A Better Notes App

A concept for a notes app without the clutter.

  • Taking notes is one of the most common uses of mobile phones. From Evernote, with over 25 million users, to native OS apps, note taking is nearly ubiquitous among mobile users.
  • However, no app on the market has attempted to solve one of the biggest problems with the mobile note-taking experience: clutter.
  • Our mobile notebooks are full of irrelevant and dated snippets of information, making it difficult to find the content that counts.
  • Snapnote is a re-imagination of how we take notes on our phones. Taking inspiration from Snapchat's disappearing messages, newly created notes are on a self-destruct timer. By automatically removing infrequently accessed notes, Snapnote eliminates notebook clutter.

Research

Before starting the wireframes for Snapnote, I conducted research to help validate (or invalidate) the need for such an application. Before long, I came across several studies about how computer and mobile users take notes. The findings were encouraging.

Digging into these studies, I discovered a trove of evidence for the exact problems Snapnote would solve:

  • Key Finding 1: People don't revisit most of the notes that they take. According to a study published in the IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications journal, 70% of notes we take on our phones aren't edited again only one day after we create them. In other words, most of the notes on our phones provide no information we'll ever need again.
  • Key Finding 2: Another study, from UMBC, found that one common thread in how people jot down "micronotes" is that the activity has "a need to capture information quickly with minimal effort in unexpected environments." So, Snapnote's UI needed to create as few barriers to creating a new note as possible.

Color Palette

Mountain Meadow

Chathams Blue

Typography

Roboto

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz

Avenir

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz

Solution

USER TESTING

I created a wireframe and prototype for the first iteration of Snapnote. The result was a work in progress. But, thanks to helpful feedback from members of my local UX meetup, eventually I was able to distill the app down to a tiny set of interactions, resulting in a simple, human-friendly application.

THE PLAN

Since Snapnote is built around the quick thoughts and memos we jot down throughout the day, the interface doesn’t allow for robust organizational or note-taking tools. A user would be able to create three types of notes: plain text, bulleted list or photo.

Each new note would automatically self-destruct after one week. If a user wants to keep a note for longer, they can refresh the countdown timer. If they want to remove a note earlier, there is an option to manually delete.

TRY, TRY AGAIN

I went through 4 iterations of Snapnote before arriving at the final prototype. The first iteration offered too many options to the user, and kept the focus on existing notes instead of new ones. Though the next iteration changed the interface to a feed of notes, reducing clutter, it still afforded the user too many options.

When demoing the second prototype to other designers, the feedback was generally positive. But, there was a motif that the app allowed the user to do too much. It wasn’t clear to testers what interactions were available, and many features complicated the experience more than they provided robustness.

NOTES, UNCLUTTERED

The next iteration further removed interactions from the interface, but overcompensated with visual design. It replaced the numeric countdown timer was a gradient of dots from green to red, indicating the imminence of a note’s self-destruction, added more vibrant colors and shadows.

This version was close, but still too complex. Now, the interaction schema had almost achieved an ideal level of simplicity, but the interface felt over-designed. I changed to countdown dot gradient to a text timer and reduced the color vibrancies.

The result was an almost astonishingly simple interface. The app only required two screen mockups to demonstrate the entire prototype. What Snapnote lacks in robustness, it generously compensates for with simplicity, speed and clarity.

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