Discussion: Which Sketch Plugins Should Be Native Features?
Sketch App — the UI design tool for macOS users. Critically-acclaimed for its downloadable plugins (among many other things!), Sketch has become one of the most extensible design applications ever, leading the guys from SketchTalk to build the Sketch App Hub, a hub for discovering new Sketch Plugins and resources.
Plugins and resources are carefully organised into "collections" for better discoverability, and the team also runs a blog to showcase some of them in action.
But why then are some plugins starting to become obsolete?
Answer: because some of these community-made plugins are so damn useful that Sketch needed to make the functionality native. Let’s take a look at one example.
Fluid and Auto Layout Plugin
About two years ago, Matt Curtis and Cat Noone introduced the Fluid Plugin, which allowed us to “pin” objects to one corner of an artboard with a custom margin (think
:absolute elements in CSS) and create fluid objects (think
width:100%). Sketch didn’t turn this functionality into a native feature for two speculative reasons:
- It didn’t create the same buzz that Anima App's Auto Layout did
- Fluid didn’t “feel” native — it awkwardly floated in the middle of the screen
So this had me thinking.
What does it take to introduce a homemade function to the core app? Why did Sketch only partially adopt Fluid, long after its release, but then fully adopt Auto Layout relatively soon after its release, even though they do the same thing?
- Proof of concept that the feature can generate excitement
- PoC that the feature can be seamlessly integrated into Sketch, non-invasively
Native features don’t necessarily trump community-made features, but Sketch takes such a great deal of care when adding new features that I’m inclined to say that they do in this case. What makes designing with Sketch so efficient is its speed and minimalism — I'll take that over a new-feature-every-week type deal any day.
Which Plugins Are Next?
Well, my first thought was the prototyping feature from the Craft Plugin by InVision, however, this would be redundant because Craft offers so much more than prototyping (rapid design tools, cloud-based shared libraries, design handoff functionality, and the entire InVision app). “Yeah, nah”, as Ozzy Man would say.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if InVision acquired Sketch and all of the Craft features became native features? InVision do love themselves an acquisition — I’m looking at you Silver Flows, Macaw and TrackDuck! Okay, no, let’s get serious now.
Here are some of the plugins that I use on a regular basis, that could easily become native features on the grounds that they’re pretty popular (i.e. the majority of designers find them useful), and could be seamlessly integrated into Sketch. To ensure that the core Sketch app doesn’t become too bulky, ultra-simple plugins have been excluded from this list (unless they’re invisible or shortcut-activated).
Yeah, so, considering those rules:
- Stark (color-blind simulator for accessibility)
- Auto Layout (already integrated, sorry Auto Layout)
- Sketch Data Populator or Craft Data
- Picnic (multiplayer design, like Figma — my favourite)
- Place Linked Bitmap (basically Smart Objects for Sketch)
- Launchpad (export .sketch designs as responsive HTML/CSS)
- Artboards to PDF (this really should be a standard option!)
- Pretty much everything from Sketch Runner
- Rename It (because mass-renaming is tedious and frustrating)
Interested to learn more about Sketch? Check out my book, Jump Start Sketch, which is free for SitePoint Premium users — thanks for reading, friends!
Massive thanks to Swifticons for the stunning icon used in the cover image.