Evernote, a bloated Elephant

Evernote recently updated their app with the new context feature and the app now shows related content to the notes your writing underneath your note. They used to show related notes in the past, but they now pull in information from sources like linkedin or the Wall Street journal.
They also integrate a chat feature in the app which combines note sharing and commenting in one interface.

Last year they added presentation mode and reminders, they’ve recently started selling hardware to integrate with your Evernote experience ranging from scanners and notebooks to desktop accessories and clothing. All in the name of productivity and being the central hub for your work.

Evernote may have started out as a place to keep your digital notes, but CEO Phil Libin has far grander plans in mind: He wants it to be your everything for productivity. We’re already seeing shades of Evernote’s evolution today. New features let you collaborate with others from within its apps and automatically get links to content relevant from your notes. – Engadget

I’ve been using Evernote for five years now and I’ve seen the app evolve from a notebook that never forgets (just like the elephant in their logo) into a digital workplace. But where feature additions are great because they provide a richer experience, they also distract and have a high risk of moving an app away from the reason it existed in the first place.

When I ask people how they would define iTunes, these are all possible answers:

  • it’s Apple’s music player.
  • it’s the app I use to sync my iPod or iPhone.
  • it’s where I buy apps, music and movies.

But the term A bloated, unwieldy mess also comes to mind.

After these last couple of Evernote updates I’m starting to feel similar about Evernote. It’s a great app that, with the exception of OneNote doesn’t have any real competition when it comes to collecting, storing and retrieving notes. But at the same time the most important feature of the app, creating notes, hasn’t really improved.
It still doesn’t support markdown. Text markup is quite basic still and although it has recently improved rich media integration like images and tables, it still leaves a lot to be desired.
Due to this lack of focus on the writing experience, I’ve found myself writing in Byword or Drafts, and exporting these notes to Evernote.

I basically only use Evernote to retrieve content I stored. It’s become a container, a storage device instead of an app I actively use.
Again, very similar to iTunes. I never use iTunes actively. I watch movies via my Apple TV, or stream music stored in iTunes via Sonos. But, aside from deleting some apps last week, I never touch the app itself anymore.

It’s a pity how sometimes developers, by trying to create a richer experience, make an apps original purpose less enjoyable.