One of the most enjoyable sessions that I was able to sit in on was the design of the BlackBerry 10 devices and software. It was with two very passionate designers: Todd Wood (SVP, Design) and Don Lindsay (VP UX). They took us through some of the design thoughts and process of how they came about with the UI design and feel for BB10 as well as the design aesthetics.
Would you ever have thought that a house would have been a key inspiration for the BlackBerry 10 experience? Neither did I! The house viewed above is the Farnsworth House and it has won many design awards for its open concept, and how you can move from room to room without boundaries as one space. It is viewed as flow in horizontal movement, and is in the core fundamental architecture of BlackBerry 10.
Some of the other design elements were taken from their experience working the Porsche Designs, like the edge to edge glass. This eased with the problem of the in and out paradigm, and working with a no home button experience, creating convenience within the design and gestures. We see this a lot on the Z10, with sloped ends for comfort, and jewellery like buttons. All this was made possible with computer aided design, allowing them to push the envelope.
This is even taken one step further with the subtle additions of the soft touch grip on the back that almost feels silky, to the Canadian designed font called Slate Pro. Creating a clean pure modern design, that is easy for everyone to live with.
A lot of the focus was then shifted to the Q10, where their goal was to reclaim the bottom of the homescreen, to having a straight keypad because there was no trackpad. All the keys are now equal size with bigger text on them, maximizing the QWERTY experience to the best ever on a BlackBerry device.
The details delivered are all purpose driven as well. They explained that the physical attributes that we all love are also function. From the iconic Bold style frets that are actually dove tailed in to the bezel for stability, to the back fret being slightly raised to protect the camera lens. Even the smallest details, like the woven glass door, because of how thin they can make, all this to fit in a bigger battery.
The focus was then switch to the Q5, the newest member for the BlackBerry family, a simple lower end device enabling consumers of every income to afford a BlackBerry 10 device. They wanted a beautiful expressive device, and reached this goal by making small changes. Some of them being they used an LCD not an AMOLED. They also switched to cheaper plasticts, no HDMI port, 5MP camera, and a first for BlackBerry handsets, a non removable battery.
From the Z10 to the Q10, there were a few major changes they focused on, one was enhancing the QWERTY experience, continued to make it the best they could. One of the obstacles they were faced with was the addiction of predictive text. Trying to make it feasible and attractive for the users, placing it right along the bottom bezel, and only at a thumbs reach away. With this, they want to still emphasize the one hand experience even on a QWERTY device.
Another iconic QWERTY device feature for BlackBerry is keyboard shortcuts, to enhance efficiency and productivity. In the past, if you didn’t know about the shortcuts you really only heard of them via word of mouth, this time the shortcuts are displayed right in the onscreen menus beside the feature you want to use. The other feature is the home screen search, a type and go experience, that the more you type the smaller the scope of results displayed are, autofilled in real time. Both to ultimately increase homescreen efficiency.
With both the Q10 and Q5 another issue was how to re deliver solutions on the Z10 to the smaller screen. You will notice small things like how media is displayed, from a Z10 with grids of 3×4 to a Q series with the grid being 4×3, tightening the UI. Next was understanding the tasks of the user, baking the functionality right in to the OS. Interpretive scrolling when searching, the bottom bar disappears. With no action bar, the emphasis is put back on content.
Over all, it was really exciting to see all of the details even to the smallest one, and how it was incorporated. Learning that even the finite details serve a purpose, or they would not have made it on the device. I will definitely be looking for future sessions like this in the future, and seeing all of the features that we take for granted explained in detail.