Collaborate On Concepts, Anywhere, With ConceptBoard

Sharing feedback is one of the most important aspects of teamwork. It’s what gets (and keeps) everyone on the same page and helps to ensure everyone is working together properly towards a common goal. This is easily achieved in face-to-face meetings… But it’s 2011, so how does one get comprehensive, coherent and usable feedback via the web?

The team behind ConceptBoard seems to have an answer: their web app provides a space to display and discuss files and ideas and get everyone’s points of view into focus. Is this the meeting-killer miracle you’ve been waiting for?

Overview

ConceptBoard describes itself as a realtime project software for brainstorming, feedback, document review and straightforward live meetings. The interface provides you with a space to do these things easily. It’s a fresh take on the whiteboard app concept and helps you present your ideas and get reactions from your entire team in a whole new way.

The ConceptBoard interface

The ConceptBoard interface

This would be very useful for those who need to explain documents and visuals to clients and team members – mostly graphic designers and web/software developers, given the nature of the app’s UI. Think of ConceptBoard as a virtual conference table where you can spread out mockups, flowcharts, diagrams, charts and graphs to show to a group. You can take everyone through the files you’ve uploaded by leading a presentation and focusing on a document, adding comments, drawing on and highlighting parts of files. Other team members can then add their own comments, ask questions and make suggestions that everyone can see and respond to.

Getting started

ConceptBoard has free and paid plans, the latter including unlimited boards (instead of 25 in the free plan), SSL encryption, company branding and messaging and co-worker management. Sign-up is easy and you can use your Facebook, Twitter or Google accounts to do this too. Once logged in, you’re greeting by a dashboard-like page that allows you to quickly create a new board to get started and view your previously created boards.

Creating a new board

Creating a new board

Get cracking by naming your first board and invite a participant if you’d like. You’ll be greeted by the ConceptBoard workspace (an empty area for your input and files, and a toolbar) while your invitee gets an email with a link to join the board. It’s worth noting that participants can login without having to sign up for the service – a great little touch. In the workspace, you can upload files, take screenshots and add shapes, text boxes and titles. Let’s see how this all works.

ConceptBoard's guest login is simple and fuss-free

ConceptBoard's guest login is simple and fuss-free

Using ConceptBoard

I imagine that most users would use ConceptBoard to discuss files that they’ve already created. You can drag and drop files into ConceptBoard (the app supports images, Word and rich/plain text documents, PDFs, Powerpoint presentations, spreadsheets etc.). Some of the more complex proprietary formats like PPTX and XLSX degrade a bit and lose a bit of formatting when placed on your board but are still usable. You can manipulate individual pages of documents by moving or deleting them. Once you’ve added some files (say, a few graphic elements of a website you’re designing) you can add text and draw shapes using tools or freehand to highlight certain parts and add comments to them.

Live presentation with files, comments and text

Live presentation with files, comments and text

ConceptBoard works a lot like a desktop program – you can use hold Space and click to drag the workspace, hold the left mouse button and draw a box to select multiple items, use the Delete key to remove items and scroll with the mouse wheel while hovering over the zoom option to zoom in or out, and right-click on items to view available actions. You can lead a presentation by clicking the button at top right – this causes all participants’ viewports and cursors to follow yours so they see specifically what you show them in real-time. You can use the freehand tool effectively when you’re accessing ConceptBoard’s iPad app or if you’ve a tablet for input – otherwise it’s best to stick to text boxes for descriptions, headlines to designate sections on your board and comments to draw attention to parts that need changes or specific feedback. Comments are like text boxes but come with an arrow to point at an element you’re talking about, as well as indicators for levels of priority on that task. Other users have access to the same tools and can respond with files, sketches, comments or questions for immediate responses from team members.

Is ConceptBoard right for you?

The short answer is: it depends on how you work. As a web development consultant, I’ve often used screen-sharing software to show clients web pages while chatting with them on a conference speakerphone or a VoIP app like Skype. ConceptBoard is a great replacement for the screen-sharing aspect of our communication as it provides us with a flexible, easy-to-use interface for presentation and comments. But I’d like to do away with the additional tools required to talk or chat with my meeting participants – ConceptBoard already allows participants to login without signing up and they could really sweeten the deal by adding text and voice chat features.

ConceptBoard is great for discussing design mockups, wireframes, charts and plans but may not the best solution for lengthy documents with many pages as you’d have to zoom/scroll around a lot and it’d be hard to keep things tidy. I’d rather send in comments using Microsoft Word as my recipient can see the comments inline and tackle them without missing any out.

ConceptBoard has lots of other neat features, such as auto-save, a Java applet to take screenshots and add them to your workspace, and iPad support. You can also print/export your boards; premium users can download the original versions of files used in a board too. However, given the design of the user interface it seems like it’d be most useful to those who have to explain designs, charts and graphic elements. It’d be great to see the feature set improved with additional tools like text/voice chat, checklists and diagram wizards (to create pie charts and such). I recommend you give it a try – there’s a free plan as well as a free 2-week trial of the premium version so you can see if it actually can cut down your commutes to meetings in the real world.


Summary

Conceptboard is a realtime project software for brainstorming, feedback, document review and straightforward live meetings.

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  • Hello Abhimanyu,

    thanks for the detailed review! We are working also on the feature set and will take into account your ideas!

    Best regards,
    Marga (Conceptboard)

    • Thanks Marga! It was a real pleasure reviewing your app. Can’t wait to see more features in it. All the best!

  • Pretty cool looking application, ready to head over and take a tour :)