Monday, December 6, 2010

Designing the BlackBerry user experience at RIM

Following our November 16 event with Google’s Adam Baker, the November 24 meeting of uxWaterloo featured a terrific presentation by Joey Benedek, Director of User Research at Research in Motion, on designing for user experience at the mobile pioneer.

Joey focused on examples from BlackBerry OS 6 in a presentation that was funny, frank, and insightful in its examination of the challenges that RIM faced in this major upgrade to the user interface of its iconic products.

Joey gave some specific examples of how user experience techniques were applied to specific design challenges. For example, a diary study, in which user participants kept a diary and recorded how they worked with BlackBerry, was used to inform the design of universal search in OS 6. Card sorting, another classic technique, was used to understand how to organize the configuration of options in OS 6.

He was pretty direct about the need to deliver a major improvement in the BlackBerry user experience in a short amount of time — the overhaul was accomplished in just nine months. He was also pretty direct about the company’s logic-driven culture, and how an understanding of, and level of comfort with, the UX organization’s process and data helped make the case for what needed to be done.

Joey provided some great observations that may challenge the perception of RIM in some quarters. As Joey put it in response to a question, “There’s no confusion on our part about whether people are enterprise users or consumers. They’re all humans.” Later, he added “We don’t pick users. We pick contexts of use,” and “I’m a fan of the classic usability test”.

Overall, it was a treat to hear from Joey, and we all appreciated his presence at uxWaterloo.

Julie Rutherford has provided a more detailed summary over at the uxWaterloo site.

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