How I Evaluate Apps

When evaluating productivity apps, here is the system that I use. First of all, when I look at an app I try to figure out what kind of app it is. There are some apps that go without explanation like Email, Cloud Storage,  Calendars, Office Suites, etc., but there are other apps and services that are a little less well-defined. For these I have assigned the following classification categories so you can get a better idea of how to find the app that best suits your needs. Now there may be some slight overlap here and there, but generally speaking I have found that most productivity apps can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Bookmarking – apps that collect and manage bookmarks, articles, videos, multimedia, etc.
  • Task Management – apps that manage your daily to-dos.
  • Note Taking – anything from basic text notes to mega behemoths that can collect and organize pretty much anything.
  • Outliners – Apps that let you create simple nested lists.
  • Project/Database Management – Apps that let you manage multiple projects or databases of information either by yourself or with a group of people.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, here are some of the criteria that I look at when evaluating a productivity app:

Security

I think it’s important for people to know how their information is being stored, and if they can trust the services that they are using to handle their personal data confidentially. Most companies have a very clear policy with regards to how they keep your data on their company website, and I have based my recommendations for apps on that. As a general recommendation it is always best to be careful of what content you are posting, especially if it is stored in the cloud. If you have any doubts, probably best not to save it there.

Pricing

When it comes to app pricing, some app developers give away too many features for free or they try to restrict everything behind a paywall in order to stay in business. And I understand that.  But it’s not very fun for users when you can barely use any of the features of the app, or worse, a feature that was free suddenly gets removed, and now you have to pay a fee to use it. For those of you who can and want to purchase those extra features, I say go for it. It’s important to support App Developers and their hard work by helping to keep the services you love in business. But In the meantime, for the rest of us who are on a budget and can’t afford $70.00 a year (I’m looking at you Evernote!) I will recommend the best free apps, or the apps that I think will give you the most bang for your buck. Just because a service wants to charge you an arm and a leg doesn’t mean there isn’t a more affordable alternative elsewhere.

Availability

Inspiration can strike at any moment, and if I don’t have access to my smartphone, tablet, or laptop to write it down then I could potentially lose important information. So for me, having cross platform access is key. If the app has an Android App, Chrome App, 3rd Party integrations like Zapier, IFTTT, or access to a mobile webpage that works well, I will recommend it. I also plan to only cover Android apps only. Given the lack of coverage of Android apps on a lot of productivity websites, I thought it was only fair that more Android apps should have their chance to shine, and hopefully I can help introduce more people to the amazing suite of productivity apps that are in the Android Market. Sorry Apple users, better luck next time.

Reliability

The history of productivity apps hasn’t always been a good one, with apps being taken over right and left by big companies, only to be shut down days or sometimes weeks or months later. If you use a lot of productivity apps like me, I’m sure you know the stress and frustration of having to move your data from app to app to app to service to service to service. While I can’t prevent things like this from happening, I can at least let you know about it,  as well as direct you to similar services that might work better for you. For me it is also important to know that the developers are still working on an app, even if the company was bought out. Regular updates mean that the likelihood of that service being canceled is much lower than an app with little to no service updates.

Training Required

How much training is required to use this app? Is it ready to go right out of the box, or do you have to learn a little bit more how it works before you can use it? Some apps require a bit more effort than others to pick up, and I’ll let you know that in the review. Generally speaking, when I am posting my recommendations I’ll try to include choices that have a range of skill levels so you can pick the app that you think will work best for you.

Adaptability

I tend to not need much collaboration with others when I am working on projects, so I tend to use most of my productivity apps to handle my personal tasks and projects. However, there are many other users out there that do need regular collaboration in real time, so that is something that I have to bear in mind when conducting these reviews. There also may come a time in the future where I may need to change my workflow or add additional users to collaborate on a project. How flexible is the service to adapt to those changes, or is it more of a fixed ecosystem?

Number of Features

This is where any good productivity app will shine, just how does it stack up against its other competitors? Does it cater towards a more simple approach or is it chalked up to the max with features?

So here is the system that I have for now, eventually I may create some kind of custom report or spreadsheet that displays this data but you can at least get in a idea of what I criteria I am using. I hope this is very helpful to you and gives you a better idea of what to expect in future reviews. In the meantime, I plan to be posting new reviews soon, so please keep an eye out for updates in the future! Thank you!

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