Callum BoothManaging Editor
Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional odd video.
For a while, Evernote was on top of the world. The Californian note-taking app surfed the 2000s tech productivity boom to become the leader in its field. But then it fell from grace, becoming sluggish, buggy, and expensive. Users abandoned the platform, heading in droves to other note-taking apps.
And it looks like more change is afoot. On January 3, the sale of Evernote to the Italian company Bending Spoons was finally confirmed.
On one hand, this could be concerning for remaining users. Evernote will no longer be an independent company, meaning there could be huge changes to its current direction. But on the other hand… good?
I was an Evernote user for close to a decade before I switched last year. Things had simply gotten too bad with the bloated, slow, and cumbersome software, so I turned to Bear, a streamlined and beautiful bit of app.
With a new owner, Evernote now has an opportunity for a clean start. Bending Spoons already has a suite of consumer apps that are modern, powerful, and intuitive, and we have to believe the Italian company will use its expertise to shape a new Evernote.
The question is what should it do? How can Bending Spoons bring Evernote to its former glory? Well, we have some ideas.
Speed up Evernote apps
This was one of the main reasons why I moved away from Evernote. While I used and loved some of the app’s features (such as web clipping and document scanning), the main reason I used Evernote was for, well, notes.
While the speed of writing and searching on desktop was acceptable, the same wasn’t true on mobile devices — especially if they were a few years old.
If Bending Spoons wants to bring the shine back to Evernote, making its range of apps as lightning fast as possible would be a good start.
Remove the bloat…
In the mid-2010s, as Evernote was in the midst of accepting huge amounts of VC funds, the company diversified its offerings in order to open up more revenue streams. What that buzzwordy sentence means in human speak is Evernote jammed a whole load of features into the app and tried to be active on as many stores as possible.
Much of this was poorly planned and tested, leading to the software being infamously described as a “bug-ridden elephant” by Jason Kincaid.
While there have been upgrades to Evernote since that have improved overall performance, it still feels that the app is trying to do too much. Of course, having multimedia capabilities and integration into multiple apps is great for some people, but Evernote’s core mission should be note-taking. Instead, it feels focused on things like chat, calendar, and tasks, despite these areas of its software performing far worse than competitors.
Bending Spoons should either look at shearing back Evernote’s features, or allowing people to easily deselect certain features so the app can act as seamlessly as possible.
…but combine app functionality
Evernote has an array of different apps outside of its core bit of software — and some of these should be folded back into the main product.
On one hand, combining these apps into Evernote is antithetical to the above point of reducing bloat, but hear me out.
The software has tried to do many of the things you don’t want a note-taking app to do. Why, for example, would I ever want to chat on the same thing I’m writing on?
But look at those apps above again. They include a sketcher, a document scanner, and a handwriting app — all things that are useful to taking notes. Instead of being walled off from Evernote and largely forgotten about, these should be key features to make the process of taking notes as powerful as possible.
Reduce Evernote’s price
Cost was a huge element of me abandoning Evernote. At the time, I was paying €70 a year to take notes. That’s a silly amount of money — especially with how I used it.
I never got anywhere near the allocated 10GB a month of storage, had no need of calendar integration or task management, and never found a reason to connect to Google Drive. So what was I paying €70 a year for?
Bear — my current app — costs me around €14 ($15) for the same period, and I can’t say I’ve missed any of Evernote’s features since my transition.
I understand there will be some power users who want to use a full suite of features, but I guarantee there are scores more who just want to clip sites and store notes. So why not introduce a tier that’s closer to €20 a year? Something that offers all the basic features that people need?
Finally, Evernote must respect users
If Bending Spoons wants to save Evernote and for it to reclaim some its former glory, the first thing it should do is respect users. Stop pushing upgrades on people at every single possible opportunity. Stop being so overly restrictive on the number of devices individuals can use the free version with. Stop ignoring users’ complaints.
Instead, there needs to be a culture of respect and dialogue, treating those who use Evernote like people, rather than walking dollar signs.
Yes, Evernote has taken a fall, but it still has a strong enough brand and enough fans to become special again. The days of the unbridled tech boom are done, but there’s still a place for excellent apps doing simple things well. Let’s see if Bending Spoons can make that happen.
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