Inside BlackBerry 6: Home Screen Evolution


As you may have already seen in the sneak peek video, the Home Screen in BlackBerry® 6 has undergone a makeover. To get the inside scoop on some of these changes, I reached out to Joey Benedek, Director of UX Research at Research In Motion® (RIM). Check out the interview below.

First, can you tell us a bit about what you and your group do at RIM?

I am a Director in the User Experience (UX) group, and I run the UX Research team. The UX organization is responsible for understanding user needs and desires and translating those into interface designs. We then work with the various software development teams to iterate those designs – with end-user feedback as our guide – prior to releasing to market. Bottom line, our team is responsible for defining the on-device experience that our customers interact with and making sure those experiences are not only usable but also desirable.

If there was one thing you want our readers to know about the Home Screen redesign, what would it be?

I’d say that the redesign of the Home Screen in BlackBerry 6 is fresh, but familiar. When you look at it, it still looks like a BlackBerry Home Screen (for example, wallpaper selection continues to be a key attribute of the visual design), but it’s been updated – much like a home renovation still ‘feels’ like home, but is actually new.

With BlackBerry 6, we are introducing a host of new features in the design, evolving the look and feel and enabling the user to really customize the Home Screen. Overall, the visuals are cleaner and sleeker, and movement between and within the applications is more fluid, allowing users to navigate their BlackBerry smartphone in a much more intuitive and interactive way.

What is the biggest change in the Home Screen design?

In BlackBerry 6, there are now five separate views that a user can easily switch between using the Navigation Bar, depending on their preference and the type of information they’re looking for. These include: “Frequent”, where your most frequently-used apps are automatically placed for easy access; “Favorites”, where you can choose to add not just your favorite applications, but also to create shortcuts to particular Contacts or web pages (making the important people and information in your life just one click away!); “Media”, for all your media-centric content; “Downloads”, for all the apps you download; and “All” – this is the big vertical list that you can scroll through, similar to the Home Screen today. Users will be able to simply slide left and right (the touch-screen or trackpad, depending on your BlackBerry smartphone model) to quickly get to any of these new view panes.

Can you give us an overview of some of the other important BlackBerry 6 design updates?

In trying to deliver an optimized experience for how people use their BlackBerry smartphone – and how they search for information on it – we are introducing two new ‘quick access areas’ that are built into the Home Screen.

One is designed to allow you to have quick access to the Connections, Alarm and Options screens – things that we found people frequently want to adjust or change – with one click from the Home Screen. With BlackBerry 6, this will be done by simply selecting/tapping the top of the Home Screen. A drop-down panel then appears that allows you to change these on the spot.

The other quick access area on the Home Screen is designed to enable you to view your most recent messages (such as email, text, BlackBerry® Messenger), phone calls, upcoming appointments, Facebook® and Twitter® notifications simply by tapping the Notification Bar in the middle of the top of the Home Screen. If you click on the Notification Bar, it drops down to show who the notifications are from, along with the first few words from the title. This feature makes it much easier to prioritize which notifications you want to respond to first.

The BlackBerry Home Screen also now includes a powerful Universal Search application. It’s never been easier to find content on your BlackBerry smartphone, regardless of whether you’re looking for contacts, messages, music, pictures or appointments. Universal Search was designed to be tightly integrated with your BlackBerry smartphone: simply tap on the Search icon in the top right-hand corner of the Home Screen – or just start typing – and it searches the whole device. As you type, we instantly bring back your results using icons.

Maybe even more exciting is that the same search query can also be used to search the web as well. If you search your device and can’t find what you’re looking for, you can simply tap other available icons, such as YouTube®, Google or BlackBerry App World™, to extend your search further.

How did your team come up with the design and layout for the BlackBerry 6 Home Screen?

The Home Screen is really one of the most used areas of the BlackBerry smartphone, so we spent a lot of time researching how people access data and where they naturally would look for things. The research included focus groups, usability testing, gathering feedback from forums, customer feedback and much more.

For example, we found that users were overwhelmed by all the icons and details on the initial Home Screen, so we implemented the five views and swiping pane for easier viewing. We also found that it wasn’t always intuitive where to find newly downloaded applications, so we created the Downloads view on the Home Screen. Another great example was Universal Search – the team had users keep diaries of any searches they did in any domain over a few weeks, which helped us learn behavioral patterns, what order people want content coming back to them, and so on. This had a big influence on how the Universal Search application was designed.

If you had to pick your favorite new aspect of the Home Screen, what would it be?

It would have to be either the new Notification Dropdown (it’s great for multitasking) or swiping between application panes (I like watching the animation — it’s fun!).

About Douglas Soltys

Word Czar. Web 7.0 (in beta). Blogs and tweets and wonders.

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  • Eddcunningham

    I’m still waiting for OS5 to become official for the 9000 on Orange UK.

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  • Oxfdblue

    I would still like to know what handsets BB6 will be available for. I have a 9700…and there are rumours that BB6 will not work on that.

  • Stephen Robinson

    Looks amazing, this is never coming to my 8520 :( more than likely doesn't have enough ram.

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  • Bradley Larcher

    i like it. it is refreshing. i've stayed away from blackberries because of the interface, but this one is cool. looking forward to it and most probably owning my first blackberry device

  • bold 9700 user

    wfor what devices blackberry 6 come out, and when? Many People (all blackberry users today included) want to know that, but no one say something. It is really so a difficult thing to answer on this question?

  • mahen915

    Why can't RIM see that none of this matters to current users if our less-than-a-year old devices can't upgrade to OS6? I'm still waiting for the blog post that will tell us which devices will get this OS.

    • E__P

      That’s like buying a brand new car then coming back the next year and requesting the new extras of the new model but for free. You bought a 5.0 device, excellent, now if it can’t be upgraded to 6.0, sorry but you’ll have to buy a newer device OR buy another brand. Sorry.

      • M Sulutan

        which such a reply, now i know why my friends are changing from BB to iPhones. keep it up and you will loss more of your customers soon

      • Arun behl

        “OR buy another brand”. That was rude..

      • Caspan

        It’s not rude it’s life…. All you Mr Rogers brought up people that are so “I’m special” that expect to world to come to them. This is the business world welcome to it! RIM is not Apple, RIM is not Android I don’t care what everyone else does because this is what RIM is doing. If you paid $29 for your phone what do you expect? Have some self awareness of reality. If do some reason RIM told you to buy this phone cause 6 will work on it no problem then I could understand your frustration. No one told you to by a device with 5 on it, and when you did it was exactly what you saw that you purchased. No one pulled the bait and switch on you, you got exactly what you wanted.. Now your ticked because you cannot have more? Get off your high horse seriously, I know it might sound rough but welcome to life…. This is not McDonalds where the whiner gets a free meal, this is real life where the whiner gets told “Suck it up buttercup”!

        People are their own worst enemies. You expect RIM to come out with million dollar phones for under $50 and be able to talk to a million dollar infrastructure for less then $50 a month. And so RIM does but then you whine because you got what want!

  • mahen915

    Same here. They're supposed to be listening, yet they constantly ignore this very question time and time again.

  • emir

    i like it hope it works on 9700

  • T.L.C.

    sounds a lot like WebOS

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