One year on: Roadmap to the new Focus
Design + Sketch App — Medium | Focus by Code Arrows
We reflect on the last 12 months and share our next steps
Hey there, Kamil from Focus here. Exactly one year ago, we released the first version of our plugin for Sketch 3.8+, Sketch Focus. It enables designers to easily add notes and tasks to their designs, link them to layers and artboards, jump to linked layers, and more. In effect, it is a small task manager integrated straight into the design software, aiming to make the design workflow more efficient and organised.
It also has a few other nifty features, for example it can filter notes and tasks based on whether their linked layers are currently visible in the viewport, or only display ones linked to currently selected layers.
A result of help from the developer community and hours of research and experimentation, Sketch Focus was one of the most advanced plugins at the time in terms of its integration with Sketch and the way it was built. While it was a challenge on multiple fronts, it was certainly a great learning experience which we deeply appreciate for both for me and my co-founder, Lukas.
Reception and feedback
Since it was released, Sketch Focus has had around 6000 downloads with thousands of notes and tasks created, leading to increased productivity and saved time for many people. We were kindly featured on design blogs and websites such as Sketch App Rocks and Designer News as well as in the Sketch Newsletter, and we’ve received messages from designers all over the world telling us how useful Sketch Focus is to them, such as the one below:
“I just wanted to say we love Sketch Focus. It has helped with our team workflow quite a bit.” — Steve Brown, veux labs
These kinds of messages always motivate us and make us very happy that we are positively affecting others, and we would like to thank everyone that downloaded Sketch Focus so far or otherwise helped make it a success.
You all rock.
We also received constructive criticism from some designers, as well as ideas on how to make Sketch Focus work better for them, so that it does exactly what they need to supercharge their workflow. More on this later.
While the plugin is quite useful in its current form and is helping many people, it exhibits some serious flaws:
- It is purely individual-based with no teamwork and collaboration functionality, which doesn’t align with the design workspace
- It has limited functionality and data structures, for example it is not possible to nest tasks, or change a note into a task and vice versa
- It is not as well integrated into the design workflow as it could be
The original motivation behind the development of Sketch Focus was that when working on design projects, especially the larger ones, we often found it tedious to keep track of tasks and what we needed to do next.
The current Sketch Focus does help with this, but we found that it is cumbersome to use due to the issues outlined above and also others. This links us to the next section.
Having taken all the feedback and ideas on board, we decided to keep investigating how to really make the design workflow more productive, organised and streamlined for all designers, irrespective of whether they work individually or in teams. We talked to designers and visited design studios, and combined with our own experience of working on design projects, we identified the following three main issues with the current design workflow:
- Constantly switching away from the design software to other apps to check client specifications and requirements breaks the creative process
- Planning what to do next and organising tasks is time consuming
- Team members frequently don’t know what exactly has been done, by whom and why
This is not ideal and as a result, energy, time and money is wasted.
That’s where Focus comes in.
We are currently in the planning and design stages and I will now share with you what we have so far.
- The web app provides designers with a complete overview of all projects and their teams
- The software extensions allow tasks (and more!) to be added directly to designs whilst also suggesting work to do next based on our self-adapting machine learning algorithm
- Through integrations with popular services such as Slack, Trello and Jira, Focus brings all the important information into one place
It looks something like this:
By designing with Focus, you will benefit by becoming a more organised and efficient designer.
We need your help
While we have a good idea of what Focus should be and the issues it is trying to solve, we invite you to share with us your own struggles, experiences and ideas.
We would very much like to involve you in the process so that we can refine Focus and create a product that does exactly what you need.
Over the coming days and weeks, we will be sending emails to our early access users about our progress and ideas so far, keeping them in the loop and putting their feedback and suggestions at the heart of all that we do.
If you’re interested, join the other 450 designers already here and sign up to our early access list:
By joining the list you will get exclusive access to Focus for the first few weeks when the product is released, so it’s worth getting on board. We will also be selecting 5–10 people who will get Focus t-shirts completely free!
What’s more, if others join the early access list on your recommendation (and you let us know), you will also get some special perks. More will be released soon!
I hope you found this post informative and enjoyed finding out more about our next steps and ideas. Be sure to follow us on twitter @designwithfocus, tell your colleagues and let me know what you think in the comments below. Exciting times ahead!
Post by Kamil from Focus