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Evernote has recently rolled out significant changes to its various mobile and desktop applications (Kevin covered the iPhone update earlier this month). Tuesday, another update brings a new, more robust and versatile experience to Evernote’s web-based app, including new social features which point the way forward for the service.
The versatile Evernote application that acts as a general note-taking tool for just about anything in your digital life (text notes, photos, websites, media and more) has achieved considerable success as a mobile app on iOS (s aapl) and Android (s goog) devices, and as a native desktop application, available for both Mac and Windows(s msft) machines. The Mac app recently gained a lot of traction thanks to its introduction in the Mac App Store, Apple’s software sales marketplace.
According to Evernote VP Andrew Sinkov, the goal of the new Evernote Web design is to make the web version a priority, whereas before it mostly operated as a fall-back option when native apps weren’t available. That’s all changed, according to Sinkov:
In order to address major changes both in user expectations and device types, we needed to completely rethink Evernote Web. The new design is the combination of the best ideas from our desktop and mobile versions. The result is an interface that is much more usable and feature-rich. It’s also designed for a greater array of device types, everything from desktop browsers to tablets to netbooks to internet TVs.
The web app also needed to feel more powerful, according to Sinkov, which is the result of evolving user expectations:
In the beginning our userbase skewed older than for most services. Today, we’re seeing tremendous growth in the student demographic. For that age-group, the expectation is that products on the web should be as powerful as those on the desktop. So, we rebuilt Evernote Web so that it is no longer a secondary player. Our users also wanted greater potential for integration with other tools and services that they use, and the rewritten underlying architecture will support a lot of expansion.
The new design definitely feels much more like an application, and less like a website. There’s no wasted space, and the layout will be very familiar to users who have experience with Evernote’s desktop clients. The three-column layout is taken straight from those native apps, and resembles the type of interface used in many iPad apps when used in landscape orientation (which is also a design concept used heavily in OS X Lion). It’s popular because it’s so usable, and because it works well with a variety of different interface methods (touch, mouse, etc.).
Evernote Web also introduces a number of new features, like the ability to stack notebooks by dragging them on top of one another. This essentially creates subgroups for your notebooks, so you can organize your clips with a greater degree of specificity. Your saved searches from desktop versions of Evernote will also be available to the web app, and notes can optionally auto-save as you work on them to protect against data loss from browser or computer crashes.
Maybe the single most impressive new feature of the Evernote Web redesign is the introduction of better sharing, including Facebook integration. By clicking the “Share” button located at the top of each note, you can now share your notes via Facebook or email. It opens up an entirely new social aspect to Evernote, which has typically been more of a personal use tool. Sinkov sees Facebook sharing as just the beginning for Evernote’s social potential:
Evernote’s focus has been, and will always be, on preserving your ideas and memories. The natural extension is to selectively connect your memories to your social graph. Our users have ben asking for ways to share a single note with their friends, family and colleagues. Now, we’re making that possible. Today, we’re launching Facebook sharing, but more social sites are coming soon. We’re treating Evernote Web as a testing platform for exciting connections with other web services.
Sinkov sees Evernote as a means by which users can add some permanence to the social web, which in many ways tends to be ultimately very fleeting (consider the lifespan of the average tweet, for instance). To that end, the company is also working on making social inputs a priority for the future of the service, too:
There are many third-party tools available today that bring social streams into Evernote, with more on the way. We’re also working on making these connections more seamless. So much social content is designed to be here and gone, which is unfortunate because there’s a lot worth saving. Evernote can become your social archive–the place where it is to easy save everything that used to fall through the cracks.
The new Evernote Web promises to do much more than its predecessor, and it does so with a smarter, simpler interface that won’t overwhelm new users but still brings a number of powerful new tools to the table for more experienced ones. Evernote is a rare example of a company that seems to consistently “get it” with its offerings across platforms, which it does by paying attention to the unique advantages and abilities of each. Now, with more ways to branch out and connect with the social web, Evernote proves once again that it’s a versatile service eager to go where the consumer is while still retaining the core features that make it unique.