mean without needing to make every single rectangle and arrow bespoke. The ease with which boxes can be connected with arrows, and how you can add text in the middle of an arrow without it being a big deal, has always been a huge time saver for me. I use tools like Figma for big projects and Mural for massive amounts of collaboration, but Whimsical is just lightweight enough to convey simple information and suggestions in a succinct, crisp manner.” - Robbin Arcega, UX Curriculum Writer
Price: Free for up to 10,000 items per workspace. Paid plans start at $10/editor/month for unlimited items per workspace.
InVision is a well-known name in the product design world for its industry-standard prototyping tool for UX/UI designers. Its free online whiteboard tool, called Freehand, is quickly becoming a must-have tool for quick brainstorming sessions, commentary on design files, and real-time collaboration with your team and stakeholders.
On its own, the whiteboard tool gives you the opportunity to work side-by-side with remote teammates to ideate and iterate quickly. But it also syncs with your design files from Figma and Adobe XD, so that you can add commentary and markups.
“Invision Freehand is getting better with newly added features and I find that its constrained toolset helps me to keep my wires high-level/lo-fi” - Jeff Woods, UX Academy student (Scher cohort)
Price: Free for up to 3 Freehand boards. Paid plans start at $4/active user/month for unlimited Freehands.