From Sketch to dev

Sketch 43 will change the way we work and think

Yes, you heard it right, big changes are coming. 
The story goes like this: there was a Sketch meetup in munich today (April 5th), and they revealed some mind bending details about the next release of Sketch. I’m quoting Andree from blended.io who also wrote about it:

“The next version of Sketch will have a new file format that allows to read and write .sketch files manually or programmatically”

I strongly suggest you to read his entire post, he goes into some interesting details regarding to how the file system will work (tl;dr — it’s basically going to be a .zip file)

What I want to talk about is the implications it will have on the design eco system, workflow and 3rd parties products (aka complementary products for Sketch).

So first of, if — “design is code and code is design” as Andree write, it means that file organization is going to be critical. If there is a mistake in the sketch file chances are that it will be copied to production (unless you work with a developer that has an eye for details), so no more mr/mrs lazy butts. This also means that there is a big opening for plugins that help manage, maintain, or even automate elements organization (maybe the all new libraries feature will do it in the future).

Order in design process was always important, but now it will become a must. I have a friend that still uses adobe illustrator for his designs, and he asked me if he can see a real project in sketch. He asked this because what he used to see was premade files that was created entirely for marketing reasons. He just couldn’t believe that “normal” people can work like this (I’m talking about those huge sketch templates like the one that Jon Moore publish). And he was right. Sort of. I admit it, I’m not a Sketch nazi (you know, like soup nazi from Seinfeld 🤣). But it’s not because I don’t want to, it’s because it takes too long, it’s boring, and the worst part — it makes you fall in love with the order you established so it’s harder for you to break it if you need to.


The point is, nobody is perfect but now we won’t have a choice.


Ok, I drifted a bit, back to implications.

The next version of sketch contain both bad and good times for 3rd parties devs. The bad times are for all those Sketch to specs companies, such as Zeplin, Sympli, Avocode, etc… I really have no idea what they are going to do, their entire business is based on something that’s basically going to be obsolete in a few months. I guess that there’s going to be a transition period when not all designers/developers will use the new file format. For a while they’ll survive, but they’ll have to think of other ways to make a Dollar.

Update

I’m attaching a tweet that (hopefully) will make a bit more sense to what I’m saying:

Ladies & gentlemen, the future is coming

The good times will be for those who’ll make plugins to complement Sketch eco system in different ways. For example, I can only guess that the new file format will probably help invision build the their long awaited motion feature.


And last, as Andree write:

“Designers have to learn Git (version control). Yup.”

Personally I think it’s a great thing, because it’s gonna solve one major problem with design process - version control. It’s also going to make designers think like developers. Which is also a good thing, because in the long term it’s going to save a lot of time.

There is one product that I tried recently that tries to solve that problem (it’s in private beta). It’s called Abstract. It looks promising but it’s not there yet. It’s a bit confusing for people who aren’t familiar with how git work, and also its only for mac. And as I mentioned before, using git (the real thing) will make this product obsolete as well 🙁.

All and all I believe that the new version of Sketch is going to change a bunch of fundamental design processes. It’s hard to explain how exciting this is. Wait. Maybe with a gif?

Exciting times to be alive

More thoughts:
I wonder how plugins like Anima App will affect the new file system. Using auto layout plugin today affect the file in an irreversible way. So if one decide to stop working with it, the elements that was affected by the plugin will change their position on the artboard. It can be devastating (happened to me). Will it have the same effect on the code that produces from the .sketch file?

How a method like overrides with icon fonts as symbols will work (https://medium.com/sketch-app-sources/the-perfect-sketch-icon-workflow-8d15bd5cc873)? 
I’m asking this because some 3rd parties .sketch to spec companies have issues in identifying icon font overrides.


Final thoughts
I believe that this version of sketch will bring designers and developers a bit closer in terms of cooperation and execution of products. It reminds me of products like Webflow. We are witnessing the holy grail of design to code becoming right in front of us.

I also wonder when will we be able to use code in our design, similar to what Processing does, but way more accessible to casual players.

Good times ✌️

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