We are making a website for pixel art that will have a diverse audience.

Our leading tagline for the site is: "Real-time, collaborative pixel art." Real-time meaning updates to the pages will be immediate without page reload (real-time technology).

We are not wordsmiths by any means. So we are curious as to the scope of the term "real-time" - will this term be understood among a broad audience? If not, what term would be better? Perhaps "Live"?

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    I think you are fine with 'real-time', but have you considered 'immediate' as a descriptor? Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 20:01
  • @MichaelKohne We haven't really considered 'immediate.' I'm not so sure it's the right descriptor for this context, but we'll give it some thought. Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 20:40
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    The greatest threat here is not the users' attitude or lack of understanding (they can swallow "real-time" all right) but rather the risk of getting condescending looks from engineers. The use of "real-time" is quite jarring here, as it is contrary to both hard and soft real-time definitions. Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 5:40

7 Answers 7


Real-time is a term that is not just used in the tech world:

Real-time Leader Updates for the Masters

Real-time Stock Quotes

Real-time Hurricane Updates

I agree with Koen Lageveen, "live" doesn't always mean "real-time" in your context. Sometimes you see "live" and "up-to-the-minute" together, whereas "real-time" is trying to convey the idea of "up-to-the-millisecond" type of updates.

I'd stick with the term "real-time".

  • Good examples. The term does seem to be accepted and understood among diverse audiences. We'll stick with 'real-time'. Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 19:26
  • While this answer is absolutely correct in pointing out that real-time is certainly understood pretty much everywhere .... indeed, a quick search shows that "real-time" is, indeed, pretty much the "standard" term for all real-time collaborative drawing apps ... note my answer. I couldn't find a counterexample even!
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 12:07

I had to read your explanation of what "Real-time" meant in your context. Although the idea of a system doing something in real-time could be common enough (in tech anyway) to be understood, "Real-time, collaborative pixel art" does't tell me what exactly is real-time about it. So, apparently the technology is real-time, stuff is being updated in real-time, sounds great. What would be interesting to me as a user however, is how that matters for my interaction with the website. How that relates to the collaboration.

In short: I think your tagline should emphasize the features that are cool about using the website, not about what's cool about the technology.

The term "Live" has been hijacked in websites to mean "something interactive web2.0-y". As in Live Messenger. Which may actually be what you're looking for and to me sounds like a good fit (but I'm no wordsmith either and there may be an even better word).

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    "I think your tagline should emphasize the features that are cool about using the website" ... 'Real-time' is not just a technology on our site, but a very big feature of the site. So we definitely believe the idea is worth emphasizing. How to best express that idea is where we are running into a bit of a roadblock. Thanks for the input. Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 19:49

No, not really. But as you suggested yourself Live is a much better term to use. Users know what live is since they probably sometimes in there lives have seen some live news coverage:

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  • I think foreign visitors can misunderstand this term, cause analogy with TV shows is not straightforward. I suppose, it is better to use such forms (especially fittable to slogan), as "immediate interaction" or "right now right here" etc. Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 20:01
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    +1. I also think "Live" has a universal ring to it which "realtime" lacks.
    – Mohit
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 3:58

(I'm not wordsmith either but....) I think "real-time" is the right term here. Even if people don't have a good understanding of what "real-time" means, I think most (English speaking) computer users will get the gist of the term "real-time collaboration".

However, "Real-time, collaborative pixel art" doesn't make sense to me, how can pixel art be collaborative? Maybe I'm just missing something. "Real-time, collaborative pixel art creation" does make sense to me.

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    Correct, the process of creating pixel art will be a collaborative effort. We were trying to make the phrase concise, but you may be right - it may be too concise to make complete sense. Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 20:37
  • Within the artistic community, collaboration implies creation. It's not necessary to include "creation" in the description (and it does sound awkward as written).
    – Izkata
    Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 15:16

To me, 'Live' seems more like a media (TV/news) word. Live news, live coverage, live poll, etc.

'Real-time' on the other hand, seems more related to computers in general, applications, websites, sensors, etc. Real-time eye tracking, real-time computing, etc.

Basically (IMO), for the most part, anything which has a human involved at it's core, it's generally called live, and anything with a computer/technology at it's core, it's assigned real-time.

  • This is perfectly correct.
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 12:09

To basically agree with most previous commenters, I think "real-time" and "live" have been thoroughly overused. You want to emphasize collaboration, interaction, and sharing.

Worse, I don't think "real-time" is actually that well understood within the tech community. I recommend sticking with descriptions that more directly address your value proposition.


In answer to your literal question, is 'real-time' understood - in the context of a drawing app - outside the tech community,

the answer seems to be a resounding yes ..

flockdraw.com ...

You can have unlimited people in a room and the drawing updates in real time

twiddla.com ...

...in a shared, real-time whiteboard...


colorillo - real-time action painting

drawitlive.com ...

Draw it Live is a free application that allows you to work together with other people to draw in real time...

google's 'Drawings' ...

... covered features like real time collaboration, online chat, and

Simply using google to look at the many real-time drawing apps (collaborate in real-time), I'm pretty sure the term is used, actually, for every such app.

I think you can definitively say you'd pretty much have to use the term; it seems to be the standard in the field. A few but not many also use "live" in their marketingspeak: for me, as others have expressed here, "live" means something different. And this seems to be the consensus as "real-time" is used seemingly universally and live is little-used.

I agree with the various concerns voiced here that "real-time" is not really a perfect term, for real-time drawing apps - but it does seem to be pretty much what can only be called the standard term. And that's in both the companies themselves using marketingspeak (and/or names), and writing (reviews, etc) about these products.

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