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Show HN: Wired-elements – UI web components with a hand drawn, sketchy look (wiredjs.com)
650 points by shihn 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 120 comments

After working on http://roughjs.com/ I thought it would be interesting to create common sketchy UI components that worked like actual controls. Web components seemed liked the obvious tech for that. So, yeah, here's wired-elements.

Great job!. What is it based on Canvas or SVG? I had in my initial version of https://www.mockuptiger.com built sketchy components using Canvas. It was interesting and fun.

The web components use SVG and are build on lit-element (https://github.com/Polymer/lit-element) as the web-component base.

Rough.js can render to either canvas or SVG.

This looks great! I might try to make a theme for https://idyll-lang.org/ that utilizes the components.

Looks nice, but I have a bug: The sliders don't work properly, when trying to move them they will always start back at 0. (I'm using Firefox 60).

Yep sliders aren't quite baked yet. Should work on chrome. Thanks for reporting. https://github.com/wiredjs/wired-slider/issues/3

FYI, the slider doesn't work at all on Chrome Android.

Yep not very touch friendly at the moment. Bug filed

Same on Safari iOS

Slider is fixed now.

There are still minor issues. The roughness slider disappeared when I slid it all the way to the right (on Firefox 60).

But good work anyway, the results are really nice!

Can confirm, thanks!

The fact that your designs "don't work" is very disconcerting - given that we've spent 20 years trying to separate function from design. Does this mean that after 20 years that we still don't have a good clean separation?

Another comment in this thread mentioned a similar project, a Swing "napkin" theme, which managed a rough look as normal styling. So I guess Swing did something better than HTML/CSS - from skimming the comments i gathered that this library had to reimplement everything from scratch using SVG/Canvas.

Web components are still trying to catch up with the components market that native apps enjoy since the 90's.

I guess we still need a few more years of catching up.

Not knocking the design in any way. Just expressing frustration and sadness that you've even have to think about function.

This library is great, although I don't understand your frustration. An interactive mockup library with broken interaction is a bug, no?

I think the point is that if the function and design were actually separate, a non functioning element would also be non functioning in plain HTML (no/little design). That would be much easier to spot, and wouldn't even really be the designers problem.

It's understandable why it happens here, the browser can't easily provide this design with pure HTML and CSS, so javascript and SVG are likely carrying some of the load, and bugs there are causing problems.

That said, one of the main benefits of separating function and design is that this stuff isn't supposed to happen, or be much more rare at least, so it is sad that to utilize this we have to introduce those problems again.

Also on Firefox (in Debian). It's not exactly that the slider starts at zero. It's that, when you grab it, the starting position becomes a pointer offset. You can set it wherever you like, accounting for the offset. It reminds me of capture failure in VMs.

It's actually related to where the slider control is located relative to the page. Chrome and Firefox return different coordinates for SVG node bounds when the node is transformed. Need to find an alternate calculation that works on all browsers. https://github.com/wiredjs/wired-slider/issues/3

Slider is fixed now.

Same on iOS. Otherwise great job! I can easily see his being used for rapid prototyping so give clients the feel that the UI is not set. Would be good to use the awesome font at the front as actual font face in text controls. Or perhaps some fixed width / typewriter font.

the controls inherit the font. So the person using the components can set them to whichever they want. I use 'Gloria Hallelujah' from google fonts' handwritten set on the website.

Same issue on mobile Chrome.

Reminds of the Napkin look and feel for Java Swing apps. I worked on a project where we only demoed the Napkin L&F to our customers until we were feature complete.

The idea was to keep them focused on functionality.

For those curious like I was http://napkinlaf.sourceforge.net/

I love the retro "3 1/2 Floppy (A:)" in the file chooser. Nice touch.

Or was it really that long ago?!?

This is fantastic! Very useful to get a concept into the browser and hopefully minimize clients focusing on visual design preferences too early in the process.

I hadn't thought of this, but this is an excellent point! You can use this to make a functional mockup for a client/boss/whomever, and by using these they will completely ignore all styling and focus on the functionality.

Heck, I'm even thinking of using it now when we launch a beta, to get the users to focus on the functionality instead of the design. My only fear is that they will want to keep the design!

This is why I purchased Balsamiq when I was contracting, even the basic Bootstrap theme, even with bold text saying "ignore everything design related!!" I'd still get comments about button shapes, colors, complaints about shadows and graphics, etc.

Even with more "theme" stuff in a Balsamiq mockup like colors and images clients were able to focus much more on content, layout, and information architecture than design.

I've tried that, years ago, using a similar rough-draft kind of mockup engine. I still got comments on the styling, and comments along the lines of "this doesn't look finished enough for review".

We did that with The Sims. The programmers would sketch up stuff in Microsoft Paint as ugly as possible, to make it clear that it was just placeholder art:



Q: Were these screenshots taken when you were working at EA/Maxis?

A: Yes, these have placeholder "programmer art" that looks really shitty on purpose, so nobody mistakes them for final artwork!

Q: I thought as much; also noticed the 'Live' 'Buy' and 'Build' mode placeholder text on the UI ;)

It's harder to make ugly stuff in 3dsmax, so we had to make it inexplicable instead. Things tended to get weird when we were doing things like testing the 3D sprite exporter animations. I am at a loss to explain this, other than it's an experiment in post-transmogrification texture mapping...


You could place "spores" on the ground that would grow into big Mona Lisa Mushrooms!

Before that, I also used the same "programmer art" approach for some demos I made at Kaleida, when I didn't have an art department at my disposal to do my bidding, but knew just enough Photoshop and Director to be a danger to myself and others. (Some of it literally looked like shit and smelled like stinky cheese that made people scream!)


>To make any sense of this, you should realize that it’s live improvisational performance programming art. The graphical and audio artwork are just ugly placeholder “programmer art”. The references to “great content” are laughably ironic!

>I didn’t have an art department at my disposal, and I have terrible graphics design skills, but I didn’t let that stop me, because that wasn’t the point!

>The art is in how it works and what it does and how I use it, not how it looks or sounds.

>It was meant to inspire ScriptX developers as well as myself, and it led to me to later develop iLoci and MediaGraph.

Cool story. At my company we use an aweful puke pink color for all our “non designed” graphics. This solves:

1. Clearly not the intended final design

2. Let’s us quickly see issues with our theming infrastructure.

The default color of TCL/Tk 3.6 and earlier used to be "Bisque", or #FFE4C4.

"Bisque is a smooth, creamy, highly seasoned soup of French origin, classically based on a strained broth (coulis) of crustaceans. It can be made from lobster, langoustine, crab, shrimp or crayfish."


>"X11 bisque - also known as 'Ousterhout beige' - was for a long time the default color of Tk GUI's."


>The procedure tk_bisque is provided for backward compatibility: it restores the application's colors to the light brown (“bisque”) color scheme used in Tk 3.6 and earlier versions.

TCL/Tk even provides a convenient built-in procedure "tk_bisque" to reset the application's color to the Bisque color scheme, which was documented with this warning:


>You probably don't want to use this command in a modern application. Or anything written in the last couple of decades.

You should NEVER ship a TCL/Tk application without changing the default color from Bisque. But apparently some people thought it was quite beautiful!

Bisque is Beautiful: Tcl/Tk at Lick Observatory: http://www.ucolick.org/~de/Tcl/Source/

But actually, Bisque is located smack dab at the light end of the normal baby diarrhea gamut.


>6. Orange, Yellow and Brown Baby Poop: Baby poop that is orange, yellow or brown in color is completely normal in breastfed and bottle fed babies.

i started working on a react clone of wired from a few months ago - kinda dont have time to continue on it but if anyone wants to take over please do: https://github.com/sw-yx/react-wired

also preet's designer tool is very very very usable: https://wiredjs.github.io/designer/ basically a free balsamiq!

These are web components and work fine within React already.

We shouldn't need to port every interesting UI component to every single framework anymore.

>These are web components and work fine within React already I tried with a simple CodeSandbox and they are not working for me. ( Unless I'm doing something wrong? ) https://codesandbox.io/s/pp4q7kw9q7

There's something weird going on in Chrome. This link works in Firefox though with the webcomponents polyfill https://codesandbox.io/s/jn85y61kx9

All working with react now. There was an issue wired-elements code: Here's a react demo: https://stackblitz.com/edit/wired-elements-react?file=index....

I believe it's a shadow dom issue. Firefox doesnt support Shadow DOM yet so a 'shady dom' is used by the polyfill

This seems to be because you are accessing the DOM of the element from the constructor which is a no no. Here's a simple repro:


stuff like this is why i have trust issues with people who try to push webcomponents on me. I'm either not smart enough to understand why i dont get it, or its just not ready yet.

i know and it was more just an exercise for myself. polymer and react interop still isnt very nice as far as i can tell. calm down :)

Those elements don't use polymer, they use lit-element - it is from polymer team and uses one polymer mixin, but its not polymer base element.

You can just import these into JS modules and use them in JSX. Interop is fine for attributes.

I'm perfectly calm dude.

What could we do better?

i don't know. wanna try putting up a codesandbox to use wired-elements in a react app? would love to learn. sorry i dont know your affiliation with the polymer project or react-polymer. it just didnt seem usable when i looked at it

For a different free version of balsamiq, also check out https://pencil.evolus.vn/ and use the Sketchy GUI stencil.

Thanks! I've been looking for something similar that supports Linux. Most tools I found unfortunately did not.

Strange, that designer link doesn't load in Firefox Nightly, with this error:

    Loading failed for the <script> with source “https://wiredjs.github.io/designer/bower_components/webcomponentsjs/webcomponents-hi-sd.js”.
But it works fine in Chrome. Regardless, it looks really useful but still very much beta. It could be a decent Mockingbird replacement if you could save the documents and export them as PDF/png. Plus it needs way more components.

damn! that designer looks good. I would pay for something good here.

To give full credit, the designer was adapted from https://github.com/PolymerLabs/wizzywid

I must add that designer may not quite work anymore. Haha. Will get back to it at some point :)

I like it. The thing that I'm asking myself now is why do I like it (and other "humanized" drawings) ? I've always preferred accuracy over ambiguity, clean minimization over unnecessary clutter, shouldn't I prefer clean straight lines over something a human can draw on a sheet of paper? I'd never want to read a book written in human handwriting, so why is this appealing to me? Is it perhaps because the lack of optimization of the diagram contrasts and brings out the simplicity of the idea being conveyed? I could bring up some theories but can't say for sure.

Personal anecdote alert. Last year at work I had to design some process diagrams. I enjoy this sort of thing, but I was finding it very hard to get past that initial hurdle.

I found, by accident I think, Visio’s ‘hand-drawn’ template - and everything changed. Suddenly my nit-picky perfectionist mind could get past the fact that these diagrams, which I was in the process of drafting, weren’t perfect. The edges didn’t align, the connecting lines weren’t all on exactly the same horizontal, the boxes weren’t all exactly the same width.

I’m not kidding, I finished it within an hour. When it was done, I switched back to ‘square boxes and round circles’ mode, lined everything up, and was done.

It was a revelation.

> I'd never want to read a book written in human handwriting

Try Alfred Wainwright's guides - he not only hand-illustrated but hand-wrote and hand-justified his books.


> I'd never want to read a book written in human handwriting

well, fwiw, the randomness/uniqueness of the elements help to give them their hand-drawn feel, and the font on this link does not contain that randomness. All letters look the same everywhere. And the line height is constant and so are the vertical positions. It’s more like a stylized font than handwriting. And it’s actually quite a game / readable stylized font. It’s not as fast as the more mechanical / typewritten fonts that are prevalent, but it’s still an comfortable read.

Anyways maybe it’s the same reason we tend to prefer a human voice giving us directions over a robot voice

That's brilliant! One suggestion I have is to prevent rerendering when changing states, e.g. when checking a checkbox, draw a checkmark without changing the shape of the actual box it's in, or when selecting a dropdown item, to not change the edges of the dropdown even if the label displayed in it changes. Probably a lot more work though :)

Each component should generate a random seed on construction, and use that same seed for its entire lifetime.

It's actually simpler than that. Most of the time it should not re-render at all. Should only re-render when the size has changed - at which point one needs to recompute anyway. I was just lazy and rendering every time.

This is amazing, I love the sketched feel to it. I started an open source project in the fall, PaperCSS, that’s in the same category as wiredJS. PaperCSS is like if someone quickly drew the page with a marker, whereas this is as if someone sketched it all with a pencil. Happy to see less clean lines on the internet :)


Not to be confused with paperjs, a /completely/ different js library.


I used Sketchy theme from Bootswatch for a game I did last week for a contest.




I still drool over the Drawing Board theme from Classic Mac OS.


I'd definitely pay to use this theme in web and mobile apps

Really nice project. Not sure what's the use case but good fun project. Will use someday. :)

the balsamiq wireframing software is stylized like this, and i think it suits the wireframing context very nicely https://balsamiq.com/

that's just one specific use case, but it's one where i think this sketchy style fits really nicely with the context

Came here to mention Balsamiq. Used it for years and made by rather nice people.

Yep. It was mostly done for fun. I can see it being a tool for wire-framing or interactive mockups.

I tried to build an svg and web component app about three years ago and just had a devil of a time with compatibility. Are web components a thing again? I sure hope so.

Mostly there. Firefox still needs a polyfill and some issues working with react

Oh wow this gave me some flashbacks to using Balsamiq.


What is the use-case for this? I read and agree that writing HTML or JavaScript is too costly for wireframes and this is why wireframe tools are handy, because you can cheaply sketch out plans or ideas. But this is in JS, so "drawing" with this would be costly.

I can see that it can be used for the fun look, but other than that, what's the point of this framework?

I work for an organization that nitpicks about how things look instead of actual functionality.

I've taken to style things like this because it helps them remember "this is just a placeholder" and focus on the actual application logic.

My sketchy stuff isn't as polished as this, but if this is just drop-in, it could be useful.

That's a really good point, I never thought of that

Nice! This would be super cool when applied to some nice diagramming libraries like Mermaid and Markdeep.



Might I plug in my other project: http://roughjs.com/ which is a generic drawing library for drawing sketchy shapes. I believe people have already tried merging it with some diagramming tools.

Very cool! Thanks for making these.

For the checkbox: Every time you click on the same one, the image changes. How do you achieve this apparent randomness?

The shapes are calculated with randomness at every render. i.e. it's not a single image that I turn on or off. It calculates and draws it every time it changes.

Did you do statistical analysis of the distributions of the shapes and pixels?

/just kidding.

I wonder if there's something comparable for LaTeX / Beamer. That would be very useful for my presentations.

Theres a stand alone drawing library roughjs.com that might be useful for more generic drawings. I believe people have used it with reveal.js to use them in presentations.

I am not a designer but THIS IS SO AWESOME

This is great. By the way, if anyone is interested in a library like rough js but for iOS/tvOS apps, I made one called rough cocoa https://github.com/nickshillingford/Rough-Cocoa

Reminds me of back when people used to make hand-drawn controls in Adobe Flash! Good memories. Nice work.

Flash was a wonderful era for the web. It's sad that nothing equivalent ever really came along to replace it.

I am looking forward to WebAssembly as the Flash revival.

This is really rad! It's fun just to refresh a couple times and see the randomness at work. Nice job!

Sliders don't seem to be movable with Chrome for Android. Nicely done, though.

Yep. Doesn't work with touch events properly at the moment. Work in progress!

Love it! can't wait to incorporate into my project www.stretchsketch.com currently old fashioned jquery/javascript/html/SVG. Polymer is becoming a very strong candidate when introducing a new framework.

I really like the look, very nice job on that.

Is there any particular reason though why you didn't follow the aria standards for the controls? None of these controls can be used by a keyboard, and a screen-reader sees them only as text.

I do plan to make them more accessible. Wanted to get to a preview build first and then evolve. Thanks for the input.

Has someone tried these with React? An initial test didn't work for me: https://codesandbox.io/s/pp4q7kw9q7

This is fantastic! I’ll have to take a look at the licensing, id love to implement this on https://framestr.com as an available form skin.

Your website looks fantastic. I'm just beginning web development and am new to HN. It appears I cannot PM you. May I ask, is that an in-house design? I would love to know what frameworks you may be using. What your website looks like is what I ultimately want to be able to create by the end of my web development aspirations.

MIT license (https://github.com/wiredjs/wired-elements/blob/master/LICENS...). Feel free to use the code however you like.


Also, I chuckled at part of the GitHub org description, a "fun sketchy look."

Reminds me of


Which if author is not aware, he could use as inspiration.

I love it. I am a Designer and its on my list to re-design my portfolio site, which i want to look like a wireframe. I will definitely explore this.

Love this. I wonder if there would be a way to add some randomisation to the font without replacing it with generated images.

The web page is using a hand written styles google fonts. Variable fonts may be a way to randomize the font at every render.

This is great! I like the aesthetic, I'd happily use a web-app that was made with these components.

  The elements are drawn with enough randomness that no two renderings will be exactly the same — just like two separate hand-drawn shapes.
Awesome, but why go through all that trouble if the text is going to be the same? I know typography is another degree or two of complexity, but I think that would make this particular feature complete.

Designing a variable font that does that would be the best solution for that. Variable fonts still have to go before accepted on all browsers.

As for the randomness uniqueness, it was a bonus that came out of the algorithms I was using to draw shapes.

Thanks. I didn't even know variable fonts were a thing. Perhaps someone will submit a pull request for the issue I just added.

PaperCSS looks a bit better imho and they are also working on set of react components.

Thank you for the kind words on PaperCSS! We’d love some help making the React components.

What is the font type that is used in this blog? Is it available for free use?

I had this idea but using a module to apply it to material components.

This is very cool, but why is it called "Wired"?

I was thinking of wireframes

Slider handle doesn't work on Chrome Android 66.0

Slider is fixed now.

Lovely work. If my devs end up using this, I'll surely ask them to contribute to your repo :)

As always, accessibility is the last thing people care about.

To be honest, I did think about accessibility early on but realized that the main use case was for mockups and it wasn't high on the priority list for that scenario. I do plan to make most of these controls accessible before 1.0 release. Thanks for bringing it up.

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