We love cool, eclectic stuff. However, surprisingly the one thing many visitors to the We Write Code office comment on isn’t our AWS DeepRacer (though super cool) or our fish-bowl of Up/Down tokens (yep, also super cool), but the ridiculous number of whiteboards we have. Though maybe something more associated with elementary school classrooms, whiteboards have long been a popular and powerful tool for the development world. With ease of use, mobility, and sheer size, whiteboards are an affordable, accessible option for any dev team.
Still not convinced? Check out how something as simple as a whiteboard can benefit your team, projects, and impress your clients.
The Power of Visuals
Ever had a four-hour meeting, everyone nods in agreement at the end, and as soon as you get back to your desk you realize no one has any idea what was decided in the meeting?
This is the most obvious reason whiteboarding is an effective tool for any drafting process — whiteboarding provides a concrete way to start out and stay on the same page. In the beginning it can be difficult to imagine the direction you’re going; by whiteboarding, you’re starting with a literal blank slate instead of just a mental one. Utilizing different colors, sizes, and order can help your team prioritize and solve problems before you’ve even hit the ground running.
Along with giving your team a general direction the project is heading, it makes everything more real, therefore more deserving of your time and attention. This is also a huge benefit when meeting with clients: having something to share in the first moments of planning is invaluable. A simple whiteboard sketch can be the difference between going with your team or someone else. By presenting a visual element, you’re bringing their project to life before their eyes, as well as involving them in the process early on, bringing trust and value to your relationship.
Speaking of attention, try to remember that not everyone is an audible learner. By providing a visual, hands-on way of sharing information to supplement the conversation, more members of your team will be able to stay focused, take in information, and be involved throughout the process.
To really engage the entire team, make sure each team member has their own marker, or better yet, small whiteboard. This gives creative power to everyone instead of having one whiteboard tsar doing all the doodling. And we get it — some teammates may be intimidated by picking up a dry erase marker. Some of us don’t consider ourselves “creative”, or “artists”. But thinking of whiteboarding as a tool instead of a masterpiece will help your team communicate abstract thoughts more effectively. (Ever had a really great idea, but didn’t have enough words or hand gestures to explain it? There’s a whiteboard for that.)
Still anxious? Check out Mike Rohde’s book The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking to up your confidence as a doodler, or check out master sketch artist Krisztina Szerovay‘s 100 Days of Visual Library Building challenge to get your creative juices flowing.
Slow and Steady
Time is valuable, and meetings can be one of the biggest time sucks in any workplace. However, meetings — especially foundational meetings that will help determine the direction of an entire project — aren’t something to be rushed. Taking the time to whiteboard, and whiteboard legibly, helps slow your pace down a bit. This allows whoever is whiteboarding to be thoughtful about the information they are sharing, as well as the team time to process and respond.
Also, taking the time to whiteboard creates a clear roadmap for everyone to refer back to post meeting, making it a valuable tool for the whole team and worth the time.
Have any whiteboarding tips or tricks? Shoot us an email or ping us on Twitter @wewritecode.