Whiteboards GitHub Integration: Enhanced Features and a Two-way GitHub Sync

Whiteboarding tools are growing in popularity, they’re springing up like mushrooms after a rainy day. Some of them are quite unique because they’re tailored to specific audiences and groups. 

Our whiteboarding solution fits right in this picture. We’re here to support Agile and Product teams and we have a big announcement to share. We’ve just released an enhanced integration with GitHub! 

Not sure what exactly we have in store for you? Read our blog post and watch the interview with two of our Full Stack Software Engineers, Jakub Jagoda and Juliusz Kusiak. 

We’ll talk about the challenges our development team met on the way, their favorite Whiteboards GitHub integration features, and some surprising insights from the user research. 

Hold on tight, here we go! 

How is the new GitHub integration different from the previous version?

GitHub integration was available in Whiteboards before the new release, however, this time the development team went much deeper into the details and enabled the two-way GitHub sync.

Previous integration let the users connect the GitHub account and import GitHub issues, however, there was no possibility to introduce changes to the tickets and update them in GitHub from Whiteboards. This has now changed! 

With the enhanced GitHub integration, you’re able to drag the GitHub issues and pull requests onto your virtual board and do the magic to the tickets: change their status, re-open, close, and reassign them, and it all syncs with GitHub! You don’t have to leave the Whiteboards app. Sounds pretty cool, right?

Our developers improved the overall UX of the GitHub integration and made it easier for you to bring issues and pull requests onto your canvas and manage them straight on the board. They’ve extended the functionality by adding new features to an existing integration instead of building the whole thing from scratch.

Favorite Whiteboards GitHub integration features (according to our developers)

Copy-paste function

Who doesn’t love to copy-paste? Copy-paste is probably the best invention since sliced bread. How does it work with Whiteboards GitHub integration?

Simply copy the URL of your GitHub issue, and paste it onto your board in Whiteboards. Boom. It creates the GitHub card representing that issue! 

The card is generated automagically (yes, we’ve just invented that word), and the magic part refers to how that feature actually works. It’s simple, convenient, and a bit unexpected, which makes the whole GitHub integration unique and seamless.

Two-way GitHub sync

Previous GitHub integration on Whiteboards was only one-way. You could display all the GitHub items but you weren’t able to manage them in the Whiteboards app.

With two-way GitHub sync, you’re now able to turn sticky notes into GitHub issues with just two clicks, without leaving Whiteboards. You can manage your GitHub work items straight on the virtual board, modify them, get a bigger picture, and sync them with GitHub.

It gets even better, if you update your work items in GitHub, the change will be also synced with Whiteboards and the GitHub cards will get updated once you click the refresh button.

This enhanced two-way GitHub integration empowers the users to perform many things on Whiteboards, without constantly switching between the apps.

Challenges Whiteboards developers met when developing the enhanced GitHub integration

It goes without saying that developing software is challenging and there are plenty of unknowns along the way. We need to inspect and adapt to continuously improve and provide value to the end user, and most of the time, we don’t have all of the answers right from the start.

Our developers met some challenges when working on the enhanced GitHub integration, not necessarily technical ones. Juliusz and Jakub talk about user experience challenges they encountered. They spent a considerable amount of time discussing how to best overcome the limitation of GitHub API from the user experience perspective. 

GitHub API is fine to work with, however, it was challenging to decide how to present the user with the choice between GitHub issues and pull requests they can add to their board. In GitHub, you need to specifically indicate if you’re searching for an issue or a pull request. Our development team tested different options and finally decided on a sweet spot so that the user understands how to filter between pull requests and issues, and sort them as needed.

User experience-related challenge was the hardest to solve when developing the deeper GitHub integration but the journey doesn’t stop there. Within the next months, our development team is going to make sure that user experience improves based on the gathered feedback and learnings from the initial usage.

Surprising insights from the user research

One of the challenges our team faced was not being entirely sure how the users leverage GitHub. They understood the shallow use of hosting the codebase on the platform, however, there was not enough understanding behind why some of the users work with GitHub issues, and other times they prefer to log tickets in Jira. The team started with user research and interviews to get to the bottom of it and understand how the users would like to use the GitHub integration on Whiteboards.

What was surprising is that our development team was convinced that most of the GitHub users would like to work with GitHub issues. However, after initial user research, the team found out that most of the users would like to use the integration for pull requests because they tend to use separate tracking tools for issues.

The development team learned that it mattered who they were speaking to. Some roles would benefit more from the integration of GitHub issues, like product managers, and product owners, whereas other roles, namely developers, would mostly work with pull requests. This was a real insight and key information that helped to steer the development process in the right direction.

As a platform, GitHub is mostly developer-centered. It might be a bit of a simplification but the team definitely wanted to keep developers in mind when working on the GitHub integration and create something that would help with their daily work. 

The enhanced integration will benefit developers and product teams alike, however, our team wanted to address the difficulties developers might face with other tools that don’t offer similar solutions. 

How does the GitHub integration enhance the overall UX of Whiteboards?

Whiteboards GitHub integration can benefit teams of different sizes and setups by amplifying the collaboration aspect of the product development process. 

If your team works on developing software products, GitHub integration can enhance the overall UX of the whiteboarding tool. It brings everyone on the same board, where the whole team is looking at the same thing and can manage different tickets straight on the virtual canvas.

The Whiteboards app already has a deep two-way Jira integration, but now you can use it side by side with GitHub. Discuss work items with the team, modify them, complete them, or reassign them without the need to leave the Whiteboards app.

No one likes multitasking and working with a multitude of tools. By deepening the GitHub integration on Whiteboards, we’re helping the Product and Agile teams to focus on what matters most in product development: collaboration, getting on the same page, looking at the bigger picture, and working towards the same goal.

When teams meet on the virtual board, they can share their ideas, provide feedback, decide to change course, and be much more productive, as they don’t need to waste time on transferring the tickets manually into respective tools (GitHub or Jira). Everything can happen on Whiteboards.

Future plans for improving the Whiteboards integration with GitHub

The next step for improving the Whiteboards GitHub integration will be listening to the users and gathering feedback. We will also analyze how they use the tool in order to boost the performance of these new features.

When you develop software, you’ll always find areas that can be improved, and the team will learn how to best optimize the user experience so that the performance is much more stable. 

Customer feedback will feed into future product development and help to create deeper integration, similar to what we’ve already done with Jira. Further improvements will give more freedom and will empower the users to collaborate even more seamlessly together.

If you have any feedback regarding the GitHub integration, feel free to submit your comments via the problems or suggestions pop-up that you can find on the right-hand-side panel in the Whiteboards app. Just click on the megaphone icon and submit your ideas for improvement.

We really value your feedback and we read every comment!

Future plans for improving the Whiteboards integration with GitHub

Test the Whiteboards GitHub integration with your team

You can test our GitHub integration straight on Whiteboards. Go to https://app.whiteboards.io/ , create an account for your team, and import GitHub issues or pull requests onto your virtual board. Manage the GitHub work items on Whiteboards and let us know if you have any comments! Check out our Help Center guide for more details.

Before you go, see how easy it is to manage your GitHub issues and pull requests in our app. Give it a go!