Interview with a Blackberry Mobile Web User

Blackberry Curves

It’s a popular misconception that people who don’t have iPhones and Androids don’t use the web on their phones. I caught up with my cousin Taylor, a geologist living in Pittsburgh PA, and asked him to shed some light on how he interacts with the web on his Blackberry.

  1. Why do you have a Blackberry and what kind is it?

    My work provided it. It’s a Curve. My company has a cycle for getting deals on popular devices and I got my Blackberry two years ago. Other people at my company are on a newer cycle, so they have iPhones and Androids. It’s a mix now.

  2. How often do you use the web on your phone? Do you use your phone mostly when out and about, at home, or both?

    Every day. I use my phone to access the web both when I’m out and about and also at home. It’s peppered throughout the day; I don’t really have set times.

  3. What types of sites do you visit on your BB?

    I visit a wide variety of stuff. A lot of it is just general information. Just stupid stuff that I want to find the answers to like “What’s the capital of whatever”. My phone is set up search Google by default so I just pull up “Go to…” from the menu.

    Blackberry Web Menu

    Blackberry Web Menu

    I look up local information when I’m not with my wife, who has an Android phone. It’s way faster for her to look it up, but yeah I’ll look it up if she can’t or I’m not with her.

    I also click on links in both personal and work emails. A lot of it is me sending myself articles to read later when I’m traveling. But most of the time it’s not even worth clicking the links because I know that the sites probably won’t even work.

  4. Do you have any favorite sites that you go to on your phone?

    I go to Weather.com to check out the current temperature and the hourly forecast. I go to ESPN to check out scores and articles. I’ll also read articles on CNN and other news sites that I get to through Google.

  5. What’s the most frustrating thing about using the web on your BB?

    It’s slow as shit and sometimes the web page never loads cause it’s too big. There’s an error message that says something like “site is too big” and refuses to download the page. I don’t know if it’s a restriction from my company or from the Blackberry.

  6. What’s the most enjoyable thing about using the web on your BB?

    If it’s my only source of internet, it sometimes allows me to find what I’m looking for. It’s convenient to look something up on the spot.

  7. If you could ask web designers to do anything to help make your mobile web experience better, what would it be?

    Make the sites have less data, so I can view all of them. It might be a data restriction through my company though; I’m not sure. I don’t think you can speed up my Blackberry, but that would be nice.

  8. What’s your next phone going to be? Why?

    I’ll probably get an iPhone because when my company’s plan runs out that’s what I’ll get upgraded to. I think I’ll have a choice, and I’d choose it because it’s much more effective and efficient for web browsing.

Considerations

There’s a few takeaways from this. First, it’s clear that people like Taylor do indeed access the web from their phones, even though they know it’s not the best experience. Basic access to information and performance are important aspects of their experience.

Another thing I think is really interesting is the fact that some sites don’t load because they’re too heavy. Blackberries and other lesser mobile devices are under-represented in site analytics, which ultimately leads to the misconception that those devices don’t get online. As it turns out, they do attempt to access sites, but are ultimately rejected. Next time you’re looking at site analytics keep that in mind that they might not paint the whole picture.

Now I’m not proposing that we stop the presses and bend over backwards to cater to the needs of Blackberries and other old devices. Just be considerate that a lot of different devices access the web and understand that there is a difference between support and optimization.

Prioritizing basic access and performance is good for users because they have a better chance at getting the content they want. It’s good for business because it puts your content in front of a larger audience. And it’s good for the web because it keeps information open and accessible.

7 Comments

  1. It sounds like my BlackBerry experience has been a lot better than your cousin’s! I love the physical keyboards, and have enjoyed it way more than Android. I do front-end coding for mobile, and in particular for BlackBerry a fair bit, so I thought I’d share some stuff.

    Since 2010 (OS6+) the BlackBerry WebKit browser is actually a delight to build for – way easier than Android which has so many variations and flavours. Some challenge can come in developing your site in OS5 and older. OS5 basically operates much the same as IE8. You can find a list of CSS support here: http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/subcategories/?userType=21&category=BlackBerry+Browser

    BlackBerry still holds a considerable market share, and your analytics may support catering to them. Their device resolutions include 480, 360, 320, and old Pearls are 240. If you have OS5 you can subtract 15px from those widths for the scrollbar.

    One handy keyboard shortcut for viewing source is Hold Alt + RBVS.

  2. It’s certainly not a “popular misconception” that I’ve heard of! I find it odd that developers would even think that to be honest. It says more about them than anything else.

  3. Thanks for reminding us of this. BlackBerry is a great example of how mobile options are still fairly diverse, even with RIM going to WebKit as their browser. I know several people who prefer the physical keyboards. And I like the idea that even though the web seems to be standardizing around WebKit, there’s still plenty of room for innovation via hardware.

    …Well, in addition to the larger space for innovation, of course: the content displayed on the hardware and software. =)

    (BTW, I love the variety of formats and topics you use in your blog, this interview being a great example. Thanks for the great work, Brad!)

  4. Perry

    I have no desire to leave behind my track ball and keyboard for a touch screen device, and I surf all the time on my Blackberry.

    Much like Taylor, I use it to satisfy whatever has recently piqued my curiosity. A quick Google search frequently ends in frustration, though, when I get the dreaded ‘page too large’ message after clicking on some result. I know neither my 3G nor my BB are very fast, and that’s mildly irritating, but seeing that message after the hour glass spins for a while really sucks.

    Lighten up the cruft for the benefit of ALL mobile surfers.

  5. Lol. Yes. It’s the internet’s fault that BB cant load a page. We will all start making pages with less content just for BB users.

  6. Optimizing for BB devices has been one of the most frustrating things in the new Responsive Web World. One of the main reasons its so frustrating is that when bugs arrive they’re so hard to solve because the web is so dominated by iOS and Android… so finding an article or guide to fix and issue is almost impossible…

    I was debugging the Playbook in a recent project and all the font was super small… looked fine in every other device but not the BB Playbook… turns out I needed to state font-size: 16px in my HTML element rather than my normal font-size: 100%… FRUSTRATING!

  7. I recently ran into a bizarre issue with an older Blackberry where the device’s browser wouldn’t recognise superscript and subscript tags. At all. It would completely ignore text within these tags.

    It may sound like a small issue but when things like registered trademarks go missing and when the bug changes the meaning of a term like “CO2″ then it’s a significantly bigger problem.

    Source – http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/deliverables/11848/HTML_ref_sup_573501_11.jsp

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