How Notion built the all-in-one-workspace of your dreams

Iconic Products episode 013

If “product crushes” were a thing like celebrity crushes, mine would be Notion.

i love notion

It’s one of the best products in the SaaS world right now – and there’s a chance you’ve never even heard of it. 🤷‍♀️

In any case, it was dubbed the app to watch in 2018, with good reason.

The company isn’t even a few years old and has already started to reshape how we work, collaborate and store information.

Even The Wall Street Journal referred to Notion as, “the only app you need for work-life productivity.”

And, well, I couldn’t agree more. 😍

When I discovered Notion completely by accident on (in?) the App Store about a year or so ago, I was blown away. I hadn’t been this excited for a product since my first iPhone.

Now, I’m thrilled to bring you a Notion-filled episode of Iconic Products! 🎉

excited

Something to note: no, I’m not getting paid to write about Notion and I have zero affiliation with them whatsoever. I just genuinely love this product so much – and I think you will, too.

Alright, let’s get to it. 👊


Slow down, Speed Racer. What the heck is Notion anyway?

Alright, let’s back up for a sec. Notion is an all-in-one workspace that is designed to, well, store just about anything you can think of. 🤯

Create wikis, to-do lists, reading lists, project plans, budgets, photo galleries, blogs – yes, really anything.

wow

Plus, it’s available on desktop, iOS and, most recently, Android.

Think about it this way: your digital life is probably strewn about in your Google Drive, Evernote account, email inbox, Trello boards…you get the idea.

Well, in the form of pages and links, you can take all of that information and put it into one cohesive, pretty and fun database. 🗃

Some people might like to create editorial calendars and blog posts in Notion, others might prefer to just store recipes and YouTube videos they want to watch later. Basically, you can make your Notion workspace as complicated or as simple as you’d like.

You can include your personal content as well as professional content in the same space, but still keep them separated – such as the screenshot below.

notion example

As you can see, the product is clean, crisp and easy to navigate – but still has everything you could possibly need in your digital life.

Each of those lines of text open up to pages that contain all of the information you want – whether it’s a spreadsheet, calendar, blog post or even a kanban board.

Amazing, right?

Maybe you’re starting to see why I nerd out so hard over this product – it’s so simple and so brilliant at the same time. 🤓

But let’s go a bit deeper.

Sure, I’ve briefly explained what the product is at its surface, but let’s dig into what you can do with it.


Simple, beautiful, powerful

As Notion puts it, “Solve your problems your way, bounded only by your imagination.”

And it’s true: there are plenty of amazing examples of people using Notion in incredible ways.

Similar to Airtable Universe, though much more lightweight, is Notion Pages.

Here, you can submit examples of your own Notion pages and get inspiration from others. 🤘

From a curriculum sample to a virtual bookshelf, shown below, there are some incredible ways people are using this product.

notion bookshelf

Personally, I use Notion as a running to-do list, an ideas board, a space for travel planning and as a way to organize links that I want to read/watch later.

That’s what makes this product so iconic: much like Airtable and Trello, there’s no right or wrong way to use it. 🙌

Basically, Notion is built around three core features:

  1. Wikis: Similar to a website, where you can create, edit and design your own layout.
  2. Documents: Open your documents and work completely offline.
  3. Tasks: Create tasks on new boards or design your own to-do list.

By separating the core features in an easy and flexible way, it means that users can still use documents for tasks, for example, or add documents to tasks. It’s all completely modular and customizable. 🛠

Want to create a task and link it back to a blog post you’re writing within Notion (or even elsewhere)? You can do that.

Want to build a product roadmap and link it back to a kanban board? Spoiler alert: you can do that, too. 😉


Replacing tools, simplifying processes

To put it succinctly, I give you a quote from the aforementioned WSJ article that gets to the heart of what I mean by this:

“Notion fuses the best of [Evernote, Google Docs, Keep, Trello, Asana]—and others—into a rare renaissance app, proficient in countless methods of creation and organization. I can’t put a price on the peace of mind that comes from an unfragmented life. Wait, yes I can: It’s eight bucks a month.”

(I should note here that there is in fact a free version of Notion, but the paid version is between $4-$16 a month depending on your plan, hence the mention of the $8 cost.)

Yep – Notion replaces, and sometimes even surpasses, many of the products you’re probably using on a regular basis (thankfully, it doesn’t replace your favorite CRM!). 😳

bye

As we discussed in the last section, Notion can do pretty much anything you want it to.

So, logically, it makes sense that this product can be used in a way that carries out similar functions of Trello, Google Docs and more.

And unsurprisingly, this is exactly what Notion is aiming for. 🚀

As they explain on their website, “Google Docs made typewriters multiplayer. Dropbox brought file cabinets to the cloud. But conceptually, they evolved little beyond their Industrial Revolution ancestors. We duct-tape everything together with emails, copy/paste and countless open tabs.”

So that’s where they stepped in and created a space that combines all of these elements into one product.

You can even use it as a wiki to share with people as a portfolio website, like this guy.

By removing the need for toggling from tool to tool, Notion has created a workflow that is seamless and, most importantly, in one place. 👍

But what if you want to use Notion as a team?


Next-level collaboration

Notion allows you to collaborate across workspaces – which means you can keep your own workspace private if you’d like, and then invite users to work-related spaces. 👫

This creates even more levels of awesome possibilities.

If you want to collaborate with colleagues on a project, you can do so by creating roadmaps, kanban boards of deliverables, lists of resources and even upload prototypes or drafts that need feedback.

From there, you can receive comments inline from collaborators and make edits accordingly. ✍

No more sharing Google Doc links back and forth, no more separated Trello board from your workspace.

And that’s certainly a breath of fresh air. 💆‍♀️


While there are some people out there who aren’t fully convinced that Notion is there…yet, it’s just a matter of trying it out for yourself and seeing how it fits into your workflow.

There are plenty of resources out there to get you started, from this one to this one, plus some unique ideas for other things you can build in Notion.

It’s really, really exciting to see where Notion is headed next. 💪

And as they continue to grow and find new ways to completely transform the way we work, I know I’ll be there cheering them on. 😄

nailed it

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Ali Colwell

Head of Marketing at Salesflare
I'm a fintech-turned-SaaS marketing expert who is passionate about design, automation and all things digital. View my full profile here.