CASE STUDY

Noteshelf
Digital Note-Taking

ROLE
Product Design
User Experience
Visual Design
Website
Identity
TEAM
Fluid Touch
🇯🇵🇸🇬🇵🇭🇮🇳
YEAR
2010 to present
Orginally an independent project for digital note-taking, Noteshelf has grown to 6 million paid users 🎉 and counting.

THE CHALLENGE
We've inherited so much legacy as one of the first few applications available for the iPad's initial release in 2010. Features were prioritized over focus, scalability and clarity.

The userbase has evolved from business people into creative young professionals, students, diarists and planners -- all who wanted the authentic feeling of ink to paper in digital handwriting.
noteshelf 1 circa 2010
Original version of Noteshelf, 2010
DISCOVERY

Looked into the most recurring complaints from various channels like App Store reviews, support tickets, beta testers and avid users.

Being one of the most expressive note-taking apps became a double-edged sword. It made Noteshelf a nightmare to scale to the increasing number of mobile devices.

Linking these with technical feasibility and business goals, I curated the data.

INSIGHTS
  • Paginating became cumbersome, and something as simple as adding a new page was difficult to discover.
  • Other basics such as adding notebooks, importing PDFs and exporting notes needed simplification and reduction of steps.
  • With the paradigm shift of content-first and less-is-more in apps in general, and more so in the productivity space, the visual language needed rethinking.
  • Users still loved the handwriting engine’s authentic feel of ink to paper that separates Noteshelf from competition.
  • Customization of shelf, notebooks, and availability of paper templates serving different use cases remained highly valued.

Goals

  1. Lower app footprint for better performance with simpler design assets and requirements.
  2. Make paper templates scaleable across resolutions.‍
  3. Which then allows cross-device syncing, one of the most highly requested features.‍
  4. Retain Noteshelf’s personality that has become well-loved by the evolved userbase.
noteshelf flowcharts
Information architecture drafts done in early ideation

Through the next months...

I worked closely with the development team, support team and beta testers.

Heavily using the insights we gathered during discovery, we prepared flowcharts, priority maps and mockups that directly complement the goals we set out to have.

With the support of our avid testers, we were testing out early assumptions and concepts, and were able to carefully craft the improved experience we wanted Noteshelfers to have.

It was a circular iterative process (even to this day!) that at times felt frustrating with the technical roadblocks, remote-based challenges, design constraints and startup resource management.

Then finally, Noteshelf 2 was officially released. 🥳

noteshelf early wireframes
Early low fidelity wires sketched out in Noteshelf's original version, based in the Information Architecture we laid out in Discovery.

🏆 / Results

  • Apple-featured in various App Store regions.
  • Became the #1 overall app in the US 2011, right above Angry Birds.
  • Installed in the devices in the official Apple retail stores worldwide as part of iPad’s showcase apps.
  • Scaled well and was made available for MacOS and natively to Android in 2019.
  • Reached the top #3 in the App Store Productivity category in 2020.
  • Reached the top #3 in the Android Play Store Productivity category shortly after release.
  • Became top #1 overall app in Korea in January 2020.

🎖 Press & App Store Reviews

"One fabulous option for both students and professionals is Noteshelf"
"Supernatural digital ink, a stunning UI and a comprehensive toolset that will increase the benefits of owning an iPad by leaps and bounds."
"So intuitive that it has to be considered one of the quintessential iPad apps. It's a must-have tool."
"I used the Noteshelf app for years... a delight and has kept the simplicity and effectiveness of the original. It is the closest to writing on paper of any other apps out there."
"The interface is great and uncluttered while still providing access to any features you need instantly... If you are trying to decide between the big note taking apps, look no further."
"It delivers all this without feeling cluttered or difficult to learn/use. In fact, the intuitive interface and helpful tips make picking it up a breeze."

🎨 What Noteshelfers are making