Eugene Kim over at Business Insider (I know, I know) has piece on Evernote’s fall from grace in the tech world.
Depending on where you stand, Evernote is either a sinking ship or a maturing company going through a normal transition cycle. But most people we spoke to seem to agree that the company has failed to take advantage of its red-hot growth and make enough money from much of its huge user base — and is starting to show early signs of being an ailing unicorn.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Evernote myself. I like the idea of the service, but I’ve never had a great way to integrate it into my life. That’s not to say I didn’t see the use of Evernote, I certainly did and actually used a similar service, Simplenote for years (I’ve since switched over to the Notes app for iOS and OS X). Evernote has failed to grab me because I think its apps are terrible.
I liken the Evernote app (on all platforms) to be similar to Microsoft Word: it can do some amazing things, but you have to battle a user-hostile interface to get to those features. Much like Microsoft’s word processing behemoth, Evernote has 100+ features, but I just want to use (and see) 5-10 of them. I always feel like Evernote is throwing a lot at me when I go into any of their apps, and it’s not a welcoming experience.
All of these features come with a tough performance hit as well. Evernote has traditionally been on the of the slowest apps to launch on my iPhone. That’s not a great thing for something that’s supposed to be where you go to take a quick note. A major reason that Simplenote won my heart was because it performed so much better on all of my devices where I was taking notes.
Another pain point is how often Evernote prompts you to upgrade, and how little you seem to get by going paid. I get that Evernote wants to convert free users into paid users, but they seriously could chill out a little with putting banners in front of me all the time. On a whim, I decided to go all in on Evernote a year ago and paid for a few months of Evernote Premium. I found that I used the service exactly the same whether I was on the paid tier or not. So I cancelled my Premium plan and I didn’t feel like I was losing anything.
Marco Arment often talks about the delicate balancing act of figuring out how to make a freemium product. You need to put the pain point at just the right spot so that customers don’t think you’re ripping them off, but they run into limitations just enough to decide they’ll throw a few bucks at this app/service to get more out of it. I think Evernote has failed to find a good split between free and paid features. It doesn’t help that their explanations of each level of service (above) are obtuse and don’t do a good job of explaining the benefits of paying.
Despite all this person negativity, I actually do think that Evernote has a bright future. I think this if the company is having some growing pains right now, they will be able to come out on the other end better for having gone through it. I believe this because they service they are providing is inherently useful and incredibly appealing if they can iron out some of the current shortcomings.