Paper todo lists are still great.
However, these days, many of us use apps on our phones to manage our tasks. It makes sense since our phones are with us all-of-the-time. (Many people even sleep with their phones.)
Yet, many of the popular todo apps leave much to be desired. They are often too complex, while at the same time lacking even basic time management functions.
What features do you wish your todo list app could do?
Today, I run down 12 features that I think the ideal todo app should have.
Features of the Ideal Todo App
I have used many todo apps, even testing a few that are in still in beta. In fact, I can say that I have tried the majority of todo apps on the market. (The big players anyway…)
Yet, I don’t think I have ever found one that “checked all the boxes” when it came to my time management and user interface preferences.
I have switched apps several times over the years. From Things to Nozbe to Wunderlist to Todoist. And countless ones that I can’t recall the names.
Once upon a time I even considered making my own todo app. (My backgrounds are in time management and user interface design.)
It amazes me how many of these “productivity apps” are so difficult to use. Some have so many features that their screen looks like the dashboard of the space shuttle. Others, don’t provide even the most basic of time management features, or violate basic app UI (user interface) design.
Here are 12 Features that I Want to See in a Todo App:
- Reorder Tasks – This one is really simple. One of the advantages of an app-based todo list is that you are not limited by ink on paper. Yet, many apps won’t let you easily re-organize the order of the todos on your list.
- Prioritization – This is another basic time management feature. It amazes me how many apps don’t allow prioritization of tasks. (Or have it poorly implemented.) It is important to be able to separate important tasks from the lesser ones. This should be by default.
- Quick Entry/Capture – Todo apps should always be ready to quickly capture a random task. It shouldn’t require 16 steps to enter a todo. They should be quick to allow you to add a todo and get it “out of your head.”
- Simple UI – Following on from quick capture, overall the app should be simple. Simple to use. Simple user interface. Too many features just clutter things up. And 99% of those extra bells and whistles never get used.
- Pictures on Tasks – This is one of my favorites, and I feel it is underestimated by most todo apps. Sometimes a photo is a great way to add a task to your list. There are a few task apps that have this feature, but it is often buried if it exists. (Looking at you Wunderlist.)
- Sync – Again, one of the benefits of an electronic list should be the ability to sync is across all platforms and locations that the user works. (See #10 below)
- Today List – You can’t do it all. And one of the best ways to “get work done” is to only concentrate on your top tasks for today. The ability to see a subset or “Hit List” for Today is important.
- Future Tasks – Todo lists should remember so you don’t have to. Tasks should be able to “send tasks to a future date” and then be out-of-mind until that date. Some of the bigger apps have this, but I would like to see it be easier to use and more intuitive. (Todoist does a good job at making this feature easy to use.)
- Voice Capture – One of the quickest ways to interact with our devices on the go is by voice commands. Yet, it is still not a ubiquitous feature, and many apps use workarounds or third-party systems. I would like to see more apps that allow voice capture from the lock screen.
- On Every Platform – Your todo list needs to be wherever you are. Regardless of device or platform. The ideal todo app must be available for the majority of platforms. For me this list must include: Mobile (iPhone and Android), and desktop apps (Mac and Windows). A web interface is good too, or could be a stepping-stone to desktop apps. It is hard for smaller developers to cover all these bases, but as they grow, apps need to be available everywhere their users work.
- Pretty Design – I bet you didn’t expect this one. But, yes, I am saying that the app has to be visually appealing. Sarcasm aside, this is basic UI design. The app has to look good and be readable, too.
- Fun to Use – Last but not least, users have to want to use your productivity app. (Or any app!) People use tools they enjoy and work for them. One of the best recent examples of this is Slack. Users love using it. Unlike their email app, Slack is fun to use and gets the work done. The same must be true of the ideal todo app.
How Does Your Todo App Measure Up?
Which of these features and design elements does your todo app have?
I have yet to find one that meets all of them.
I’d love to hear in the comments which todo apps best fit your feature requirements. And if you are a productivity app developer, please take head of this list for your next app update.
Question: What is your current todo list app? What features or design do you wish to see in the ideal task manager? You can leave a comment by clicking here.