Using a Visual Collaboration Tool for Visual Documentation

Updated on: 27 October 2023 | 11 min read
Link Copied!

As the old adage goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words”; using images, diagrams, and other visual aids to convey complex information is becoming an essential tool for effective communication and knowledge sharing. A strong visual presentation can make all the difference in communicating, understanding, and retention of information, and collaboration in a variety of fields, from project management to education and beyond.

In this blog, let’s explore how a synergy of visual documentation and collaboration tools can help us convey information more efficiently, and effectively:

Why is Visual Documentation a Game Changer?

Visual documentation allows everyone to see the big picture of what’s being documented instantly. Then, expanding into areas that are easy to understand and making it easily readable. The power of visual documentation cannot be denied, but creating and maintaining it can be time-consuming and challenging. As a result, visual collaboration tools play a crucial role in streamlining the process, fostering collaboration, and transforming the way we work with visual content.

Using a Visual Collaboration Tool to Transform Visual Documentation

Visual documentation is the process of illustrating or describing information through illustrations and diagrams rather than just using words. The purpose of this method is to make information easier to understand and remember. Eg: Creating diagrams, visual maps, charts, or pictures in order to illustrate how a process works, how data is related, or even to illustrate a story. Visual documentation is a powerful tool for education, business, and other areas where clear communication is essential. The use of visual documentation enhances people’s ability to identify and recall information quickly, as well as allows complex ideas to be shared more efficiently. Furthermore, visual documentation can assist individuals in thinking critically and acquiring a deeper understanding of topics.

A variety of frameworks and templates available in visual collaboration tools provide a foundation for creating visual documentation and help streamline the creation process. Here are some common frameworks and templates that can be used in visual documentation:

  1. Flowcharts are helpful in understanding the relationships between different components of an organization and can help identify areas for improvement. Additionally, they can help to identify potential bottlenecks in processes.
  2. Mind map templates provide an effective way to organize and visualize complex ideas and concepts. They help to break down complex topics into smaller, more manageable components, making them easier to understand and remember.
  3. Gantt charts provide a visual representation of a schedule, which helps to identify potential issues early on in the project. They also provide a timeline of the project, which helps to keep everyone on the same page and ensures that all tasks are completed on time.
  4. Process Maps provide an organized way of capturing ideas, discussing them, and evaluating them. They also help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that everyone is contributing to the discussion in a fair and equitable way
  5. SWOT analysis helps to identify potential areas of improvement, capitalize on existing strengths, and plan for any potential risks. It also helps to identify potential opportunities that may take time to be obvious.
  6. Venn diagrams are a useful way to visualize complex relationships between sets and groups. They allow users to quickly compare similarities and differences between two sets, and identify which elements are contained in both sets.
  7. Org Charts help to identify which roles are responsible for which tasks, and who is responsible for reporting to whom. They also help to identify any potential areas of conflict and provide clarity around roles and responsibilities.
  8. Storyboard templates provide a framework for organizing the story into panels, which can be used to create the comic or animation, as well as provide a structure for the dialogue and visuals.
  9. Marketing and Sales templates allow users to quickly create outlines and visuals for their marketing plans, sales funnels, and customer journey mapping, helping them to visualize their strategies and make data-driven decisions.
  10. Strategy maps are a useful tool for visualizing the strategy of the organization and helping to identify any gaps or weaknesses. It allows stakeholders to assess the organization’s progress and identify areas of improvement.
  11. Education templates provide an organized structure to help educators plan, organize, and structure their lessons. They also provide guidance on how to create activities that engage learners and help them learn effectively.
  12. Meeting and Collaboration templates provide a framework for capturing the ideas, opinions, and feedback of everyone involved in the meeting or workshop. They also help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that all participants have an equal voice.

In addition to the frameworks mentioned earlier, you can use Shape Libraries in the visual collaboration tools to create customized visuals. Shape libraries provide users with a collection of pre-built shapes, icons, and other elements. These shape libraries enable them to create visual representations or informative content quickly and easily. It is especially useful for users who need to create complex visual representations, such as diagrams, flowcharts, and mind maps. Shape libraries can also provide users with the benefit of maintaining consistency across their visuals. Users can create a cohesive and professional appearance by using the same elements and shapes throughout their content. A common visual language is particularly important for teams that collaborate on projects.

Comparing Features of Visual Collaboration Tools

Documentation FormatVisuals and ability to add notes to a board level.Visual onlyVisual onlyVisuals and ability to add notes and attachments to an item on the canvas.
Depth of DetailAverageAverageAverageHigh
Communication StyleReal-time collaboration, chat, video conferencingReal-time collaboration, chat, video conferencingFocused on diagram creation and less suitable for freeform brainstorming or ideation.Real-time collaboration on the canvas and Shape Notes
User Engagement: Ability to use interactive elementsHigh.
Use of sticky notes, voting, and more
Use of sticky notes, voting, and more
Use of interactive diagrams and collaborative workspaces
Able to use collaborative features like comments and spotlight
Complexity Handling: Supports complex diagrams, diagrams, and visual data with various templatesHighAverageAverage - HighHigh
Accessibility: Offers accessibility features like alt text and keyboard navigationYesYesYesYes
Learning CurveModerate to SteepModerate to SteepEasy to ModerateEasy to Moderate
Retains information with visuals and supports long-term collaborationHighAverageLowHigh

Essential Tools for Visual Documentation: Sticky Notes and Shape Notes

Shape Notes and Sticky Notes are two essential tools in any visual collaboration platform that can help you add context, explanations, feedback, and ideas to your visual documentation. However, in Creately, you can collaboratively work on both Sticky Notes and Shape Notes. While you can track and follow a collaborator as they edit the content on a Sticky Note on the canvas, you can also comment and start a discussion thread to it instantly. As you add content and attachments to a shape via Shape Notes, the team can see your changes instantly and contribute to them as well.

Using Sticky Notes

Sticky Notes are digital counterparts to physical sticky notes, They are versatile tools, ideal for capturing ideas, notes, and explanations in a concise and easily digestible format.

  • Idea Generation: During brainstorming sessions, Sticky Notes are your allies. Use them to collect and refine ideas, suggestions, and feedback in the process of visual documentation. They offer the flexibility to move and rearrange notes as needed, facilitating the organization of your thoughts.
  • Annotations and Explanations: Sticky Notes also serve as effective tools for providing annotations, explanations, or comments on different aspects of your visual documentation. For instance, in a flowchart or diagram, you can attach sticky notes to specific shapes, elucidating their purpose and function.
  • Collaboration and Feedback: Sticky Notes supports real-time collaboration. Multiple team members can simultaneously contribute to the same board, streamlining the process of gathering feedback, suggestions, and additional information during the review and revision stages.
  • Structuring Information: Sticky Notes can be grouped and clustered to structure your information, beneficial for categorizing content or outlining your visual documentation. On Creately, you can use auto-layout options to arrange the sticky notes into a grid, tree, and more.
  • Interactivity and Adaptability: Sticky Notes offer high adaptability. They can be easily moved, resized, and color-coded to suit your preferences, allowing you to experiment with content arrangement on the board.

Using Shape Notes

In contrast, Shape Notes provide a more structured approach to adding notes to your diagrams and shapes, contributing to a clear and organized presentation of information within your visual documentation.

  • Content Organization: Shape Notes are your solution to maintaining a visually cohesive and organized approach. These notes can be attached directly to the elements they relate to, ensuring visual association with specific items.
  • Collaboration and Feedback: Shape Notes promote collaboration by enabling team members to add structured notes to specific elements on the board. This ensures that feedback and comments are directly tied to relevant parts of the visual documentation, reducing confusion.
  • Structuring Information: Shape Notes offer a structured way to associate content with specific shapes, ensuring information is presented in a clear and organized manner. This feature is particularly valuable in flowcharts, diagrams, or mind maps.
  • Interactivity and Adaptability: Shape Notes provide a consistent and structured approach to adding information to your visual documentation. They can be customized to match the visual style of your diagrams and shapes, enhancing your overall aesthetic.

Which Feature Should You Use?

Sticky Notes are ideal for brainstorming sessions, adding annotations to visual elements in your documentation, and collaborating with others on visual documentation in real time.

Shape Notes are ideal for adding detailed explanations or annotations to specific elements in your visual documentation. They are also an excellent choice for collaborating with others on visual documentation, as they allow team members to add structured notes to specific elements on the board.

You can also use both Sticky Notes and Shape Notes together to create comprehensive and informative visual documentation. For example, you could use sticky notes to brainstorm ideas and then use shape notes to add detailed explanations or annotations to those ideas.

Importance of Using a Visual Collaboration Tool for Visual Documentation

Using a visual collaboration tool for visual documentation is vital because it is the easiest way, and improves communication, engagement, collaboration, and productivity. It’s a versatile asset that benefits teams in various industries, and in today’s digitally connected world, it’s crucial for effective collaboration and information sharing documentation:

  • Improved communication and collaboration: Visual collaboration tools make it easy for team members to collaborate on and share visual documentation. This can help to improve communication and understanding and lead to more accurate and up-to-date documentation.
  • Increased engagement and retention: Visual documentation is more engaging and easier to retain than traditional text-based documentation.
  • Reduced complexity: Visual collaboration tools can help to reduce the complexity of complex information by making it easier to visualize and understand. This can be especially helpful for technical documentation.
  • Improved accessibility: Visual documentation is more accessible to people with different learning styles and abilities. This is because visual content can be understood without having to read or write text.
  • Enhanced creativity and innovation: Visual collaboration tools can help foster creativity and innovation by making it easy for team members to share and discuss ideas visually. This can lead to the development of more innovative and effective visual documentation solutions.

In addition to these benefits, visual collaboration tools can also help to improve the overall quality of visual documentation by:

  • Providing a central repository for all visual content: Quickly access and share visual content, as well as search the entire repository for content that is relevant to the task at hand. It also eliminates the need to store and manage visual content in multiple places, making it easier to keep track of.
  • Enabling version control: Ensures updates and any changes to documents can be easily tracked. It also helps to ensure that visual documentation is consistent and up-to-date
  • Facilitating feedback and review: Provides a platform for team members to quickly and easily provide feedback and annotations on each other’s work.
  • Supporting real-time collaboration: Eliminates the need for team members to send emails back and forth with edits or changes, and instead allows them to work on the same document at the same time. This allows for more efficient collaboration and faster completion of tasks.

When you are using a platform like Creately which combines visuals with full-fledged documentation, the need for a wiki or documentation tool is completely replaced as you can now have the best of both visualization and documentation. For more information, read Enhancing Technical Communication: The Power of Integrating Visual Documentation.

Join over thousands of organizations that use Creately to brainstorm, plan, analyze, and execute their projects successfully.

Get started here


author image
Paramee Samarathunga Technical Writer

Paramee is a technical writer who thrives in bridging the gap between complex technical subjects and accessible, engaging prose. Outside of her professional pursuits, she finds solace in the exploration of oceans and jungles.

View all posts by Paramee Samarathunga →