October 24, 2019

Better than a UX stock photo: Mural review

Better than a UX stock photo: Mural review

This post originally appeared in the October 24, 2019 issue of The Content Technologist with the email subject line "Farm-to-table website design" and an essay on types of website navigation menus.

Every stock photo depicting “UX” is a whiteboard crammed with Post-Its. Personally, I avoid Post-It working sessions unless absolutely necessary.

  • First off, bigger offices always order the off-brand that doesn’t stick nearly as well (I mean, come on Minnesotans: shop local).
  • Then you can’t read what’s actually on the post-it unless you squint.
  • Very few people show up truly prepared. The ideas in an in-person brainstorming session… aren’t always the best. (“It’s brainstorming! There are no wrong answers!” hahahahaha no there are no wrong answers but there are certainly poor uses of time)
  • Someone important always sits out.
  • Someone else has to transcribe the Post-Its into a document and restickable squares of paper are never as exciting when they’re in a spreadsheet… even a color-coded one.

The function of a Post-It for iterative design is great: it’s an idea you don’t have to commit to! And you can move it around into whatever formation you want… unless it’s the off-brand and you can only move it once.

Romy says, "I invented post-its" [gif]

Today’s tool, Mural, is Post-Its for digital design, which, like sticky notes and all other great inventions, seems completely unnecessary until you use it.

Mural at a glance

I never thought that I would just straight-up pay $12/month for digital sticky notes, but Mural has changed all that. Take my (business’s) money: it is really really great to just move different colored squares and rectangles with ideas on them on a “whiteboard.”

This idea is not groundbreaking. But it works. And it’s fun.

What’s even better: users can host fully online collaboration and whiteboard sessions with Mural. Like, y’all can be in your remote workspaces and be in the same virtual UX stock photo, moving post-its around every time someone has a new idea.

Some rad features:

  • vote on designs at the end of your virtual collaboration session
  • set a timer so people can work on their own over time
  • add external images (like a mood board) and links to other designs
  • incorporate with Slack, Google Calendar and other common collaboration tools
  • lock content you don’t want anyone else to move

You have to love a tool that lists all of its updates very cleanly and clearly on its website. It’s like they know how to UX or something!

I have not yet hosted a Mural collaboration session. I did share a few Mural IA iterations with a client team, which enables them to play around with the fundamental ideas. And I will facilitate with Mural very soon.

Romy says, "Do you have some sort of business woman's special?" [gif]

I would recommend Mural for UX facilitators and ideators, especially if you’re accommodating any remote workers. In this focus group of one, I recommend Mural for me.


UX | project management | information architecture


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