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Whimsical is an app that lets you create flowcharts, wireframes, and mind maps but it was only earlier today that I spotted just how great the website is — especially the product pages. Check out this page where they describe how to use the Mind Maps feature where you can use the product right there on the marketing site.

Neat, huh? This is all done through the power of the <canvas> element. You could make something like this with SVG for sure but there’s always a blurry line between picking SVG and canvas.

However, in terms of design, I love this idea of the advertisement being the product. And I also love cutting out all the usual sign-up nonsense to show folks the value of the app. Most products make you sign up and go through onboarding before you can see the value of the product. But that’s just not the case here; the ad is the product!

Also, I just love the design of this thing. Each product feature has its own theme, which makes the product demos pop a bit more as you look around. It’s a small detail but makes me want to explore the rest of the site to see what other fancy UI trinkets are lying around.

I also like also being able to jump straight into a working example of a wireframe. There’s no marketing spiel about how revolutionary the app is or how it’ll change the art of mind maps forever. Everything gets out of the way to show you the product, first and foremost.

But! Going back to the navigation for a sec: choosing not to label those icons is an interesting decision. It’s lovely, but what does each icon mean? This is covered in a post Chris wrote a while back when he asked: Are icons content? That said, the argument about whether or not to label icons has been going on for decades in software design. Jef Raskin, one of the designers of the original Macintosh back in the 1980s, wrote a great book called The Humane Interface where he argues that we should never leave icons unlabelled. Perhaps that’s a bit much, but in this case, I don’t think it would hurt to label these icons since they’re product-specific and mind map icons aren’t something we see every day.

Whimsical’s typography is interesting, too! they’re using DIN Next which feels a little at odds with the visual design, at least to me. DIN Next is the kind of typeface that gets lost in the background, designed to stand back and display fonts take center stage:

But I think the font’s success is carried by the buck wild visual design — the squiggly lines, the floating circles and moon shapes that are found everywhere in the UI. Then again, perhaps you don’t want the typeface to stick out when your UI is so visually loud, and I mean that in a good way.

The trick to designing an interface like this is making sure color accessibility is taken into consideration though. Stacie Arellano wrote about why color contrast is so important a while back:

You can mathematically know if two colors have enough contrast between them. 

The W3C has a document called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 that covers successful contrast guidelines. Before we get to the math, we need to know what contrast ratio scores we are aiming to meet or exceed. To get a passing grade (AA), the contrast ratio is 4.5:1 for most body text and 3:1 for larger text.

I’m not going to double check the numbers here for Whimsical, but it’s worth keeping an eye on… especially when a UI has a lot of white text on bright and colorful backgrounds. I’ve managed to mess this up more than a few times and it’s an easy thing to trip up on. But if folks can’t read the text in your UI, that’s a big problem.


Anyway, this site for the Whimsical product is a breath of fresh air. It’s visually striking and shows that communicating a product’s value and features can be done with show-and-tell instead of tell-and-tell.

Which leads me to ask you a question: Is there a website you’ve recently visited that caught your eye?