Miro vs Mural. Which online collaborative platform to choose
March 2020 / update June 2020, by Esther van der Storm
While searching for a good online brainstorm tool, I found three suitable candidates: Miro, Mural and Stormboard. Unfortunately the latter did not meet our requirements, because with that name it would have been a match made in heaven. Which left Miro and Mural. In March 2020, during the first weekend of the lockdown, my colleague Maartje and I created a free test accounts for both platforms. I focused on Miro, my colleague Maartje on Mural. We did a test run on both of them, so we would have a good understanding of what tool to go for.
June 2020: because both platforms are continuously developed – and we have gained a lot more experience ourselves – it is time for an update of this blog post. Since March, we have facilitated dozens of online workshops and training sessions using Miro. For a good comparison between both tools, I involved Jeroen Frumau, who has been an avid Mural user for years, for this blog post update. Thanks Jeroen, for sharing your experiences and giving us lots of feedback! Also read our other blog posts with tips for facilitating online sessions.
The core offering of Miro and Mural is very similar. Both are digital whiteboards, in which you can work with post-its, drawings and templates (such as empathy maps, customer journeys, business model canvas or mind maps). Or you can create your own template, for example with specific posters that you already use in your organisation.
The possibilities to collaborate online in both platforms are truly endless. You can ‘write down’ ideas on digital post-its, then cluster them, have people vote for the ideas they like best, run a timer to time box events, etcetera. And by zooming in and out on the whiteboard, it’s really easy to go from idea generation to idea elaboration. So no different tabs, everything is displayed in one canvas. If your participants have got lost, you can bring them to where you are on the canvas with just one press of a button, using the ‘follow me’ function.
Let me put it this way: a digital brainstorming world opened up for me!
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MIRO AND MURAL
So lots of things are the same. But there are also differences between Miro and Mural. An overview of the biggest differences we discovered:
- A great thing about Mural is that as a facilitator you have ‘superpowers’. You can use them to protect (‘lock’) elements on your board that cannot be moved by others. You can do that too in Miro, but in Miro the facilitator and participants have the same editing rights. Which is not always convenient, because in theory everyone can ‘unlock’ an element on your whiteboard by pressing and holding it for a long time. I therefore start each Miro session with a friendly request not to unlock, a ‘lock is a lock’. In Mural you can also limit the starting of a timer or voting session to facilitators, in Miro every participant can do this.
- Miro wins on visual appearance as far as I am concerned. Everything just looks just a little bit prettier. Personally, I find that the menu also works more intuitively. The board looks more tranquil due to the color palette used, Mural looks more retro. Mural’s menu structure is simpler with fewer buttons. This is nice for participants, because it makes it easier to grasp. This said, it is my experience that when you give a good instruction and allow people to practice with the tool in advance, even self-proclaimed digitally challenged people can work fine in both tools. Furthermore, both tools are very ease to use. In Mural it’s easier to organize your sticky notes, while Miro has a very handy bulk function which allows you to add several sticky notes to a board at once.
- The templates in Mural are more basic, while at Miro they are offered with facilitator tips. So for this your decision should be based on what you need. As an experienced facilitator I would be better off using Mural’s, with Miro I always have to remove a lot of text and instructions before I can use one of their pre-baked templates. However, this is not really that important to us, because we use our own STORMPUNT posters and material for almost all methods we use. We upload them into the Miro via Dropbox. On such a poster you can simply paste digital post-its. Also you can have the group fill out a digital form (did I mention that a whole new world opened up to me).
- Mural has been working with a user community for years, sharing good examples and templates. Miro has only recently started with this and the available information is much more limited. For both of them it is highly recommended to browse through their online community site, as you will get lots of inspiration for your online workshops and a good overview of the possibilities of the platform. The Mural templates can be found here, the Miro templates here.
- In Miro you can make your online whiteboard almost infinitely large. That’s great, because it allows you to put a lot of information on it. With STORMPUNT, for example, we support innovation projects for which we organize several sessions with each team. We use one Miro board per team, and add exercises with every session. That works very well! In Mural, the available canvas space is much more limited, which forces people to switch between boards – sometimes in the same session. Mural is currently working on enlarging the board space, so this will be a great feature for the future!
- I have to revise my earlier opinion regarding the voting method of Mural, which wins over Miro’s. The principle is the same for both: as facilitator, you decide how many ideas can be chosen (for example, 5 ideas out of a total of 50). As a participant, you will then get five votes. In both platforms you vote by clicking on one of the elements on the board, which is very simple. Unfortunately, in Miro you cannot see the progress people are making when voting. So it is very well possible that everyone is finished voting and that you, as a facilitator, are all still waiting for the timer to run out. As a workaround I let people mute themselves when they are ready, but this is not ideal. Mural makes this more convenient: as facilitator you can see who is still voting and afterwards the results do not appear separately (as with Miro) but on the post-its themselves. A disadvantage in Mural is that you cannot limit what participants can vote for. This is possible in Miro, where you can select the voting area very selectively and you can even configure that only sticky notes can be selected for voting.
- Miro has a video chat feature. Mural does not. The video chat feature of Mirto is useful when working with a small group, as you then do not need to use a separate video chat program. However, if you want to have people elaborate in subgroups, you cannot do that with the video feature in Miro offers. Zoom is a good alternative, allowing you to have people work in breakout rooms. As a facilitator, I hardly ever use Miro’s video chat feature because of its limited functionality. Miro is currently working on an integration with Zoom in Miro, which would be really useful!
- Miro’s performance is much better than Mural’s. I have never experienced technical hick-ups in Miro. Unfortunately this is different with Mural: the boards often load quite slowly, especially when you are working with a lot of people and/or large images. Mural is working very hard to improve their performance. The first tests by people in my network are very promising. But until this is rolled out, there is a good chance that in Mural you will be looking at a loader from time to time.
- Both platforms can be integrated with other programs such as Dropbox, Slack, Teams or Office. Miro offers a bit more ready to use integrations than Mural, including also plugins for Unsplash or Google Images. Not a decisive factor, but sometimes it just works a bit faster.
- Marketing-wise, Mural is making a smart move by temporarily giving away free 90-day accounts. As a self-employed consultant, you can even use Mural for free indefinitely (and give your customers full access to your boards). With Miro you can start for free, but as soon as you want to collaborate, or want to create more than three boards, you will have to upgrade to a paid license. So, if you do not plan to use a platform like this very often or not for a very long period of time, I would strongly consider Mural.
An overview of the main pros and cons of both tools:
We have been using Miro at STORMPUNT since the beginning of the lockdown. Our main considerations were the ease of use for both facilitator and participant. And to be honest, what also played a big role in our initial decision making wasthe fact that post-its in Miro look so much better than the ones in Mural. In hindsight, especially given Mural’s performance issues, I am really glad that we choose Miro over Mural.
Considering to start working with a collaborative platform in the near future? Test both platforms for yourself to experience what you prefer. Hope our blogs help you in the search for new ways to creatively work together online.