What I learned with a messy Sketch project

For one week I read articles, tips and notes, I saw videos, photos and gifs, I downloaded plugins and more plugins, always trying to achieve one thing: a well organized Sketch Document. And I failed. That's why I decided to make a “what to do list”, with steps I must take from the beginning of the project in order to keep a clean and understandable document.

Note: Using Sketch version 44 and Sketch Toolbox for downloading plugins.

Renaming Layers

Is it just me or Sketch Layers are driving designers crazy? Let's face it, it’s almost impossible to have every single element renamed. And that’s due to 3 reasons:

  1. It takes a lot of time to rename all the small elements.
  2. Every time you duplicate one, Sketch adds “Copy #” to its name.
  3. When you ungroup something you lose the group’s name.

So, in order not to lose my mind, I chose to rename only the relevant components — mostly groups and symbols. All the small elements (such as lines and texts inside a table) stay as they were.

I still find it a little hard to accept all the tiny mess inside the group, but it would be a huge waste of time just to satisfy my visual discomfort.

For the important parts of the group that can have duplicates (table rows could be one of them), I use the plugin Rename-it that works just as it’s called. With it, you can select several components, choose a base name and add a dynamic number.

Keyboard shortcut: cmd + ctrl + R

Another useful plugin is the Sort Me, that lets you arrange layers by name.

Creating Groups

When I first started to use Sketch I saw groups as my enemies. Every time I wanted to select an element inside it, I had to ungroup it and ended up losing its name. Then, I discovered the toggle click-through, a feature that enables you to select layers within groups. But it came with another problem: you lose the ability to select the group as an unique element. And here comes the coolest tip: just press cmd for inside selection. ✨

Creating Symbols

Symbols are great if an element is used several times. You change one and suddenly they’re all updated. But that’s not all. With them you can better organize your file, just use similar ones with the same name and a modifier after a /. They should look like this:

List of symbols

Another great use of symbols is the resizing controls, recently upgraded for a more intuitive interaction. With it you can change the behavior of an element inside a group or a symbol, fixing the width and/or the height and choosing if the element should be pinned to an edge when resizing its parent. Try to play a little bit with all the possibilities and I’m sure you’ll fix almost all of your resizing problems — you’ll no longer need button/big and button/small!

Resizing options

When you realize how symbols are useful, you’ll start to use them every time, everywhere. This will result in a page with dozens of cluttered symbols. But don’t worry, there’s an easy solution for that: Symbol Organizer. Just press cmd+shift_option+O and see the magic.

Plugin in action: cmd + shift + option + O

Adding Styles

Text styles is one of the most common tips for Sketch beginners. Just be careful to not forget to create them as soon as possible, they will help you not to use unnecessary type variations.

That being said, let’s get to my favorite style: export preset. Might seem silly, but it can save you a good time when renaming assets. The feature is in the right-bottom corner and to create a custom one, just click at the first icon, next to the plus sign. Then, click at Create Preset and choose size, prefix/suffix and format. You can add more than one variation, if needed.

Customizing export presets

Pages

For the final tip, the most simple one: use pages! A lot of artboards means a slower document. Just keep the updated layouts at each page. Want to preserve old layouts? Just create a new page called “Old Ideas” with all the artboards you think are worth having. Or just save a new document.

One more thing

It’s reasonable to consider that this process worked for me, but you should choose whichever is better for you and your team. You don’t need to do it all, just give it a try and see if it helps you to create a better document. The front-end developers will thank you later.