Thales Grilo

Summer of Code is Over

So, with August coming to an end, so does Google Summer of Code 2020. It’s been an awesome journey, and I want to share what I’ve been up to all this time ✨

Below is the final submission text, and the full project timeline

p5.js Web Editor Mobile UI

by @ghalestrilo

The p5.js Web Editor is an important tool in the p5.js ecosystem. Beginners and experts both rely on the tool for prototyping p5.js sketches because of its convenience and accessibility. However, one of its limitations is that it doesn’t work well on small-screen devices, such as smartphones. Perhaps you only have access to a smartphone, or from my personal experience, maybe you have a sketch idea while away from home or you want to show your favorite one to a friend. I wanted to create a version of the web editor that everyone could use comfortably wherever they are. I’m Ghales, and my project for Google Summer of Code ‘20 was to design and implement a mobile user interface for the editor. This required:

  1. Understanding the UI limitations imposed by low-resolutions
  2. Detecting common patterns across mobile editors
  3. Defining the core functionality of the editor
  4. Studying alternatives for the editor’s UI and functionality solutions

Step 1: Studying UX

I have very limited understanding of UX design, so my first step was studying how to properly develop one. The main takeaway was to first lay out everything the editor can do, then understand the different user journeys within it and then try different possibilities. We chose the designs that made the most frequent and important features the easiest to find. From there, we made a few wireframes, which we turned into prototypes, and then had users test them. With the gathered feedback, we iterated on the design a few times.

Researching how other mobile editors organize functionality also helped a lot when thinking of where to place elements in the design, because many problems already have well-tested solutions. For example, creating a bottom bar with editor actions that are used often and easy to reach with a user’s thumb, or having the project and filename in the header so it’s clear to a user what they are working on.

Step 2: Feature Mapping

The next phase of work was mapping out what the current editor does onto a spreadsheet, creating what is called a feature map. When looking at the map, notice how the UI is described in a tree structure, where the further from the root, the more clicks a functionality takes. The most urgent ones need to be as left as possible, near the user.

First feature map

Step 3: Prototyping

Once the feature map was done, it was time to draw some screens. We created a Figma project and followed the feature map when putting things in place. Below is the glorious first draft:

First design draft of the mobile layout

This phase involved getting a lot of feedback both from users and my mentor, Cassie Tarakajian (@catarak), who helped me a ton throughout the process (thank you!). Cassie pointed to the importance of accessibility, and that we made sure the app was WCAG-compliant, in both code and layout. Among other things, that means no white on pink text, because it’s hard to read.

Despite many questionable design choices here, some things did hit the spot: the floating canvas was generally appreciated, and the buttons and screen navigation were overall intuitive, which was a huge win. After a lot of back-and-forth with users, these were the final layout proposals:

Final mobile UI proposals

They’re mostly the same, except for the bottom bar, and the position of the navigation icons. That said, our direction will be somewhere between the third and the second. Some lessons learned:

Step 4: Coding!

With a researched and tested design, it was time to start coding. I knew I wasn’t going to implement the whole design, given that this is a summer project, but I was excited to complete as much as possible.

Some key points here:

After another design iteration, I come back to finish placing the core features:

To close the project, the editor had to detect automatically if it’s being run on mobile, and choose the appropriate view. This is crucial for the user, otherwise the project missed the point completely. For this, we used a media query from react-responsive and merged the mobile and desktop endpoints.


I was able to deliver more than I set out to at the beginning of the summer!. My focus was to create a design plan and an implementation roadmap. At first we were skeptical that working, production code could be deployed by the end of summer, and that a product could be available for users to interact with, but with a little more testing it will be ready!.

It was my first contribution to open-source, and I learned a lot with it: doing many things I’m not used to, facing new challenges and developing new abilities. If approved by the community, this constitutes a nice milestone for the project (and for me!), and I’m excited to see how it unfolds in the future.

Future work

There are definitely points of improvement on the editor, for instance:

PR Timeline: