The New Canva 🎨
A flurry of new features add up to its biggest update in a decade
You can now use Canva to make a website, brainstorm on a digital whiteboard, or collaborate on documents. The world’s most popular free design tool this week relaunched itself as a one-stop shop for anything you make online. Read on for a summary of the most useful new features and some limitations.
Canva has long been a simple, free alternative to Photoshop for millions of people who don’t need complex, expensive software to make quick visuals for social media. Now it aims to provide a similar alternative to those who don’t want to mess with Squarespace, Wix or other site builders.
To explore the new site builder, I adapted this simple pet store demo website from a template.
Easy. If you’re already used to Canva’s interface, it’s easy to create a free site. Integrate any previous Canva designs and/or other images, videos, or graphics.
Domains. When you create a free Canva site the default domain is yoursitename.my.site, but you can also buy a new domain through Canva.
Password-protected. You can make your site password-protected and you can hide it from Google search.
Responsive. Canva sites are responsive, so they’ll adapt automatically to whatever device someone is using to view them.
Limitations and alternatives
One-size-fits-all design drawer. The design elements most readily available within Canva’s side drawers aren’t necessarily the ones most useful for building a site. Because Canva’s design drawers are consistent no matter what you’re creating, they don’t always serve the particular needs of the moment.
Benefits of specialization. Services focused exclusively on helping people design sites, like Tilda.cc, one of the Web’s best-kept secrets, have specialty elements Canva so far lacks. These include slick navigation menus, product description boxes, image galleries and elements that make a site stand out.
Quick builder alternatives. I wrote recently about several services, like linktr.ee, for making 10-minute landing pages.
Bottom line. If you’re putting together a quick site and you want something easy, fast and free, Canva is a nice option. Otherwise, stick w/ a full site builder.
Try out this shared whiteboard I made to test out Canva brainstorming.
Good for digital Post-Its. You can use it for simple Post-It brainstorming.
Plenty of templates. You can use more elaborate templates to co-design a Lean Canvas, set up a 2x2 matrix analysis, or lead a retro discussion.
Unique presentation + whiteboard combo. Insert a whiteboard inside a Canva slide deck to make a presentation interactive. Alternate between showing slides and inviting participants to add ideas or annotate your images.
Works with or without collaborators. I like using it independently for mind maps and to collect ideas. It’s also handy for meetings or workshops.
Strong competitors. Lots of other tools enable similar creative brainstorming. The best of these include Miro, Mural and Figjam. A simpler free alternative is Google’s Jamboard, though it doesn’t have the infinite canvas these others have. Apple’s preparing to launch its own free whiteboard tool, Freeform. Read my earlier post on whiteboards as a brainstorming toolkit to dig deeper.
Fans of Miro, Mural or Figjam might miss capabilities those pro whiteboards have. Figjam integrates neatly into Figma; Mural has great guides for those new to whiteboarding; and Miro has a broad set of pro templates for everything from project management to site design.
Canva Docs is in beta — you can join the waitlist here. I’ll follow-up on it when I’ve tested all the features.
The most interesting new features noted in Canva’s launch: a “Docs to Decks” feature to convert any doc into a presentation, and the ability to embed videos, slides and the 100 million visuals included in Canva’s library.
Canva acquired Flourish, one of the best data visualization tools, earlier this year. That should help integrate pro charts into docs.
Here’s my previous post on Canva’s cool new features, including updates to its presentation tools.
How do you use Canva? What do you like most/least about it? Leave a comment 👇
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Thanks Jeremy, really helpful explanation of the new features! I'm constantly impressed with the way Canva adds new things to make their subscription worth every penny. I'll have to check out the website builder.
Great overview, Jeremy!