I received this user requirement recently. The user (a designer) male, 50 years old said that the act of physically writing something down (on Post-It, paper, and so on) was a huge aid to recall and prioritizing ideas later. Any suggestions on what UX innovations could help here or examples from existing apps? Stylus-based Evernote style solution? User likes to be mobile.
I'm sorry to say this, but the "Pen is mightier than the keyboard". This is biology and cognitive science combined to this:
The act of writing triggers more of you, and there are several studies mentioned in the article Why You Learn More Effectively by Writing Than Typing. Well is this a dead end then? Not really, but using typing alone won't be as effective as using a Post-IT note. The only solution I can think of is trying to mimic the pen movements on your touch enabled device to "trigger more of you" - but this may be hard to implement and practically not very useful.
I would say the age of the user is very important as the culture of writing on paper disappear very quickly.
Here my experience about the matter (I am 45). I hope you may find some clues for your research.
To me, writing as much as drawing is great not only to remember but also to think, to create.
I did publish an article about this a while ago : Drawing helps me to have better thoughts.
Then a commenter left this note very meaningful for me:
I have used many techniques to get the benefit of having the notes on paper and on a screen.
Loosing the digital practically of a drawing note is too much of a hassle. I need to be able to retrieve them and share them. I don’t need extra meta fields, the title of the note is usually enough to put all the data I need to organise them.
What I realize is drawing on paper give me so much pleasure that I don’t think I’m ready to give that away. When I draw a note, I’m scribbling around. On a screen , I don’t feel free.
Paradoxically, I am incapable of writing anything meaningful and wordy on paper anymore. I need to use a word processor.
The article shown by Benny is certainly correct but maybe only for people who used to write on paper. This is why I think youngsters may not really need to write to remember things. They will use other strategies.
I'd second Benny's proposal - from a UX perspective, I think you should consider ways of helping the user outside of the technical solution - consider observing the user making notes, getting them to talk through their thought processes, and seeing how you can design something better. Ideally, do this with multiple users - this could be a really useful piece of research. In terms of existing solutions, mind maps using colour are something I've personally found very effective - there are technical implementations of this, but I personally don't feel they are as effective as paper and pen.
Something I will put out there in defense of typing when compared to using a pen. Something that is typed is indexible and searchable, where a pen (usually) is not.
If you then consider that ideas of distributed cognition, the item that we used tools in our environment to extend out cognitive abilities, you can consider your database of notes part of your memory.
So while you might remember more by physically writing, even that is debatable, you will have a greater access and ability to recall your thoughts through a indexible medium (i.e. keyboard input). Also something that is unequivocally a boost of increasing your recall of facts is repetition. Revisiting and reviewing facts/thoughts/ideas is the best way to commit them to long term memory. This reviewing and revisiting is a lot easier to do with something that is searchable than something that is presented in a linear fashion (note book).
In other words, if you want to perform a single one time memorizing task writing might be better than typing (still very dependent). If you want to remember something more than once than having an searchable notes is the way to go.