Dropbox Paper: Sleek, Responsive Documents that Foster Creative Collaboration Across Teams
6.29.17 Business Solutions

Dropbox Paper: Sleek, Responsive Documents that Foster Creative Collaboration Across Teams

By: Jon McDonald

The Crunch: Collaboration between business departments and locations is not always easy — and is rarely described as intuitive. In creative industries, especially, that disconnection can lead to fragmented ideas and a disjointed workflow. But Dropbox Paper is trying to change that with its functional, versatile documents that both invite and foster creative collaboration. Businesses can use Dropbox Paper to seamlessly work together from different locations in real time to manage tasks, provide feedback, offer encouragement, and share ideas. Text, images, videos, and a plethora of other content can be dropped directly into a Paper document and instantly rendered to keep ideas flowing without the need for formatting. And Dropbox designed the Paper mobile app to be used anywhere inspiration strikes because the best ideas don’t always come while sitting in front of a computer.

As a growing brand with offices in San Francisco, Paris, and Shanghai, Les Lunes found that its communication was suffering from disconnection and lack of teamwork. The company designs comfortable and stylish clothing using fabric made from bamboo, and its creative and marketing ideas need to be communicated effectively to keep up with customer need.

That is when Anna Lecat, CEO and founder of Les Lunes, decided to turn to a new solution from Dropbox, a brand that the company had already entrusted with storing and sharing its digital files. That product was Dropbox Paper, a document collaboration tool that lets teams — especially creative ones — work with each other in real time by creating a central repository for consolidating complex visual ideas, managing tasks, and eliciting feedback.

The platform allowed Les Lunes to move past ineffective forms of communication and gave the company a tool to collaborate in its own creative way.

“Dropbox Paper is something we absolutely love,” Anna told us. “It is an important tool for us because we have offices all over the world, so we are in different time zones and places all the time. Without Paper, I don’t know how we would manage all of that.”

The team at Dropbox built Paper to boost teamwork for everyone through a simple — yet highly responsive — interface that, upon first glance, resembles a blank piece of paper. By design, the document is free of clutter and extraneous menus, becoming a blank canvas for ideas to be typed, pasted, or dragged and dropped.

“Dropbox is used by over 500 million people, many of whom are collaborating in shared folders, so we have had a lot of time to learn about how to enable collaboration,” said Alexander Embiricos, Product Manager at Dropbox. “We realized that to get to the next level of unlocking creativity, we needed to create our own document type that would be unique in many ways — which became Paper”

Dropbox Paper helps ideas become more connected through responsive documents, which is more than other mediums — like phone, email, or even regular mail — will allow. It all starts with a blank page, but the underlying technology allows teams to collaborate effectively no matter where inspiration takes the conversation.

A Creative Approach to Traditional Business Communication

Clear communication is key to a productive work environment, but teams are not always able to get together to hash out ideas in a conference room. When team members are in different locations or departments, working together can mean fragmented email chains and the occasional frantic phone call trying to figure out what something means.

Les Lunes found that communicating design ideas throughout the world over email and phone was less than effective. But with Dropbox Paper, designers are able to connect with salespeople, manufacturers, and marketers to share visions and make decisions quickly.

“Being able to communicate with images is much better because they are easier to understand, and now we have a tool that makes that communication multi-dimensional,” Anna said. “With emails, phone calls, and letters, we wouldn’t be able to revise anything right away. Now, all the misunderstandings that we had in the past can be avoided, which makes us a better team.”

Dropbox Paper approaches communication with the goal of making it expressive, inclusive, and intuitive, much like a conversation in the real world, but with the added benefit of vibrant visuals and a log of activity. The use of Dropbox Paper can also lead to some pretty dramatic shifts in workplace behavior — like decreasing the team’s reliance on email.

“Our employees are so happy not to have to email as much anymore,” Anna said. “Now, when we do send an email to someone on our team, we have to tell them to check it.”

Dropbox Paper is like opening a business conversation that has no boundaries of geography or time — and can be conveniently contributed to whenever inspiration strikes.

Desktop & Mobile App Seamlessly Facilitate Ideation from Anywhere

Creative thoughts don’t always happen when a person is sitting in front of an open document on his or her office computer. That is why Dropbox Paper is designed to facilitate the brainstorming process, not dictate when it happens.

Dropbox Paper is highly functional, but with sleek form woven into the platform’s fabric. As Alexander told us, it is “beautiful and lightweight” calling on the attributes of a blank piece of paper. Because of that form, the focus can turn to the other primary goals of its interface — consolidating the creative process and fostering productive collaboration.

“We provide a single place for brainstorming, content creation, tracking tasks, and sharing your work, so you don’t have to cobble together a bunch of tools to grow your ideas,” Alexander said. “We believe the best work isn’t done alone, and what is unique about us is that Dropbox Paper encourages teamwork by creating a safe, radically transparent, and optimistic environment for collaboration.”

Screenshot of Dropbox Paper document

With a Dropbox Paper document, teams can work together while keeping each other motivated and accountable.

It’s always clear which users have accessed the document and who is currently viewing it. The document has rich attribution of who is contributing content so that collaborators both get recognition and are accountable for the work they are doing. For safety, there is a powerful history functionality built in that’s able to revert a document back to an earlier version before certain changes were made, meaning mistakes are easy to undo.

Team members can also contribute to the conversation from anywhere with the Dropbox Paper mobile app — available on Android and iOS. If users have an inspired thought, they can log it directly in the document, or if something moves them visually, a photo can be taken and inserted directly from the app.

“You can use the Paper mobile app to upload images, brainstorm, and contribute,” Alexander said. “And content is automatically formatted, so you don’t have to waste time outside of inputting your ideas.”

Dropbox Paper engineered its mobile app to be just as powerful as its web version, especially since Paper is a tool that is meant to be used every day. And, even offline, users have access to their content at all times without having their flow interrupted during travel or other periods of low connectivity.

Integrations and Presentation Mode Make Paper Uniquely Versatile

Businesses work with a variety of different technologies and media files today, and Dropbox Paper didn’t want to isolate itself from those content types. Instead, the platform wanted to integrate as many as it could to be as versatile as possible.

The list of integrations is long, and you can drag-and-drop many different file types directly into a Dropbox Paper document and they will be instantly rendered and formatted. Examples include images, videos, PDFs, Pinterest posts, tweets, and SoundCloud links. Even Google Docs integrate with Dropbox Paper.

Screenshot of Dropbox Paper image integration

Dropbox Paper instantly renders many file types, including images, videos, PDFs, and a plethora of other media.

“Our philosophy at Dropbox is one of open collaboration across tools, so we want to support all of the products that people work with,” Alexander told us. “So you can even copy and paste a Google Doc into the platform and it renders beautifully.”

Dropbox Paper offers another feature that helps you review an entire document — as you would a Powerpoint slideshow — without the added effort of creating one yourself.

“It is such a waste of time making a slideshow when you have already spent time typing ideas and contributing to a document,” said Alexander. “So Paper has a Presentation Mode that goes through the entire document step-by-step, rendering it as slides.”

Dropbox Paper Makes Teamwork Easy, Transparent & Positive

Collaboration is essential in every industry, but when you’re in the business of creativity — like Les Lunes — it becomes a make-or-break proposition. When designers — from website to fashion — need to come together with their teams to push through a new product rollout, it can often be a disjointed web of emails, phone calls, and texts that leave team members out of the loop.

Dropbox Paper is designed to keep everyone on the same page, with ideas flowing through its simple interface and encouragement — like animations that can be inserted in comments to inspire positivity — that is ingrained in the platform.

“With Paper, we tried to bring optimism to work, so you don’t have to spend time saying, ‘How do I get what I’m feeling across to my team?’ ” Alexander said. “We really want to make that easy and seamless.”

It seems to be working, as Dropbox Paper has already become a big part of day-to-day operations for companies like Les Lunes.

As Anna told us, “Having Dropbox Paper is extremely important to our business model, I can’t imagine how we would communicate clearly without it.”