I recently came across this article from EightShapes detailing how they are sharing sketches in a remote environment. Lincoln Loop is entirely remote and we’ve run into the same problem, but I’ll admit we haven’t been as MacGyver about solving it. I applaud EightShapes for their resourcefulness! Mounting a camera phone to a stick and taking pictures is hardcore. Apparently this concept worked well enough for them and they went with an official product – an IPEVO Point 2 View camera.

Our early attempts at solving this problem were about as clumsy as EightShape’s. At one point sketching became the step where you thought through the idea on your own. When satisfied, you’d port the ideas to a wireframe for discussion. We settled on Google Draw because its limited drawing capabilities were akin to the crudeness of our sketches and we could use it to collaborate in real-time. We quickly realized that the speed of transferring an idea to a web-based drawing tool was too slow, even if we started in that tool. It was simply too difficult to keep up with all of the feedback and ideas in a discussion with a mouse and keyboard.

We needed something better. After some heavy searching and debate we found our answer.

Our Solution

If you’re willing to give up the feel of pen and paper you can take the approach we’ve implemented:

  1. Buy an iPad (you may even have one!)
  2. Buy a good stylus
  3. Buy the SyncPad app

SyncPad is an iOS app that lets you share sketches with teammates in real-time. Only one person may control the whiteboard, but there is nothing stopping each collaborator from having their own. Pair this with Skype and you can draw and talk through your ideas on a single device. Importing and exporting are easy and as you’d expect SyncPad integrates with DropBox. SyncPad’s drawing tools are rudimentary but so are most sketches. These tools haven’t stopped me from getting my point across to clients and teammates alike.

There are other obvious benefits to this approach. We can sketch and collaborate on the go. The iPad also doubles as a testing device, something we use more and more as we’ve explored responsive design. Lastly, if we need to punch up a design we can pull it into more sophisticated editing applications (we use SketchPad Pro) on the iPad without too much trouble.

We’re curious to see how other folks have solved this problem.

  • If you’re a designer or a developer hashing out some ideas, what tools are you using to collaborate with remote clients?
  • What pitfalls have you encountered?
  • If you’re already using SyncPad, what would you like to see out of it?