Our app (codenamed “Snippets”) records notes. Our goal is to record and retrieve notes faster than any other product in mobile. After all, we know our main competition is the humble sticky note.
But what about our other competition? I went looking for other notes apps in the Windows Phone marketplace and wanted to share my initial reactions here, as a way to explain what I think they do well, and what they could improve.
OneNote comes with the phone, has a strong cloud story, and has clients on all major platforms. We can’t compete at that level. But we can compete with an app that’s more focused, since OneNote is quite robust, and not everyone needs that kind of power.
I think we can be faster than OneNote at recording and retrieving, precisely because we’re not going to attempt as many bells and whistles.
Everything I said about OneNote applies here, except EverNote is not bundled as part of Windows Phone.
This app looks as simple as we’re aiming for, but the interaction model feels a bit cumbersome in use. Because Light Notes splits the notes into “read” and “write” pivots, I’m finding myself swiping back and forth more than I think should be necessary. This is a good example of pivots causing more trouble than they’re worth.
As proven by its popularity in the Marketplace, Notes does a lot of things right. My main concern is that while it’s pretty straight-forward, it’s still trying to show too much.
Showing the GPS coordinates for a note isn’t going to help anyone, although showing notes as points on a map is a nice touch. On the same vein, using technical date stamps like 6/20/2012 9:05:13 PM makes the app feel like it’s designed for robots. I’d go with relative dates (“Yesterday”) where you can, and make prettier dates (“June 20, 9:05pm”) everywhere else.
It’s quick to add a note, but unfortunately there’s no search, meaning you have to remember where your notes are. Not a deal breaker, but something we should be able to improve on.
I can’t find this one on the store, so maybe it’s only available on HTC devices. The app has an animated background, an illustrated corkboard, the ability to collage notes however you want, and sound effects when you tap on the note to edit it.
It’s an interesting demo, but it’s not following Metro principles, it’s too flashy, and I find it hard to use.
Notepad Freeis pretty good. The first thing I noticed is the use of the panorama control. Unfortunately, I found the panorama getting in my way during use. One screen of the control appears to just be a space to advertise the website for the developer, and other is used for settings.
I do like some key features in this app, but I find that the IXD slowed me down too much.
I came across Notepad while writing this article, so I threw it on my phone at the last minute. It’s a fascinating appbecause of how my first impression of it changed so dramatically.
On first load, the app dropped me on a simple screen. “Uh oh”, I thought. “This app might be as quick and well designed as I’m trying for. This might be our best competition.” I typed some text and tapped save, and then these steps happened:
* I was asked to enter a filename for the note
* A modal dialog appeared telling me about other features in the app
This is where my brief love affair ended. The app wanted too many details out of me. I tapped the “new” button to make a new note and was asked if I wanted a new note or folder. When I selected “folder”, it asked me to add “remarks” on it. I quit the app.
If you’re developing an app on any platform, but especially on Windows Phone, put extra thought into the first run experience. You should work hard at removing extraneous questions, options, and settings. Otherwise your users may have an experience similar to mine: “I love this!” followed three seconds later by “Now I’m confused.”
And that was my best experience. The other apps I didn’t love first. Put extra time into getting people to fall in love, and you’ll stand out.