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How Sketch added collaboration

And what other SaaS can learn from it

Abby Barsky
  • Product
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Sketch, a major design platform for UX teams to design, manage and handoff projects, recently added in-app collaboration abilities for their users. This implementation was one for the (Sketch)books as the biggest upgrade to the tool since launching in 2010.

Sketch’s design researcher Tanya Nativ puts the need for real-time, in-app collaboration best:

“We know that the design process is fundamentally collaborative. Whether you’re bouncing ideas around with other design colleagues or working with developers to turn pixels into code, a design cannot exist in a vacuum.”

Design tool or not, collaboration is eating software. And SaaS tools will need to implement similar in-app functionalities, or they’ll fall behind.

Slapping together a commenting feature or emoji reactions won’t help you win– it takes a quality user experience to work. Luckily, Sketch summarized their entire process in their behind-the-scenes blog post so the industry can be both impressed and inspired. Here’s the gist – and what you can learn from them about collaboration for your own product.

How Sketch rolled out their high-quality collaboration experience

Sketch doesn’t do research carelessly. They created an entire business arm dedicated to engaging with customers for user research.

Sketch’s two-part research for the collaboration project included discovery research and usability testing.


Discovery research was about solving the problems with real-time collaboration – but what exactly were they? To find out, this team dove into what their own customers thought about collaborative editing, including concerns and pain points.

Usability testing

Second came usability testing, which ensured that the solutions to these problems were efficient, user-friendly, and the best possible approach.

After discovery and testing, Sketch Labs had a better idea of how their users work together and solutions to their needs. For example, their research unveiled common concerns around file-sharing, which led Sketch to create a new way for saving files directly in the Workspace.

It doesn't look like anything to me.

It’s clear the Sketch team has incredible research, product, and development teams who put in the time and effort needed to do this right.

If you want to skip some of these steps, an out-of-the-box solution like Cord may be a better option for your goals.

Building vs. buying collaborative features

If you have an in-house research lab, months to pull together users for discovery and testing, and engineering time to spare on developing features that’s aren’t the core functionality of your product, then you could probably handle a Sketch type of rollout in-house. The truth is, most start-ups and scale-ups don’t. Enter: an out-of-the-box solution.

Cord empowers SaaS vendors to add months of research-level collaboration to their product in a few days.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you get similar functionalities to what Sketch carefully developed, starting with just a single line of Javascript.

Cord offers native collaboration for your tool such as:

  • Visual or Google-Docs-esque text annotations for any part of your software
  • Slack-like live chat API
  • A messaging API that provides in-context customer support
  • Integrations with tools your users are already using, like Jira, Slack, Asana, and more
  • Live cursors so your users can feel togetherness in real time
  • Matches your UI so users will still feel cozy in your tool

And much more that product teams and engineering teams can feel good about.

See how Typeform created a collaborative experience powered by Cord

It doesn't look like anything to me.

No matter the route you take, we wish you the delight Nativ got to experience with Sketch’s rollout:

“For me, one of the most rewarding moments of the whole process was seeing our participants’ reactions when they experienced collaboration — and saw their teammates’ cursors — for the first time.”

Get the best version of your product without the heavy lifting. See how Cord can level up your native SaaS tool collaboration features in days at cord.com.