The UX of To-do list apps

Anmol Sarita Bahl
Apr 22, 2018 · 6 min read

Hey guys, I am Anmol Bahl, a freelance UX Designer and host of the podcast-
App Distillery. In this post, I dive deep and find out what makes
to-do list apps, delightful to use.

For new listeners and readers. The format of the review starts from-

- Is it attractive, does it have a design which is comprehensible.

- How does the app onboard users?
- Do they understand how to navigate through the app?
- Does it have videos or transitions or animations?

Interface Impressions
Is the UI inviting?
Does it have its own story?

Are the sounds interesting!

How much damage is it going to cost on your wallet.

Apps in the review are Any.Do, Taskful, Soon, Todoist and Clear

Let’s start with the Logos


The app icon is quite simple and straight forward. One thing to point out is while the background is a gradient, the interface itself is a flat blue.


Taskful’s app icon consists of a visual metaphor of a List and Checkboxes. It’s a bit misleading because the app does not allow you to create a checkable list.


Soon’s identity utilizes the metaphor of infinity for the app icon however as a bucket list for To-dos, you don’t want to give off the impression that a certain task is perpetual or never-ending. Especially for people who are very particular about completing their tasks.


Todoist’s logo was a hit or miss for me because the checkmarks cleary look like downward chevrons…just cut off from the artboard.


Clear’s app icon is bold and flashy with hues of yellow and red. The icons plays with the UI that each task has a certain hierarchy of importance.

Onboarding Experience

The onboarding is simple but there is no “Priming” for notifications.

The onboarding flow is easy to grasp but the smooth experience is hindered by Any.Do’s business goal as they shove in their Any.Do Premium subscription page. It could have been easily implemented later on; after a few days of app activity.


Taskful’s onboarding is a huge letdown as there is no indication of additional screens on the first page. (You can tap “Continue” to see other screens). “Continue” is perhaps not the right CTA.

Although, once discovered, the journey is satisfying with confetti flying around. It also lacks notification priming as it fails to show a need for health data.


Soon’s onboarding is non-existent.

Another disappointment is the letdown of its lack of optimisation for newer devices.

The signup flow could have been further simplified by adding all the signup/login options under ONE heading — Get Started.


Todoist’s onboarding is smart. It first asks for a commitment from the user with a Signup. It’s only after that, that is shows the onboarding screen of adding a New task.

Todoist gets brownie points for letting me select a theme first. Who doesn’t love customisation.

Let’s just WWDC’18 allows iOS customisation.


Clear’s onboarding is disappointingly simple but it makes up for it by its design, and app interactions.

It’s just a side-scrolling, swipeable onboarding but we have to give it some leeway since the app is very old but a hidden gem.

Psst! They are updating the app with a revamped architecture!!!

Interface Impressions

Any.Do’s UI is very clean and flat however that also creates a bit of an inconsistency with the App Icon which has a Blue gradient fill.

There are no tooltips or “procedural disclosure of action” that can be used such as Tapping a to-do list expands more options; swiping it right completes it, etc. conveniently gives access to Two modes of UI: The calendar View and the List view.
Super helpful for use cases when you need to review your week.


Taskful’s UI draws inspiration from modern, flat, and vibrant colors.

The UX is a bit confusing as you cannot “Swipe right to complete” a task which has a subtask. In order to do that, you must tap on the Parent Task and then swipe to complete the individual subtasks.


Soon’s Main screen is quite pleasant and the Typography is well chosen. The Dots on the right are handy indicators to show which category has an item and which ones that do not have an item.

My main gripe is from their chosen iconography of the main navigation bar at the bottom. It’s not easily recognisable as to what it does and it does not have labels either.

The selling point of the app is the media rich to-do list.

Add a movie to your to-do list and tap on it to view addition details such as this beautiful cover photo along with Cast, crew, release dates etc.

The content is context based. So if you add a Cafe, it will show you the opening hours, the location, etc. The app is super handy when you need to remember a newly discovered restaurant.


Adding a task is super simple and as an additional benefit it uses a cross-platform design pattern: The FAB.

The empty state illustrations are pleasing to the eye with great copy to boot. And the best part?Their color changes with the themes.

The navigation is quite basic and is easy to navigate without confusion.


Clear is at the epitome of gesture based apps on the app store. EVERYTHING in Clear is controlled by gestures and it is such a delight to use.

There are over a dozen of themes that can be unlocked. My favourite is Rainbow.

Clear is my favourite to-do list app as its quite tangible with real-time interactions.


Sounds are the gems of micro-interactions. They beep at our touches and boop on swipes. Sadly only one app has sounds…and that is Clear.


Clear is the only one which needs to be purchased right off the bat at $4.99.
The rest are available for free but have in-app subscriptions that unlock additional features.

I really hope you enjoyed this article. For more in-depth analysis, listen to the podcast here or on your favourite podcast app. Search for App Distillery :)

I am passionate about design, UX and apps.

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Anmol Bahl, UX Designer/Podcast Host

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Thanks for reading!

Anmol Sarita Bahl

Written by

Son of a badass woman, feminist, a cat-dad with a dad-bod. Product, Design, and Copy @ShaadiDotCom Borderline Personality Disorder.