4 min read

7 things to look for in an app – how to evaluate tools without loosing too much time

Why even bother?

Why not just pick the first app that more-less does what I need and move on?

As always, the short answer is: it depends.

If you’re on a call and jotting down a phone number, you may just do that. Pick any app that allows you to input text and just type it down.

But if you’re writing a dissertation or a book, a difference between a crappy app and a great one can save you hours or even days of work!

Yes, I have lost hours of work before because an app that I’ve picked didn’t back up data.

The choice galore

When it comes to choosing the right tool for the job, it's important to make an informed decision without wasting too much time.

This used to be easy!

When you wanted to drive a nail, you reached for a hammer.


Not so much.

There are better options, from specialised hammer types to electric nailers, which make the process easy and efficient.

And when it comes to software, the number of choices is just staggering. Something as simple as note-taking can be done in so many different ways that sometimes makes impossible to decide on which app to use.

There’s even a website where you can pick the features that are critical to you and narrow the list of apps to test. The website lists some 35 apps (maybe not all of them are strictly note-taking apps, but there are also some that are missing).

With countless options available, it can be overwhelming to sift through them all. To help streamline the process, here are seven key factors to consider when evaluating an app.

The checklist

1. Functionality

At a minimum, the app should have the core features and functionality that align with your requirements. Consider what tasks you need the app to accomplish and ensure it meets those needs.

This is obviously not a binary check. Some apps may do that one thing better or worse than others. So you need to establish your own threshold for every feature you’ve looking for, which would make it a bit "more binary" ;-).

2. User-friendliness and User Experience

An app should be intuitive and easy to navigate. Look for a clean and organised user interface that allows for smooth and efficient interaction and is easy to look at.

There should be no or minimal friction to achieve your objective. The more friction, the more you have to “fight” the app, the less probable it is that you will use it.

3. Performance and Reliability

A reliable app should be stable and perform well across different devices and operating systems. It should load quickly, respond promptly, and not crash frequently (or – ideally – at all). That also includes how the data is handled.

  • If an app starts instantly, but takes ages to load or save a file – it’s still bad.
  • If an app syncs data with some cloud, but it often causes sync conflicts or information loss – it’s bad.
  • If an app starts fast, works fast but takes all of your device’s resources, it’s still not great.

4. Security and Privacy

Protecting your data is essential. Look for apps that prioritise security measures, such as encryption and secure login processes. Ensure the app respects your privacy by reviewing its data collection and usage policies.

5. Compatibility and Integration

Consider whether the app integrates well with other tools you use. Compatibility with different platforms and the ability to sync data across devices can enhance your productivity and user experience.

New apps are being released every day, while development of existing ones may sometimes come to an end. If the software you use does not allow easily exporting your data to formats that can be consumed by other tools, you may be locked-in. This should be avoided whenever possible.

6. Customer Support

A perfect app should need neither manual nor support, as it is easy to use and doesn't break. But the ones we have to use are usually not perfect :-).

Hence, good customer support is crucial in case you encounter any issues or have questions. Check for available support channels, response times, and user reviews regarding the app's support quality.

7. Reviews and Ratings

Before committing to an app, it's good to read reviews and ratings from other users. Look for feedback on its performance, features, and overall user satisfaction. This can provide valuable insights into the app's strengths and weaknesses.

It's not science, though. There are times when this part of your research will fail (e.g., apps with 5-star reviews turn out to be complete disasters, while some underrated will actually be good), but it's still worth checking. Just understand the profile of the reviewers, and weight their opinions accordingly.

E.g., if you're looking to buy a tank, and some of them have high marks on the "comfort level", it may not necessarily mean the same as the corresponding rating you'd see on the Rolls-Royce forums.

Reading reviews and opinions will also give you some insights that are unavailable elsewhere, like:

  • weird bugs that app may have, that may prevent you from using it
  • or how the app creators interact with their audience,
  • or even if the app is still maintained.


By considering these seven factors, you can evaluate app options efficiently and make an informed decision without wasting excessive time. Remember to focus on your specific needs and prioritise what matters most to you.

Sometimes it will be a compromise, choosing one feature over another, or giving up on some features, because the rest of them are so good, that they make it worth your time and money. And it's also exciting!

And lastly, always be open-minded and try out new things because only then you will know that you're using the best tool for the job.

Happy hunting!