I just noticed that the Evernote app updated itself on my phone, and that got me thinking about how I just don’t use it much. I made a serious effort a year or two ago, in the middle of my last big project, dutifully taking pictures of white boards, making notes during meetings, TODO checklists, etc.; however, I almost never went back and reread the notes, reviewed the snapshots, or worked through the TODO lists, and somehow, the project still chugged along just fine.
The surprising part (for me) is that Evernote is exactly what I would have designed if you’d asked me to design a note-taking/idea-organising app. From my POV, the app did everything right:
- Search works
- You can group notes by subject or by tags
- You can share notes
- The smartphone app works offline and syncs when you’re back online
- It organises media like pictures the same way it organizes text notes
- The UI is simple and uncluttered (at least, it was back when I was using it)
Maybe the problem isn’t Evernote, but the idea of taking notes at meetings. I have piles of old engineering notebooks from past consulting gigs, and I doubt I ever went back and reviewed 0.5% of them after I wrote them.
I guess this is a good lesson for information architecture and tech design. I started with a process that didn’t work for me (paper-based note taking) and assumed that if I added some tech pixie dust to it — web apps, search, tags, smartphone app, etc. — it would suddenly change and become functional. That didn’t happen, because it almost never happens, and it’s not Evernote’s fault.