Why we love Whimsical for saving all our UX Research
UX Designers at Yummygum wear a lot of (fashionable) hats that encapsulate a variety of tasks across the agency. Mostly at the beginning of a new project. For example, there are elements of client communication, nitty-gritty desk research, contact with usability testing participants, stakeholder management & lastly, visualizing and designing products. To maintain the upkeep of all these hats you’ll need a neat closet. In comes Whimsical; an online diagramming and whiteboarding tool that contains ample templates and customizability to support any UX team.
Scoping out a project in Whimsical
Not to blow our own horn, but we’ve become quite the Whimsical connaisseurs in the past years. If you wanna ‘Whimsical’ the right way we can wholeheartedly suggest following along to become a ‘knower’ yourself. We’ve set up one template project called PF, short for Project File, which contains all our tools divided into four main categories:
Once we know the scope of the project we copy the PF, give it the appropriate working name and start prioritizing which tools we’d wish to utilize.
Down in the UX research trenches
Every project is unique due to its client and clientele; like every UX research procedure is unique thanks to the brief and the UX Designer in question. There are many different tools out there to support our line of work. They eliminate the chance of any project following the same templates, there should always be a hint of customizability to each research tool created. Whimsical has all the building blocks in place to create mind maps, flowcharts and tables from scratch; templates to which we add project-specific handles.
One reason why we prefer Whimsical over its competitors is the lack of ‘washi tapes’. What I mean by that is some Whimsical competitors have opted for a more playful brand approach, bordering on childish. Sure, for a collaborative session with clients who check in once every never-again, it’s fun to place an emoji or sticker on top of a post-it. But the UX team works on whiteboard tools on a daily basis and UX Research is serious business!
Finalizing the information architecture
Laying down your content architecture in Whimsical is easy. Besides that, Whimsical ships with extensive libraries of icons, connectors and shapes. The most helpful tool is the Project Card, where you can autonomously move the cards and answers without looking messy.
We establish the sitemap, most journey flows, system clicks, a/b test versions and retention flows in Whimsical. The arrow plasticity makes it easy to connect, re-connect and duplicate shapes.
The sharing options are the best of the bunch; easily share your whole canvas, individual pieces with private, public and straight-to-png sharing options. You can give up to 50 guests access to your boards in the Team plan.
A bit of design
At Yummygum, the wireframing process happens primarily in Figma, right where it coincides with the visual design team. However, its precursor takes shape in…, you guessed it, Whimsical. Research conclusions that align with all stakeholders (client, user, third party, development) are summarized in the Project File, which we hand-off internally.
New features like sections, sticky notes and freehand drawing have added a new dimension to how we communicate in office and remotely. We store feedback in chronological order and attached to the context it relates to. So no scrolling around in Slack, mail or a scattered Figma comment.
Additionally we also do experiential design in Whimsical, in the form of live sessions where we collaborate and synthesize with stakeholders; their very first touchpoint with the experts at Yummygum.
These live sessions include, but aren’t limited to:
Workshops about a variety of topics where participants fill in tools
Co-creative sessions where every participant sketches ideas
Kick-offs where client and designer share their vision
These tools are all easy to learn for beginners and can be vital to designers at third-parties who wish to explain their vivid ideas on a canvas. A Whimsical board and its adjacent folders inflate to the scope of the project and beyond. You’ll have a board of ideas, in reach whenever you want, with sketch notes, moodboards, early explorations and final decisions.
Working in tech means you work in an ever-changing environment. What will the next client want? What new digital trend sweeps across the world? Your systems must adhere to the Doherty Threshold; what is Doherty Threshold? It states that productivity soars when a computer and its users (be it senior citizen or designer) interact at a pace less than 400 ms that ensures that neither has to wait on the other.
You don’t have to wait for a canvas to reload or a tool to work, you can get started immediately.
If you have never used Whimsical at all, why should you start using it? From the Yummygum perspective: we’ve been using it all along before using the progressive web app open in a tab. We’ve been using alternatives like Figma to design research tools, struggling to get the right fidelity. Because with UX Research you want to visualize your ideas but not yet to the point where they’ll need their own design system! We were tip-toeing around having to invest our UX energy into creating a design system for tools.
If you’re a (UX) designer and already using another tool, why choose Whimsical? Yes, we’ve been giving it a lot of praise. But, to be transparent: there are still sufficient improvements Whimsical can further develop if you’d ask us.
Project card behavior
Take the project card. We really like it but the pop-up that shows lacks vision for teamwork and cooperation; more layers can be added to it. Like task assigning or multiple threads.
We like snapping arrows and shapes to grid. But pixel perfectness and feedback on the size of a shape is too hidden for most designers. Copying arrows to a newer template is not available yet which leads them to land on half-pixels and turn wonky sometimes.
Whimsical could also improve on accepting images and formats. You can paste them but you can’t copy them again without a special shortcut. The presentation mode isn’t there just yet. You slide through sections you’ve placed on the board, like Prezi does. However, this specific way of transitioning isn’t fitting for the professional workshop. Finally, how the tool compartments are constrained to ‘modes’ has become a remnant of previous design decisions that are hopefully being phased out soon.
If Whimsical patches these minor flaws, I think it would make for an even better tool.
All in all we’re huge Whimsical lovers and it empowers us in doing our daily jobs as UX Designers. Do you like Whimsical just as much as we do? If not, what’s keeping you from trying and using it? Let us know!