Why simplicity is the only way forward

March 18, 2017

Engineering Standard Notes to be "un-elaborate" was anything but easy for us. In an era where software degrades by the day and the life expectancy of the apps we use is anything but ideal, getting our software simple took time. We were slow pokes on this idea. It took 3 years to realize simplicity was our only solution.

Why? It takes time to realize that less lines of code directly translate to a better experience. Simple means less bugs. It means less moving parts. Fewer things break. Simpler experiences ensure our users won't get frustrated. A simple app gets out of your way and lets you do your work. Simple forced us to focus on the functions that do exist, and to make them exist well. That's hard.

It also took those years to realize that simplicity makes a better business. Simple is honest. It lowers engineering costs and the fees to maintain applications. Simple code may be slower to build, but so much less of it exists that it's cheaper over all. We just sort of knew when we were done. We could sense that were clearly in the golden mean between a good user experience and a good business. We just decided to stop. And keep it simple.

There's also the ugly side to simplicity that takes time to accept. It forced us to admit how, well, unpleasant much of our previous work had been. Like everybody else, we poured our hearts and souls into apps that tried to do too much. We have all fought through the deep depressions when an app we depend on loses its way. We've all walked off development jobs after a few months, when the tool stopped serving users and instead obstructed them. We don't want to speak for you, but we're sure you've felt it: Ever notice how your favorite applications seem to get slower over time? That's no coincidence. They call that "growth". It happens because panicked teams were frantically trying to throw more functions at what was a good idea for some stupid business goal. And a good idea turns into something that isn't, real quick. That thing you loved metastasized into something you hate.

If simplicity keeps us from adding features, so be it. Standard Notes is officially an anti-growth company. We don't mind. We set out to do one thing well: Allow you to write your notes and thoughts privately without friction, on every device you own. And keep those thoughts for as long as your and your electronic devices exist. There are impressive technologies under the hood: sync, encryption, and clever development. But they're hidden. By choice. You simply never have to worry about them.

We're betting you'll sense the proper weight of that simplicity. And how that momentum will keep both you and us around for the long run.

Thanks for reading

Go to the top