In last week’s post, we discussed dry erase board design. Design is important. When used correctly, it encourages, and even help inspire, effective collaboration. However, there are obviously practical considerations when choosing a dry erase board for your office.
As we all know, a good dry erase board must do two things. It must display writing clearly, and when that information is no longer needed, it must be erased completely. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on the usability of different dry erase boards.
With regard to readability, traditional white surfaces are best. Assuming that the markers are fresh, the colors really pop on a blank white surface. Clear surfaces, especially when they are used on free-standing boards, tend to lack contrast. The writing is obscured by what can be seen behind the glass. The problem of contrast can be solved by mounting the glass on the wall, but, if the color of the wall behind the glass isn’t white, contrast can still be subpar.
It’s also important to consider the audience when assessing surfaces on readability. If someone is joining your meeting remotely through video and you want them to be able to follow along with what you are writing on the board, then contrast is paramount.
When it comes to erasability, glass surfaces are a better choice. The smoother the surface, the more easily it is erased. A lot of whiteboards are just cheap melamine covered with a high gloss paint. While they feel smooth to the touch, they contain countless microscopic imperfections that hold color, defeating the purpose of dry erase boards. Unfortunately, while whiteboard painted walls have become trendy as of late, these generally perform poorly as well due to the texture of dry wall.
Glass surfaces, especially those made of tempered safety glass, are super smooth and scratch resistant. However, if you still prefer a whiteboard, boards made of aluminum or another metal and then treated with special high gloss paint perform nearly as well.
There are a couple of other minor usability considerations. First, certain metal whiteboards are magnetic as well, giving you other options for presenting information. Also, free-standing boards are portable, but wall-mounted boards are often higher quality since they can be heavier.
The best whiteboard for your workplace
In the end, if you’re focused on usability, I recommend a glass dry erase board mounted on a light, high contrasting color, like white or a light pastel. This provides you with a high degree of readability with the erasability of glass. Plus, it is cheaper than the traditional whiteboard. Or consider a combination of different boards. Use a free-standing, magnetic board that can be moved between rooms, while designating a particular conference room as the brainstorm room, complete with four full walls of whiteboard paint. You can save the high-end, edgier clear glass whiteboard for a room designed for presentations, where image is more important. This hybrid approach is a great way to get the most out of these highly effective low-tech tools.
Photo courtesy of Jenn Vargas