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SXSW: ‘Can You Feel Me Now?’ Interactive Panel Recap

Below is a guest post from Gary Klassen, Principal Architect at BlackBerry Sweden. Follow him: @gehr on Twitter

Gary Klassen, Principal Architect at BlackBerry Sweden, on a panel at SXSW 2014

Gary Klassen, Principal Architect at BlackBerry Sweden, on a panel at SXSW 2014

This year at SXSW 2014, I participated in a compelling SXSW Interactive panel discussion looking at how psychology and technology intersect, and how that, in turn, drives what mobile tech companies and developers do. Moderated by Text100’s Tara O’Donnell, the panel also included The Weather Channel’s Cameron Clayton and’s Giorgos Zacharia.

It was a great discussion, and I’m happy to be able to recap some of the highlights here.

Giving Users What They Need

First, we all agreed that people are using the latest mobile technologies in new and powerful ways – ways that we could never have imagined just a few years ago. BlackBerry, for example, is very aware of this and is continuously listening to our users and looking to better understand their needs and improve their experience. This includes improving the nuts and bolts like security, authentication, responsiveness and battery life, but also looking at the “softer” concepts, like understanding our users’ lifestyles and their pain points.

Each panelist described how his respective company provides users with everything they need to confidently focus on what they are doing — not the technology used to enable it. It’s what we at BlackBerry like to call “unconscious carry.” This is one of our design tenants that influences our development efforts and demonstrates our thinking about the intersection of lifestyle and technology. Some of BlackBerry’s other tenants include using balance and tension to draw users’ attention to where it’s needed as well as evolution vs. revolution. That means developing in iterations so you always relate to what users know. Think about our recent Q20 announcement. That shows we are listening to our customers by bringing back our beloved track pad that made them feel comfortable, confident and productive.

Take Testing to the Extreme

The panel spent a good deal of time talking about the importance of testing and research. We agreed that user testing is overall the most popular method of trying new features and functions. BlackBerry has a rigorous testing process coupled with upfront research to ensure that each device and its features deliver an enhanced, long-term user experience. We study extreme users in extreme cases to provide our designers with insight needed to improve the device experience.

For example, when we developed the camera for our devices, we studied and worked with professional photographers to learn what features they felt were critical. Taking the time to examine and learn about their craft directly impacts the camera experience on BlackBerry and its ability to deliver striking crisp pictures to our customers.

Context Matters

The overall themes of ‘confidence’ and ‘trust’ were weaved throughout the discussion. All of us felt that the future of mobile is based on our ability to build trust with users and give them the confidence to use the latest technology without frustration or stress.

BlackBerry offers several products, features and functions to boost users’ confidence and trust and we know by their popularity, that they’re helping our customers be more productive. For example, BBM, our premier mobile messaging platform. The values of BBM remain privacy, collaboration and community building, and instantaneous, trusted conversations. From its initial launch, community feedback and user experience drove enhancements that helped make BBM an amazing productivity and collaboration tool not only for BlackBerry users, but now also for iPhone and Android users worldwide.

The world of mobile technology continues to evolve, evoke emotion and enable people every day. We all must strive to give everyone the chance to communicate simply and in a way that makes sense for what they need to do. We are constantly looking for ways to do that. The mobile revolution has just begun and I’m excited to be a part of the journey.

Many thanks to all of my fellow panelists for an interesting discussion about the impact that human behavior can have on technology development.

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