I love Evernote. It took me one week to go premium and has changed how I live. Before Evernote (BE), I’d remember some intriguing tidbit of info and then be unable to remember the details or source that would back up the interesting fact. I also bought a scanner for my old notebooks filled with ideas that might be useful someday and all the notices from banks that I felt I needed to keep but took up too much space.
Using Evernote isn’t always as awesome. I have multiple versions for my (android) phone, my iPad, my work mac, and my home PC. Different teams work on each of these and I don’t necessarily NEED all my Evernote apps to work the same way. So I’ll treat them as seperate.
Evernote for Mac (v.5.0.6)
This is a new interface so it comes with issues common to a revamped app. Basically they changed a lot of things in v5 and I’m more used to v4. No one likes feeling stupid looking for something they used to know how to do. So here’s the good, the bad, and possibly the ugly.
Icons are very useful for both new and repeat users, they also help unclutter control bars and add aesthetic interest to navigation.
For repeat users a simple icon is faster to recognize than a text link, speeding up the user’s experience. For new users, the icon can give an idea of what the control will be based on previous computer experience. See a picture of a 1980′s floppy disk? Probably the “save” button.
There’s a lot of good icon use here. In the side bar there are large icons for notes, notebooks, tags, etc. Notice the label to the right of these icons. Many of the icons used around the screen are familiar. The back and forward, the refresh, and trash, even the tag icon is becoming commonplace now. But there are some weird ones, like the satellite dish. For new users it helps to have a tool tip display when you hover over the icons so you know what you’re getting into. Especially since this is a desktop program and users have access to a mouse. Evernote doesn’t give tool tips and this can be quite frustrating if you’re looking for a feature that has changed or a feature you don’t use often.
For example, I needed to change the sort order of my notes from “title” to “date created” for a moment to look for a note I’d made yesterday. I checked under “All Notes” but no luck – that’s just a list of all my notebooks. After failing to find it in several other places, I had to look it up on google and only learned that “yes, you can sort by date created.” BTW – It’s the square icon next to the tag icon and I forgot how to do this three times as I typed up this post. Having a hover on the square icon that read “layout” or “views” might have helped.
Don’t make me do that
Humans are often effort adverse, especially when doing daily repetative tasks. Whenever possbile we’ll take the shortcut across the yard instead of sticking to the sidewalk. Or we’ll bike through a red light when no cars are around instead of waiting. In webland this is translated into the sacred “three clicks.” Designers are taught (for better or worse) that everything on a site must be three clicks away. This has lead to homepages stuffed with links, fat footers with the entire website exposed, and site maps. The idea is as long as the page is no more than three clicks away, you’ll be fine.
I’m not going to touch the fallacy in that idea in this post. But what “three clicks” is trying to address is true. We hate to do more work than possible for routine and simple tasks. Previously in Evernote, all your tags were listen in the far left column. They were small and if you had a lot of tags it was quite awkward. I’d actually created tag “folders” to address the problem that put similar tags together so that they were easier to deal with. Now you click on the tag button which changes the other two screens to show your tags.
It’s not a bad design, but to me it feels like more work to get to a list of my tags and that is something that I’m innately disposed to feel frustrated about. I’ll get used to it, but it’ll take time.
Pay attention TO ME
There’s a reason things in all caps feel like shouting and that red marks error messages. We pay attention to the large and to the different. If something takes up a lot of room, it must be important. The squeaky wheel and all that.
I’m a “premium” user of Evernote which means I give them money so I can upload more on a monthly basis. It also comes with other features, one of which is “related notes” which shows notes based off of some algorithm that are similar to the note you’re looking at.
I’ve read some complaints that the notes aren’t very related. And if you look at the example, I’m not sure what these notes have in common with the one I’m writing. Lots of people would love to know a bit more about how the system picks these notes and understanding that would probably fix the “unrelated note issue.” Personally it doesn’t bother me if the notes are related or not.
But do you see my issue? The size of the related notes area is equal to the size of my note area. The three related notes are large icon-like and the most interesting thing in this section, especially with the images. That’s a lot of real estate devoted to an “extra” feature. For longer notes, it’s probably okay since you scroll down and see these at the bottom, but for short notes, or like this one – new notes – they have WAY too much prominence. I could turn the feature off – but I’d rather just tone it down. It’s a desktop app, not my iPad, so smaller boxes would work just as well and wouldn’t have the related notes SCREAMING at me.
Basically what Evernote (Mac) is missing is a bit more help for those new to the interface (which as 5 just came out – is pretty much everyone) and I WILL NOT watch a video explaining all the new features. I dislike watching videos when I just want to know how to do one thing. Tooltips on the icons are a common feature and don’t normally detract from users once they get familiar with how an icon works.
Secondly, this app moves the Mac interface closer to the iPad interface giving features more real estates and room to breath, but it puts what used to be quick links in essence and made them new screens. This makes them feel more important and gives them more room, but it slows you down a bit mentally when you click tags – and then find the tag you want on a new screen before returning to the “normal view.”
Lastly, make sure that less important features don’t take up more room (physically and mentally) than important features. Related Notes are not vital (especially on a new note). Give us more room to compose. I’m on a computer, I don’t need a huge icon for each related note – they can be half the size, honest. Have you heard of Fitts’ Law? On a smaller screen like an iPad this might be a good button-link size, but I’m on a desktop.