It has been three months since my last update in this space, and Evernote has been extraordinarily busy. In September, we were just beginning to roll out our new apps. Now, as we head into the holidays, it’s time to report on the product transition we’re navigating, and to step back for a clear-eyed accounting of our efforts—one that reflects what we’re seeing in product usage as well as what we’re hearing from you.
We have released new apps for all of our core platforms: Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. Android was the last to release, beginning its rollout on December 1, limited at this point to devices running Android 10 or newer. We expect to broaden OS version support in the early months of 2021; until then, older Android devices will continue to use the previous generation Evernote app.
While we have made considerable progress in our new apps, rebuilding them from the ground up, the releases have not gone as smoothly as any of us would have liked. Despite an extensive QA process and a long-running beta program, some of our customers have encountered frustrating bugs and performance issues.
In the earliest versions of our releases, for example, some customers saw their notes repeatedly duplicated while they were editing them. Bugs with our iOS share extension tool made clipping content problematic, and the speed and reliability of downloading notes for offline use didn’t deliver on your expectations. Likewise, early versions of our Mac and Windows apps exhibited problems with note links, and provided inconsistent access to keyboard shortcuts. Our most advanced power users were quick to report previously unknown bugs, including reports of sporadic sync and performance issues. We moved quickly to fix many of these issues, and we continue to make significant progress with each release, but we recognize that encountering bugs like these is frustrating.
Beyond the bugs, some of our UX and functionality decisions spurred complaints from long-time customers while earning praise from others. Some friction was an unavoidable by-product of our decision to more closely align our design across platforms. As I’ve mentioned in our Behind the Scenes videos, Evernote had evolved into five divergent experiences on five different platforms. To reunify the apps and give you a more seamless experience across devices, we had to make hundreds of individual choices about the UX and functionality that formed the basis for the new Evernote. We considered each of these decisions carefully because they meant making tradeoffs—tradeoffs that had the potential to improve some workflows, while disrupting others.
But possibly more controversial was our decision to roll out the new Mac and Windows apps while still missing features used by some of our most intensive customers. We believed this was the right path because Mac and Windows users dependent on missing features could continue to use (and reinstall if necessary) their legacy Evernote Mac or Windows client. Meanwhile, getting the new apps into people’s hands now—even if they only met the needs of 90 percent of our customers—opened up our ability to iterate quickly, so we could work through the backlog of rebuilding previously available features and make progress on new features to come.
In retrospect, I think we went wrong in failing to set proper expectations with our power users in advance of these releases. If we had increased communication to help our most intensive users evaluate up front whether the new Windows or Mac release was ready for them, I believe we could have avoided much of the dislocation they experienced on exploring the new apps. Nonetheless, launching the new clients into market has enabled us to increase release velocity significantly over the last several months, so we still believe that we are on the right path.
With all that said, I want to be clear about where we stand.
We are now shipping software faster than we have in years. Software velocity was one of the underlying reasons that we undertook this top-to-bottom renovation of our applications and infrastructure. Since our first iOS release in September, we have shipped six follow-up releases, addressing bugs and performance issues as well as filling feature gaps that include sort options in search results, adding tags via share extension, printing notes, and the ability to view password-protected PDFs. On Windows and Mac, we have shipped nine releases and started to close the feature gap by adding the ability to edit note creation dates, top list view, dark mode improvements, note counts in the left nav, and the ability to make quick notes and take screen captures with Evernote Helper. We’ve recognized the need to increase transparency, so you can see what’s slated for upcoming releases in the “Coming Soon” section of the release notes.
We are prioritizing sync and performance issues. Evernote’s promise to help you “remember everything and accomplish anything” depends on error-free sync and speedy performance. When sync goes wrong or performance is lacking, we’re not succeeding. As we plan releases in our newly accelerated release cycle, addressing these problems comes first. Every release since launch has contained fixes and improvements for sync and/or performance, and we will continue to maintain this focus.
We are listening to and acting on your feedback. Working at the scale of millions of customers is challenging; virtually any decision will leave some people feeling elated and others displeased. Fortunately, we have a passionate user base that has taken the time to explain in detail how changes we’ve made impact their diverse approaches to Evernote. If we get something wrong, that feedback can help us reassess. For instance, we recently restored the ability for users to choose between internal and external link formats when copying a note link. In upcoming releases, we will restore a full slate of keyboard shortcuts (and add a matching quick reference guide), move the insert menu to be more easily within reach for large screens, and change links in notes to require only a single click.
We will balance filling in the backlog with shipping new functionality. Users who have reverted to the legacy Mac or Windows versions of Evernote want us to fill the gap of missing features. On the other hand, the majority of Evernote’s customers are looking forward to new capabilities. Both needs are real, so expect us to pursue both in parallel, taking advantage of our new, higher velocity release cycle. At the same time as we are working through the feature backlog, you will see us start to beta and ship completely new functionality across our new apps. We’ve already shipped Google Drive integration on iOS, and some weeks back, we started a private beta of a significant new feature, with even more new functionality already in the pipe.
We remain committed to making Evernote ever better for our customers. It is clear that we still have work to do before our new apps will delight everyone. But it is also true that many of our customers are already finding great success with these apps, as we can see in improved product engagement metrics measured across millions of users. For instance, across the new apps customers are creating more notes and are more likely to share or tag notes than they are in the legacy clients. So while our work is not done, our direction is clear.
We believe that every few weeks, with every release, we have the opportunity to demonstrate why we undertook this journey two years ago. With every release, we are knocking down issues and building momentum. With every release, we will regain the trust of those who have run into problems, and advance towards our goal of delighting you all with exciting new capabilities. I’m confident that the first few months of 2021 will be an exciting start to an exciting, productive year with Evernote.