Penultimate 6 (2014)


After years of leading the handwriting space on iPad, we knew we would have to push the limits again with Penultimate to stay ahead of the game and create a world class experience. I served as the Design Director and Product manager as we embarked on a ground up redesign that completely rethinks the writing experience on iPad, aligns Penultimate more closely with the Evernote ecosystem, and allows Evernote to deliver on big new features in the future.


Guiding Principles

I worked closely with our CEO and VP of Product to define more precisely why we thought it would be a good idea to redesign the app and how we would measure success. We came out with a few core guiding principles.

  • Continue to generate a quality new user channel. Penultimate had been providing thousands of new users a day for Evernote and we wanted to maintain—and increase that number.
  • Create a showcase of what an iOS app can be. At the time, iOS8 was new and we wanted to develop an app that took advantage of what iOS can do to make the best writing experience and interaction model possible.
  • Increase revenue. Penultimate generated a substantial source of revenue through the sales of hardware and in-app purchases. These channels were to be even more of a focus moving forward by integrating them into the core experience. 
  • Increase user retention. Penultimate had always been a good source of new users because of its novelty and prominence in the app store. We wanted to focus on the core writing experience as a way to show the value of the app and keep users coming back. 

Integrating with a physical product

We worked closely with Adonit on the Evernote Edition Jot Script stylus, and more recently, the Jot Script 2. When working with a physical product, there are a lot of considerations. It starts with the expectation that Penultimate is really meant to be used with a digital pen. We started setting that expectation by always featuring the stylus with the app in marketing materials. Inside the app, we made prominent areas for pairing the stylus or buying a new one.

Beyond just pairing the stylus, I worked closely with developers to determine how and when to accept pen strokes and reject wrist marks and how to achieve optimal precision between the stylus and the app.

The new Jot Script 2 is a marked improvement over the first version and shows the fruits of that work.

The Result

The result is a super simple writing experience that goes full screen and tries to keep all of the writing tools out of the way until you need them.

We also rethought the zoom box experience, now allowing users to write in a zoomed in portion of the page, while still maintaining the original view of their page. The box automatically moves as you write, responding to the speed of your handwriting.

By removing the notebook metaphor, The new version of the app now allows users to keep writing, and not be limited by the artificial borders of the page. This was also an important part of the redesign as those long notes mimicked a continuous note in the rest of the Evernote apps—which helped reduce syncing errors, and aligned the Penultimate core data model with that of Evernote, meaning better maintenance and support going forward. 

Additionally, we added a more prominent note creation button which was meant to get users to create one note for each individual thought. Again, this aligns with the Evernote data model and hopefully helps user create notes more fluidly.