Why do most note-taking apps not work?

Why do most note-taking apps not work?

Many note-taking apps have come and gone. Some of these succeed, but most fail.

By failure I don’t mean they necessarily went out of business (although some certainly did). I’m talking about failure from the perspective of the product. A “failed” note-taking app works against your mind, not with it.

A note-taking app fails when it takes so much time or effort to record something that you simply don’t use it. Or when your note recall is so poor that you never find anything. I’d put Evernote in that category, and that’s why they’ve largely fallen out of favor with avid note-takers (despite leading the way for so long).

Successful note-taking apps, on the other hand, must be an extension of thinking. It’s not an obstacle.

Different ways to succeed, many ways to fail

Everyone wants something different from a note-taking app. We are all unique people with different life paths and functions. We have our own preferences and our own ideas of what the perfect note-taking app should be.

Many of them, like Evernote, try to please everyone and end up cramming as many features as possible. Packing too many features into an app doesn’t just lead to a terrible user experience. This also degrades the performance of the application. Choosing to “do it all” destroys the two pillars of a great note-taking app: simplicity and performance.

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There are two ways to avoid falling into this trap. The most common is to focus on a very specific niche. When you pick a very specific niche, it’s easy to look at a service request and say “that’s not necessary.” The second option is to treat the app as a “flavor” company – where the founder acts as a taster, nurturing the ideal product experience according to his own vision.

Technical challenges of note-taking applications

Building a note-taking app is a lot harder than it looks. Engineers have to implement many technically challenging features such as synchronization, offline work, reliability and security.

The design and user experience of the note-taking application is also a serious challenge. How do you shape everything to be as frictionless as possible? How can you improve your design without breaking existing user habits?

All of these things are relatively easy to handle as long as you have to. Even a company like Evernote, with a large team and huge amount of funding, has fallen into this trap. Both the user experience and performance of the app became a nightmare years ago.

Growth is the cause of the problem, not the solution

B2C companies are significantly more difficult to grow than B2B companies. The value of purchases is much lower, churn is higher, and support requires more manpower. All of these things make growth difficult. And a note-taking app that doesn’t grow, like any other company, needs to turn around or die.

In order to avoid the latter, financing is often undertaken. But the problem with fundraising is that investors expect a high return on their investment. This makes it necessary to scale to grow. And ideally, do it quickly.

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There are two ways to quickly expand a B2C product:

  1. a) Add collaboration features (share notes with others to view and edit)
  2. b) Converted into a literal B2B product sold to teams

Interestingly, Evernote did both. Great solutions if your primary goal is to increase your income quickly. They’re not so great if you’re trying to create an awesome note-taking app.

There are two ways to avoid this scaling pitfall. The first is bootstrapping. Your investors can’t tell you what to do if you don’t have one! It also means you don’t need to generate nearly as much revenue. It can grow linearly.

But bootstrapping is difficult and indeed not possible for some. If you need to raise money, try raising a social circle. This works best if you have an early, highly engaged group of users. This gives you a nice cushion that you can make a great product out of.

Main Takeaway:

If you’re building a note-taking app, the lessons are:

  1. Don’t take venture capital funding
  2. Be aggressive about what features you add
  3. Overestimate technical difficulties
  4. Decide who you are building the app for

If you’re a consumer looking to get the most out of your app, it’s a bit more nuanced. Find an app experience tailored specifically to your needs and wants. Do not be included in the hunt. Features ≠ performance.

Learn more about who creates the app and why. See what their philosophy is and what applications they want to reach. Avoid flashy innovations and focus on tools that want to reach a sustainably growing group of dedicated users. Find an app that has a community around it.

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If you’re looking for an app that prioritizes simplicity, performance, reliability, and security, check it out to reflect. We’re a small team of 4 focused on creating the best note-taking experience possible that will last for a long time. Reflect acts as an extension of the brain, favoring frictionless thought capture and recall. Your notes are connected – just like your brain!

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