Swiss Army knife—or scalpel?

What is an app? A lite version of what has been called an “application” in the past? A purpose-built, single focus tool? A little of both—or something different altogether.

That’s a question I’ve been asking myself every since I downloaded Q Branch’s Vesper for my iPhone. I like to mess around with a wide variety of apps for all sorts of professional reasons, so when one of my favorite bloggers (John Gruber @ Daring Fireball) released an app that he, Brent Simmons and Dave Wiskus created, I knew I had to try it.

Vesper is very, very simple in its 1.0 version. It’s a notetaking app that allows you to quickly and easily take notes. But I’ve been a paying Evernote user since 2009—why do I need another notetaking app? Because Evernote is a Swiss Army knife. And Vesper is a scalpel. The one does a lot of stuff pretty well (on iPhone, iPad and Mac OX desktop). The other does one thing very well (only on iPhone as of this writing. You can use it on iPad, it’s not natively iPad yet so why bother.)

Which app I use is strictly dictated by use case. Example: last night while waiting to pickup my daughter, I used Vesper to very quickly capture thoughts about a project I’m working on. I could have easily used Evernote, but Vesper was faster, cleaner UI-wise, and just so “purpose-built.” But I’m typing up this blog post in Evernote on my MacBook Pro (for archival purposes, to use a physical keyboard, and for cross-device syncing.) Fickle? I guess so. But this increasingly frequent scenario (for me) begs a bigger, better question for anyone considering creating an app:

What’s the app going to be: a Swiss Army knife or a scalpel? Something that can do a lot of things (good enough) or something that does one thing incredibly well.

Better answer that question before asking any others.

– D.P. Knudten • creative director / Discover Mediaworks

(x-posted at DiscoverMediaworks’s Facebook page)

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