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Brainstorming BB10: A closer look at the Flow experience within an app

By Kevin Michaluk on 18 Oct 2012 06:24 pm EDT
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Continuing our exploration and brainstorming of BlackBerry 10 on the Dev Alpha B developer hardware, I wanted to take a few minutes and highlight the flow experience within an app. Why? Because I LOVE it.

Since BlackBerry World, there have been plenty of demo videos showing off how the flow experience of BlackBerry 10 works between apps, whether it's flowing back to the homescreen, peeking into the BlackBerry Hub or flowing between open apps via Active Frames. But the flow doesn't stop there. Within apps, RIM has done a great job to continue this flowing experience as you move between menus and options and dive layers deep into an app.

A pre-release version of BlackBerry Messenger for BB10 is loaded on the Dev Alpha B, and does a great job of illustrating this in-app flow. Be sure to check out the video above which walks through it all, and keep reading as we put some of the details into text.

Let's break down the anatomy of a flowing BlackBerry 10 app, like BBM:

  • First Level Icons - As you would expect, the most important app features on any given screen get first level presentation with a graphic, so you see them and tap them (no flow there, as you'd expect).
  • Menu Swipe from the Left - On the homescreen of BBM, you can swipe from the left side of the display to flow in a menu that features important app features. In BBM, there is some redundancy here to the first level icons (Chats, Contacts, Groups), but additional options are also listed like Invites and Updates. To get back to the app screen, you swipe it in from the right.
  • Overflow menu - Tapping the icon with three little vertical dots slides in the overflow menu into the app. This is akin to hitting the menu key on a BlackBerry Smartphone today and getting lots of options. You can swipe the menu away cleanly or tap back on the part of the app that's showing to have it slide away.
  • Tap and Hold menu - When it comes to specific items that you may want to take action on, tapping and holding on an item will flow in an action menu from the right. The natural state of this menu is to remain skinny, only displaying icons, but you can actually tap and hold on the icons to further slide out a description of what it is.
  • Swipe down for settings - Swiping down from the top of the display within an app pulls in the menu that contains app Settings. Like on the homescreen of BlackBerry 10, this swipe down for settings action appears to be standard across native apps that are preloaded on the Dev Alph B, like the Browser, Calendar and Contacts. There are some app-specific options here too. BBM shows Invite by Barcode for example.
  • Swiping Left to Peek back - And perhaps the part of the app experience that creates that flow feeling the most is the ability to swipe right within an app and peek partially back -- or flow all the way back -- to the previous screen. This means you don't really need to tap the back button at all - you can just swipe back through the layers of an app. This is huge on so many levels. Think about writing an email, seeing a notification that you just got another email, and being able to peek back and see who it's from without leaving the draft that you're on.

Broken down bit by bit it might not sound all that exciting. Heck, it might even sound a bit confusing to read through. But when you put these features together into an app like BlackBerry Messenger and actually start using it, it really makes for a freak'n awesome app experience. 

It's fluid. It's fast. It's friendly. It's fun. It just FLOWS. 

Reader comments

Brainstorming BB10: A closer look at the Flow experience within an app

112 Comments

Don't you mean "swipe right" to peek back? Looks great by the way, very smooth and snappy. Can't wait to have one in my hands!

Wait... What did I missed? U wrote something? I thought there's just video in this blog.
Lol... And how I wish I could be the first malaysian to own BB10.;)

If referring to the tone,gist,slant,angle of your comments, then I agree wholeheartedly with your statement.

You'll both be first and second because ill be waiting for the keyboard model *bbm hands crossed emoticon*

It looks good, and I'm sure power users will figure it out quickly, but I worry about "normal" users, and especially reviewers! I can see it now, "Why do I have five places to get to options in my apps?" And to be honest I can almost agree with them, it seems like they could have cut out at least one of them?

I've only used one for about a minute though so I'm not speaking from experience. What say you Kevin?

They're categories for what you need to do. Certain specific functions to what you press on like the BBM contact Kevin pressed for the options that come out on the right. Instead of a regular pop up for it on other platforms.

Navigation on the left. It's a way to have as much screen real estate for the app instead of being cluttered with "tabs" or something to go to like "Invites", "Groups", or "Chats".

Then top for app settings.

I could see how it would leave an impression that it's cluttered with menus though. It's the integration.

It looks like the menu gestures also have visible buttons that people can use which will help them at the beginning. The settings gesture doesn't have a visible button, but I'm sure there will be a tutorial when you first use the device that will explain that. And anyone just picking up the device for a quick second shouldn't be messing with settings anyways. People will learn about the in-app side gestures while they are using an app by accident and figure it out from there. It was VERY smart to make sure the software buttons were included in the app design process to help people out until they learn the gestures.

I like it : much better than android, and WAY better than iphone - the smart phone for dumb people.
BlackBerry users tend to be intelligent enough to figure things out.
For us, everyday is Easter!

The overflow and "tap and hold" I understand. What I don't understand is why we need the swipe down. Those functions should be in the overflow menu.

Overflow for non-item specific functions.
Tap and hold for item specific functions.

I'm dying to get my hands on one of these. Can't they surprise us all and get it here early? (I know I know.... wishful thinking)

Every time I watch one of these videos I feel like a crack addict who needs me a fixing of BB10! oh the wait is killing me.....

#bb10believe!

NOTE: You can swipe the left menu out in the web browser, but you need to swipe right on the little tabs button. As pointed out on twitter, the web page may need that swipe event, so it's limited here to the button. A bit of a break in UI, but I get it...

the hovering info tabs is great... i love it on the playbook.. press and hold for a little pop out to see what that icon is for! its neat, looks good! i was hoping they transfer this right into bb10.. and my question has just been answered (only its actually better in BB10)!!!!!!! awesome!

Mine isn't up until nov next year, but so want to get an L series. I guess I'll have to either eat the penalty (thanks Telus!) Or wait for the A series

Rocking a 9800+playbook right now.

Absolutely beautiful design and application of integrated software. It is smooth and seamless in its flow. This is so much better than iOS which is sequential. I used my wife's iPad and always going back to the home button drove me crazy. BB10 is for power users and I will buy one as soon as it's out.

Is the BB10 only gonna be vertical? Or if it. Gets turned sideways will it move horizontal?
Either way this looks way cool and I am just waiting for its release!

That is one smooth phone!!! Kevin you have got to let me play with your device alpha for a day!?!? I live in Winnipeg too so we should meet and have coffee!!! While I play with your phone lol

I might have missed it, but is there an ALT+BACK type of ability to quickly switch back and forth between apps?

I'd be surprised if it didn't. Also, I use alt+back religiously so would be quite a shame if there wasn't.

Also, now that I think about it, I guess the n-series isn't going to be able to have it either? Since no back button?

You Blackberry fans are so foolish to care about FLOW. Ya it's really cool and different from everything else but the iphone5 has an extra row of apps.....BOOM leapfrogged everyone with that one.

First: Shouldn't you be at iMore?
Second: Flow is about the UI in general such as multitasking. Last time I checked iPhones weren't very good at that using the double-click home button interface (don't get me wrong, BB7 isn't very good at it either). It's very clunky and slow... Leaving an app to check e-mails or respond to a text is cumbersome on an iPhone or BB7 device compared to BB10. It's all about peek and flow, not necessarily an extra row of apps.
Third: Come on... There must be better things to brag about on the iPhone 5 than just that is has an extra row of apps.

I cant wait to switch away from my iPhone for this, been waiting for a while now. Kevin just curious how the calender seems to be? beta or full release? easy setup on email, and sync with server? up to par from bb7 device expierence?

Thanks, for all these previews. We can only dream of brainstorming our own BB10s. Where is January!? Jeez this long distance(time really) is killing me.

Let's just say that I am in FUCKING LOVE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE SHOWN IN THIS VIDEO!!!!!!!! Thanks for the recharge, Kevin!!!

Wow .... that runs FAST ... and silky smooth.
Would like to see you do some typing on it, and how well the suggested words work.

Can you do a demo showing the functions with the browser as well?

Tks.

I really like the facility you have in getting around all the screens. Very fluid indeed. How do you think this will work if you are left handed? I wonder if it would be easy to program for that segment of consumers.

Great demo! Thanks! I still wish that "overflow" button with the three dots was instead designed to look like the classic blackberry logo/menu button on our current bb phones.

Hey Kevin,

I notice with the Blackberry Playbook that it often randomly closes the browser and some apps due to memory or something. I've never had that problem with a BB phone however.

I'm just wondering, have you experienced this at all with the dev alpha device?

Thanks.

Or respond to the guy below and just completely ignore this Kevin because its the sad reality of RIM not being able to figure out software still.

Another guy actually noticed apps closing automatically in your video. Ya the OS may be smooth but its a pain in the ass if your browser keeps closing and you have to re-open 8 tabs or whatever.

People can say its just the dev alpha pre-release but the playbook has been out forever and they have yet to master that software yet.

Anyways, if that's the case and apps close automatically still, then RIM will lose a very very loyal customer and I hope they go down the drain.

Sorry I'm bitter and pissed but thats the reality of the situation.

Okay buddy settle down. First off, Playbook isn't even 2 years old yet. Second, BB 10 is built off the same platform. Thirdly, Apple and Google both spent more years than that developing the first versions of their respected OS's and neither of them were anything close to perfect. Furthermore those OS's still aren't perfect by any means. Yes the random app shutdowns are annoying and it would be nice if there was an explanation as to why and a fix for it (which I'm sure they're working on). From what I understand this is how qnx resolves problems or conflicts. Instead of lagging up or freezing or what have you it closes the problem so that the rest of the OS remains unharmed. Maybe I'm wrong but to me, all the constant bitching about BB is a huge case of "the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence". That and the "cool" factor of an iPhone, which still escapes me.

I love most of it but there's something off about the browser. I don't like the address bar at the bottom. It shows like 4 characters of the address. Weird.

Okay kevin I hope you read this! You know how they put the Web search at the bottom of the screen where your thumbs naturally reside? This is a great feature but I cannot understand why this train of thought does not follow through with the active tiles?

As I watched your video I see you open a tile and close it or place it back and it always goes to the top left? If they really do this for ease wouldn't it make much more sense to do this by putting the last used tile in the bottom "right" where your thumb is? Putting it in the top left make a one handed user reach for it rather than just being right where you can touch it.

I hope you can put your thoughts into this for me.

Just my. 02

Cheers

Or make it an option in the menus to choose where to have the most recent tile reside... Let the user decide.

The top left location is where your eyes naturally go because if you were brought up in Westren culture thats where we expect to find something first. There have been studies that show this. Also if you live in a country where language is written right to left then the top right would be most natural.

The address bar is small and horizontal and if it was stuck to the top of the screen.

It would be about 5-10% of the screen. All the way on the top.

With Active Frames, it's almost 25% of the screen. So reaching over to it wouldn't be a problem.

Where as for the address, you'd have to reach allllll the way to the top. Bringing it to the bottom makes it easier and not have to stretch your finger trying to reach it on the top.

I think it's fine the way it is.

Thanks Kevin for all the hard but fun work you do for us. Great video! I love my Bold 9900's but dammit I absolutely can't wait for the release of BB10!

BB10 ~ BELIEVE!!!

Wow, so looking forward to BB10. I may finally switch to a full screen device (well that may depend on CB's review of both series)

iOS seems so bulky and slow compared to BB10! When iphone was released 5 years ago Steve Jobs said that it was 5 years ahead of its time.... well guess what... 5 years later its basically the same OS! Looks like they are on par with everybody else now, eh? They better be taking notes from RIM because BB10 is 5 years ahead of its time and, considering Apples OS is stuck in 2007, it's 10 years ahead of iPhone 5 lol Apple can suck it... I'm BlackBerry by choice and proud of it!!

All this 'Brainstorming' that you are doing is getting me more and more excited to get my hands on BB10!!!! I CANT WAIT!!! lol

WOW, like a few other repliers said, BB10 is snappy and fast! this will turn around the usual comment of "You still have a BlackBerry" to "Wow, you have one of the new BlackBerrys!" Looks great RIM, keep up the good work!

Can't wait for these to come into the market. I agree there is a great chance to see a wow factor here with these phones. Way to go RIM.

I haven't read through, so sorry if this has been mentioned....

I think the ommision of the side gestures in the browser was done on purpose. Unlike BBM and other "list-view" apps, the browser is constantly using 360 degree scrolling. If someone is zoomed in on the browser, an attempt to move the view of the screen to the left or right could potentially set off the menu gesture if that option was included. There are ways around this (only allowing the gesture when zoomed out all the way, or when you reach the end of the page, it stretches into the gesture), but that could potentially cause confusion. I bet RIM is/has been testing this to see what would work better.

Hey Guys

Just wanted to point out that if you look between 2:40 and 2:50 Kevin has 4 apps open then he goes into the calender application and when he comes out of it there are only 3 apps open. The contacts application closed. Reminds me of what has been happening on my playbook recently.

Can anyone explain this or am i missing something?

*i know its not the complete version of bb10 and it could be buggy it just stuck out to me cause of whats happening on my playbook*

Well it IS pre release software. Don't get your panties in a bunch ;) but yeah who knows.... I'm sure RIM will have it all ironed out by the release.

i keep my panties nice and folded lol

Just curious if its a QNX issue cause of whats going on with my playbook. im sure itll be fixed up.

I noticed that too and immediately I was surprised they haven't fixed that. People can say its a pre-release all they want but Playbook os 2.whatever is not a pre-release and it still does it. Why doesn't RIM test this out before. Pisses me off. Things like this is why RIM is fading IMO.

This would be why they delayed release until q1 2013. Let's face it - PlayBook is still in alpha build and 2 years is very fast for building a platform...

It looks so fast and fluid on the alpha device, imagine how much faster it will be on the actual BB10 hardware.

Unless the Dev Alpha b is the actual release hardware with a different case. Which I think it is. But I'm sure there is still some code optimization that is going to happen.

First off I have to say Kevin; you really have that swiping down. I have the older Dev. unit, and the swiping is just soooo butter! After I am finished using the Dev., I find myself swiping everything even on my bold 9900 (LOL), and say WOW it’s just brilliant. For the people watching this unfold you truly will be amazed once it is released. Not only amazed, but just find yourself saying why wasn’t this thought of before. Popping in and out of apps, and in and out of menus and sections is just so quick and easy.

I also saw a comment about someone asking if Kevin was using his Dev. unit as his main phone, and I believe on all dev. units (unless internal RIM employee) the phone isn’t enabled.

The UI seems to be extremely responsive. The fine print in some Apple TV spots indicates sequences have been shortened. A BB10 TV spot should show the OS in action then an instant replay in super slow mo! (My 9780 on OS6 doesn't stand a chance once BB10 is on store shelves.)
/Device agnosticism or bust!

I have been using Iphone for 4 years now, and the OS feels dated and want to try something different for a change. Android Jelly Bean is awesome, but still a clusterfuck. Windows 7 and 8 doesn't make sense to me, but seeing this video the fluent and fresh flow in BB10 is exactly what i was looking for. Really looking forward to the final product

BB10 makes current os7 phones look like shit. I wish they could surprise us with an early launch! That os is fast, smooth and sleeek! The wait for BB10 is really torturing. Make it happen Thor!

WOW - the OS is really fast. Then I thought of the myriad of Apple ads that show what their products can do which seem full of "action" on the device featured - but then at the bottom of the TV screen you see in fine print "Some Sequences Shortened".

Blackberry could do a parody ad showing in real time actual "action" on BB10 and in not so small print at the bottom of the screen put "All Sequences NOT Shortened!"

Kevin, (I dont know if this has already been asked) but I would love to see Windows 8 vs BB 10 dev to see which UI is better and where BB needs to improve.

Kevin this is great, the " Brainstorming Series " is so important , because this will be new to BB users.
Most have BB phones and iPADS . I have both and only use PBook so gestures will be easy.
The Brainstorming series should be a TAB on the CB site, I think the clicks will be very high !!.
One thing I want is the " READER " function to be a FLOW feature.
The current BB7 " View Text " feature used to remove the formatting is just awesome.
If I open a 40 page PDF I want to flow into " READER " and read my PDF in text format , and
to read a webpage easily or read a cut and pasted email into text format with ease.

READER will be a key feature for medical , financial and engineering professionals who read PDF's and other DOC's and who love the current BB7 feature " View Text "

BB10 should be easy to file your documents as well, I love my " DOC to Go "

JC

Am I the only one that is curious how the BB10 platform will work with the QWERTY phones?

Unless BB10 is magically 20 times better than iOS at typing, I can't see myself having a full touchscreen phone.

I am very excited to see the QWERTY (Dakota I think?) version of this, hopefully it launches fairly close to the full touch.

Will BB10 have an app following?

So many questions!

I am presently test-driving an old iPhone (two models down from the 5). My 9700 is dying slowly and I wanted to see what a touch screen is like. I've been doing this for two weeks now. I loathe the iPhone. My Bold is seamless for communication, moving from Calendar to Message to Browser and back, sending invitations along the way. I haven't figured out how to do that with the iPhone. Its battery power is terrible as well. It also slips out of my hand (I love the grip on the Bold - the phone is ready to use out of the box). Yes, I like having a Starbux card on my phone and I am really worried that the mainstream companies will not provide apps for BB10. I don't want to end up with a smartphone that has no support. But the iPhone? Feh. Anyhow, I am ...

Wishing and hoping that BB10 is released SOON...

The more I see how it works the more I fall in love with it. I can’t wait for it to come out.

There seem to be too many ways to enter a menu. The pull-down, overflow, tap-and-hold, the "back flow", etc. It's all too much and it's unclear what should go into each.

I'd prefer a focus only on "tap-and-hold" and the overflow. Seems like the experience would be simpler with only those two ways of accessing menus, and you wouldn't lose anything.

I honestly hate the app icons. I love the ones that take up all the space, but the ones that don't just seem out of place.

Is it just me or does the use of that old school font make BB10 look dated? I mean...they really should have changed the default font and made a stronger departure from the existing style. Heck, 2012 is the year of rebranding (i.e. Ebay, Microsoft, and others).

I found this in today's Financial post article http://business.financialpost.com/2012/10/16/heres-what-will-happen-if-b...
:

"Ashley Rahul Martis™ • 3 days ago • parent −
"layoffs taking up more resources than actual product development" this guy has more gas than Felix Baumgartner's hot air balloon. Those layoffs actually allowed streamlining and saving costs which is why their last earnings was better than forecasted.

I am an android developer loved the platform from day 1, worked on some of tumblr apps, games, and badoo dating clients. I loved my old android HTC, loved the Galaxy S1, I even bought the S3. So I am big on android, so when I first heard of bb10 i thought blackberry is old news.

I got invited to Blackberry Jam sessions, I thought free food and phone why not go. I left there MIND F*&%*^&(* blown. Blackberry 10 is amazing for developers to build on, so simple, I already have made two apps, and am working on the third. Even the bb10 os that is now on the prototype devices we have is terribly smart and very efficient. When I show people this on the TTC (subway in Toronto) no one believes this is a blackberry.

Its ok that lot of people are bashing Blackberry now because their perception will be low, then even if Blackberry released a half-decent product people will be wowed by the delta in their perception. Blackberry 10 when users play with it will not think it is half-decent, they will think its amazing. So shocked they will be because they think blackberry used to suck that they will spread their shock to their friends.

Me and my development company are jumping ship to start building leading edge bb10 apps. The comeback is coming!!!"

I found this in today's Financial post article
:

"Ashley Rahul Martis™ • 3 days ago • parent −
"layoffs taking up more resources than actual product development" this guy has more gas than Felix Baumgartner's hot air balloon. Those layoffs actually allowed streamlining and saving costs which is why their last earnings was better than forecasted.

I am an android developer loved the platform from day 1, worked on some of tumblr apps, games, and badoo dating clients. I loved my old android HTC, loved the Galaxy S1, I even bought the S3. So I am big on android, so when I first heard of bb10 i thought blackberry is old news.

I got invited to Blackberry Jam sessions, I thought free food and phone why not go. I left there MIND F*&%*^&(* blown. Blackberry 10 is amazing for developers to build on, so simple, I already have made two apps, and am working on the third. Even the bb10 os that is now on the prototype devices we have is terribly smart and very efficient. When I show people this on the TTC (subway in Toronto) no one believes this is a blackberry.

Its ok that lot of people are bashing Blackberry now because their perception will be low, then even if Blackberry released a half-decent product people will be wowed by the delta in their perception. Blackberry 10 when users play with it will not think it is half-decent, they will think its amazing. So shocked they will be because they think blackberry used to suck that they will spread their shock to their friends.

Me and my development company are jumping ship to start building leading edge bb10 apps. The comeback is coming!!!"

Source: http://business.financialpost.com/2012/10/16/heres-what-will-happen-if-b...

Makes sense not to have in the browser. since you sometimes have to swipe from right to left from within the browser especially after zooming in on text etc..

Hmm. I am certainly impressed by how fluid and FAST everything looks in this video. What I'm still trying to figure out is how the "flow" experience is any different at its core principle than something on iOS or android. Granted, I haven't experienced BB10 for myself yet and only have these videos to compare. Also, I get that the swiping is refreshing and useful and different. But aside from that, how is this actually different? It's being advertised as never going "in and out" but "always in," but to me I see essentially the same in and out as android and iOS. At the beginning Kevin repeatedly taps to open an app, then swipes to get out and back to the "active tiles" screen (which appears to me is just a modified home screen). Within an app all that is different is you can swipe to view menus, much the way you already can in certain apps on iOS (Facebook and Facebook messenger for instance). Granted this is baked into core BB10, and that's awesome, but I feel like you're making it out to be way more than that. You still select something to move to the next screen (a photo for instance), and still have to sequentially move back; in this case you can swipe which is useful, but equivalent to the back button on android devices or the "back" icon in the top left of iOS apps. You still have to return to the home screen and open a new app, from what I understand, which is still "in and out" to me. And how is moving between running apps handled other than swiping back to the active tiles? Can you swipe left with 2 (or 3) fingers to sequentially move through recently opened apps?

I'm not saying bb10 doesn't appear to do some things really well, I just think the amount of "flow" experience is being overplayed here. I will reserve true judgment until I can actually experience it for myself though.