First Impression of BlackBerry 10’s New Design

Miao Wang / Thursday, January 03, 2013

Besides the big release of Microsoft Windows 8 OS, another potential hit at the beginning of 2013 must be BlackBerry 10.  With glimpses at some of their key features from developer previews, I've tried to compare it with Blackberry’s current OS, 7.1 and here are some interesting findings from a user experience (UX) perspective:


The navigation of the new OS, called BB10, is much more straightforward and consistent. The first level of an application’s navigation hierarchy is always fixed along the bottom of the screen, presented as tabs in the action bar. As you drill down into the application, a Back button shows up (labeled with the previous page title for reference) in the left corner of the action bar to allow you to navigate back to your previous level. The new OS provides users with explicit information (icon + text) for navigation to eliminate the confusion currently found when switching between the hard key and the soft key in the current OS 7.1 supported devices. Within one screen, users are aware of their current state, the previously visited page and the next potential stops. 



Contextual menu

Current OS 7.1 users will find a significant improvement in the design of contextual menus in BB10. The complication of dual-touch interactions will be eliminated by the visible cues and tap and hold-specific key. As the following figures demonstrate, both tab menus (less frequently accessed tabs stack vertically to the left of the main view) and action menus (less often used actions list vertically to the right of the main view) are triggered by separate tabs in the action bar. This makes the interaction so obvious that users no longer need to memorize (as they do in BB7.1) which interactions require tapping and which require tapping and holding. Instead, in BB10, tap and hold only applies to individual items in content level navigation in order to invoke a contextual menu.




The new BB10 also integrates extremely well with its hardware by taking advantage of the device’s bezel (the frame around the display area of the screen) to implement OS-wide gestures. Some frequently-used functions and features will become easily accessible wherever the user is on the OS, such as dragging two fingers from the bottom of the bezel to launch the virtual keyboard or swiping up then pulling to the right to peek at the BlackBerry Hub (a unified repository for communications: email, txt, BBM, calendar, media, social networks) without having to leave the current application.


Notification in BB10 is another good representation of its intuitive interaction models: utilizing multiple visual treatments to notify users without overwhelming them or interrupting them too often. The figure below demonstrates five different ways of notifications based on the importance and urgency of the event. From left to right, the icon “splat” is the subtlest way to inform users of incoming notifications. Inline notification and toast (used when an inline notification isn't possible) inform users of an error in the context of their task but doesn't force them to respond. An inquiry dialog is displayed when users must be aware and respond to an error before continuing. The LED flashes constantly when messages are added to the BlackBerry Hub, items are added to the notification list, or an intrusive dialog displays.


The review of BB10 is purely based on its guidelines available already on the BlackBerry Developer website. I think Version 10 provides some significant UX improvements, so I’m thrilled to check out the actual user experience when playing with the first device running BB10.