Apps with tons of settings/configuration vs Curated, designed experiences with less flexibility

Last week’s episode of AppStories was really good and I think relevant to Clear’s philosophy as an app. (Ignore the title, the episode isn’t about pricing.) I recommend taking a listen.

Federico and John talk about a dichotomy that I’ve noticed in apps before, where some have settings for every menu item and color, whereas others are “opinionated” yet well-designed from the get-go, but have less customization as a result. Apple’s iOS apps have historically been more in the second category, and if you want more depth of features, you look for other “power user” options in the app store.

However, lately Apple’s been striking more of a balance, particularly with Notes and Reminders. The app starts out super simple, with just the basic features visible. If you want to use notes just to make plaintext notes in a single list, you can. But if you’re a heavy user, they can be more powerful, with tags, formatting, attachments, shortcuts, PDF support, automation, sharing, etc.

I feel like Clear has potential to take a similar trajectory. The app starts out dead simple and beautiful: just lists that you cross off and clear. If you’re a power user, you’ll look into the settings and see all the possible gestures and what you can assign them to, you can set reminders, you can have list-specific or time-based themes, you can choose for crossed off items to stay in place or go to the bottom of the list, you can see what Shortcuts integrations the app has to add new items faster or without opening the app. (Some of those are real, some just on my wishlist.)


Yeah we don’t want to ruin the simplicity but I am very interested in angles like personalizable gestures opening up more niche/power use for those who need it. But I also don’t mind some more time in the oven for that one! It feels like a tricky needle to thread but a worthwhile one if we can pull it off.

For me, the beauty of Clear has always been its simplicity. For the extra things I’ve needed I’ve figured out workarounds, like using a dashed line to separate items in a single list. While I appreciate all the customization that’s being offered, I’m more likely to find one set I like and stick with it. (Fun fact, I’m colorblind and most of the themes look very similar to me, so I stick with Stickies or Simple Blue) When it looked like Clear was going to be relegated to history, I started looking around at other apps. Most of them are not list apps, rather “to-do” apps, with way more features than I wanted. Things like calendar views, FB integration, etc. I just love Clear because it’s simple and I can make it fit my needs. The fonts and Icons and themes are icing on the cake