Rapid iteration in Sketch

Or duplicate that ugly artboard and make something better.

Like thousands of other designers, I use Sketch as the primary tool for my interface designs. With interface & collaboration-focussed apps taking over generic tools of design, and with upcoming apps like Figma & Adobe XD (I know, I don’t trust it yet either) it is becoming even quicker and easier to design, collaborate & share.

But for now and probably for the near future, Sketch is our best bet for designing for interactive screens. And if you are like me (and most startup product designers) you are probably doing wireframing, designing, prototyping and even testing yourself.

So instead of traditional methods that involve coming up with wireframes, validating them with the help of stakeholders and then moving on to mockups, I just do it together — at the same time!

In Sketch, I start with a series of very rough wireframes and finish with fully-formed mockups. To do this, I use a technique that involves setting up my artboards in a specific way:

Screens (or states) will be stacked vertically, with each duplicated variation on the right in the same row.

This iterative process works for me. I can start a screen with the bare essentials and quickly iterate my way up for more fidelity.

This helps me in two ways:

1. Its easy to make quick changes and pivot

Every time I feel I need to make fairly major changes or pivot to a new direction after feedback, I can quickly duplicate the screen in its current state and start modifying the new one. When I hit duplicate (⌘D), Sketch always duplicates it right next to the original artboard.

⌘D, the most single most important shortcut in all of Sketch.
Pro tip: If your current selection is inside a group, keep pressing ESC until it selects the artboard, then hit ⌘D

2. Its quicker to go back to an older variation

Now that I have effortlessly created a bunch of variations, I can always go back to something that I liked and start again from that point.

Why does this work?

This works because this lets me try different concepts quickly and discard ideas that don’t work . At the same time, I’m improving the screens that would have otherwise taken me longer to arrive at, or would have been completely missed in a linear approach to problem-solving. I have often gone back to an earlier version after reaching a dead-end, before eventually coming up with the best possible solution.

As Julie Zhuo says, there is method in the madness.

Rapid iterations have become critical to the methods I use for interface design. And if you are just starting out and want to try this yourself, remember that the first few iterations will be confusing. They will lack clarity, and you will probably hit more dead-ends than more experienced professionals.

This is completely normal and even, essential. But if you keep at it, after your 10th or 20th or 50th iteration, you will have, possibly, the best solution. (Until you come back after a break and hate it completely, that is.)

What are the techniques you use everyday to speed up design in your product? *sinister ways to know your methods*.
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