If I Called the Shots at Research in Motion, Here is How I Would Fix BlackBerry App World

By Kevin Michaluk on 10 Dec 2009 03:28 pm EST

Fixing BlackBerry App World According to CrackBerry Kevin
Within App World, Let's Keeps Apps, Games and Themes Separate

If you didn't catch my article titled How Are You Liking Theme World So Far? I recommend you go read it before continuing with this post if you want the full understanding of where I'm coming from on this. To summarize, while 89% of our poll respondents are happy to see themes finally come to App World, 85% of those same respondents think RIM got the implementation of themes in App World wrong (myself included). In RIM's App World, themes are currently treated the same way as apps. While themes do have their own category, they compete with apps for rank on the Top Paid and Top Free download pages and are side by side with apps in sections like the Featured Items carousel (and we've already seen themes also creep into non-theme categories like Entertainment > Personalization).

The Issue: While the current implementation does provide solid visibility for themes within App World, it confuses the browsing experience for the end-user and it also hurts app developers. Following the original post, I received a ton of emails from both app developers and theme developers on this subject and the post itself generated a lot of insightful comments, basically all of which confirm the issues put forth. Since my initial post on this subject, I have confirmed that some developers have already seen a substantial drop in App World sales since themes went live (think nearly a 3/4 drop in downloads/sales when you get punted off the Top Paid list by a theme). And while putting themes into App World is GREAT THING for theme developers as it opens up a whole new market for them, all but one of the theme developers I have spoken to recently thinks the current implemenation is good. Just as app developers would rather compete against apps for rankings, theme developers would rather compete against themes. A theme developer would rather say I have the #2 downloaded premium theme in App World vs. saying I have the 7th most downloaded app.

The Solution: While writing my initial post, I hypothesized that there must be a solution out there that would give equal benefit to both app and theme developers without them cutting into each other and cluttering up App World. 24 hours later, I have a better vision of what I think would work for App World and am throwing it out there. You can see it in the App World mockups I put together here.

My thought is to do in App World what we do here on the CrackBerry blogs when it comes to this type of core content - we break it apart. Back in the day we used to have just a single blog post category called 'BlackBerry Software' that covered all of this sort of content, but with time we got smarter and separated it into BlackBerry Apps, BlackBerry Games and BlackBerry Themes. To me, these are the three key silos that a BlackBerry user seeks out in an app store environment. You could argue BlackBerry Themes is a subset of device personalization (ringtones and wallpapers fall into personalization too), and in reality it is, but from a visibility/demand perspective you wouldn't want to push themes down into a subcategory.

Looking at the App World mockups in this post, you can see how I forsee this theory in action, adhering to App World's keep it simple philosophy:

  • The bottom row icons do not change. From left to right you still have: Categories | Top Free | Top Paid | Search | My World
  • When you click into Top Free or Top Paid sections, you get presented with your three silos of Apps, Games and Themes. One click shows you the Top 25 in each section. Ideally, RIM could allow you to set the default category that shows if you prefer one over the other. Just do Menu > Options and advanced users could set some App World Defaults (how about options like show me the Top 25, Top 50, etc.)
  • When you click into categories, do the same thing. Put Apps | Games | Themes across the top.┬á

And lastly, I think on the App World homescreen, we could more clearly identify what main area (apps, games or theme) a Featured Item falls into. Right now, it's not always clear whether the featured item you're looking at is an App or a Theme. Most of the themes say theme in the title, but in some cases, such as the Pooh Winter Fantasy - Animated Theme that's showing in the Featured Items section on my Bold 9700, the word Theme is cut off. The first time I saw this in the carousel I was thinking it was maybe a Disney Pooh Game (w00t!). Once these three areas of apps / games / themes are established in App World, then you could show an even number of Featured Items on the homescreen category (3 or 4 or 5 from each) and make sure they're clearly labeled as either Featured App, Featured Game or Featured Theme.

** Keep in mind I'm only touching on changes I'd like to see in the frontend App World client itself. We'll save the backend things that theme/app devs would like to see for another day. **

Conclusion: So that's it. What do you think? You can express your thoughts as a comment to this post or vote on our poll at the bottom. And if you like the suggestions and think they're good and RIM ultimately likes them and one day your App World looks like the mockups here, just remember where you read it. We have our own CrackBerry App Store and CrackBerry Theme Store clients and of course we would love for all of you reading this to support our CrackBerry community by grabbing your apps and themes from us (and tell your friends to give us a download from crackberry.com/appstore), but at the end of the day I just want what's best for the BlackBerry app/theme developer community and the BlackBerry platform as a whole. The way App World is organized right now isn't optimal for developers nor customers. So let's fixxer up!  

More Captures of BlackBerry App World According to Kevin 

Fixing BlackBerry App World According to CrackBerry Kevin
Top Paid Games - one click takes you to top paid Apps or Themes

Fixing BlackBerry App World According to CrackBerry Kevin
Top Paid Themes - one click takes you to top paid Apps or Games

Fixing BlackBerry App World According to CrackBerry Kevin
Click into Categories and you can choose between Apps, Games or Themes

Fixing BlackBerry App World According to CrackBerry Kevin
App World Homescreen - Toggle Featured Items between Apps, Games or Themes

App World Poll - Would You Like to See This?

Reader comments

If I Called the Shots at Research in Motion, Here is How I Would Fix BlackBerry App World


Read my comment on the previous "Theme World" blog post Kevin did before this and look at the comments to get some great insight from my POV and other theme developer's POV - as you see we all agree with your post - Good Job Kevin!

Great job. As one of active theme developers in the App World, I completely agree that they should split apps from themes. These are just 2 different types of content.

Kevin, good one. But I know something about design, designers and the top dogs in companies. The look they have is what they want! You have that very close, but Id guarantee they'd rather go for 3 big blocks at start up. Apps, Games, Themes. Nice icons, then the rest you have would be perfect...but the first page would probably be more graphical for category choices, or a scroll through for all categories.

Only saying this because I'll guarantee they like the big icons on the homescreen...just trying to think like them and what they would, and really should do.

They missed the mark with this one. Themes are more prevalent than apps and games for BB's. What they're doing now is just almost totally blocking out apps.

"Cant see anything but Themes? We've got an app for that"

ya wanna get a patent on that idea sharpish kevin, make a fortune lol :)

they have to do it, i mean as im lookin at the vote this second its 96% to 4% so a massive majority who agree :)

RIM should implement this immediately and cut Kevin a check for a job well done. I would LOVE to see this happen!!!

It is really annoying to look at nothing but themes on the top 25 lists. It needs to be split up. I also clicked on the Disney Pooh theme thinking it was a game only to find out it was just a theme. How many themes does one phone need once you find one you like you usually stick to it. The apps are the things that get used on a daily basis and need to be separated from the themes.
I guess we will just have to stay with the crackberry store!

You bring up some interesting points in your analysis of the issues that are basically ultra stupid mistakes.

As far as your solutions tho...no offense Kevin but I do not consider you a design specialist. Your suggestions will address the issues yes, but if the App World is going to compete with the App Store it's gonna need to do a ton more than that. It's going to take some fundamental changes. I do not see any innovation on RIM's part...anywhere.

Your suggestions are gonna help BlackBerry look...not so stupid, but it won't help them look any better or show that they know what they are doing lol

They need help from an experienced outside company and not internal employees...who are probably accountants disguised as graphic designers. I must say however, those accountants they are getting A LOT better.

RIM should implement this forth with and with great abandon. I also agree that they should cut Kevin a check IMMEDIATELY if not sooner. DO IT!!!!!!

A few things RIM can do to fix this:
Of course keep them separated across the board.

Find a way to preview the theme on your device without buying it. Applies to non App World implementations too. Maybe some sort of theme emulator.

And RIM should do something about the way each theme re-arranges every single icon and folder so you have to spend way too much time moving things around. Hell, make it so Desktop Manger can do this...wtf? I hate installing a new theme unless I have at least 15 minutes of time to hustle to get everything where I want. Damn RIM make it where I can list icons and then tell the device where to move them. This one-by-one of clicking and moving sucks.

One last thing. Give me the option to tell App World to scan my device and inventory all my apps into App World so it will keep up with updates and newer versions.

And fix the way App Wold notifies me. A few months ago I would get an email link telling me a particular app had an update.

Oh yeah, one more thing...develop BBM for the Windows/Linux/Apple desktop...

As a application developer i dont think Themes belongs in AppWorld period. If you look at the newest and featured areas. it is a all themes and everywhere

I suspect a manager came over to a programmer and said 'What is the fastest way we can support Themes?'. At which point the junior programmer right out of the University of Waterloo reply's 'We can make them apps and it will just work!'.

the version coming in 2010 has sub options for the top paid and free. it was mentioned on the rim bb forum

Maybe not something exactly like this, but some sort of selector/separator would be nice. It is frustrating to see nothing but themes at the top of the App World list. I find that they should make the App World function like it had a million more applications already in it...

Make it easier to find applications you want. In the search field, Have a few more options like "Category" or "Genre" for games and themes next to the search bar. That would make it easier to find a narrowed list of applications...try to drive it away from being keyword-dependent.

This is an awesome idea, great design. I thnk this would spice it up a lot as well as cut down searching time. It will definitely let the buyer cut to the chase!

great work!

I'd say try to get paid for it but if that doesn't work the entire blackberry would be indebted to you if you donated this.

But I think they need to seriously develop their apps more. they are lagging far behind the other competitors.

Stop making new OS Revisions and give us some good apps RIM!

the whole bb app world theme is so wrong i had downloaded one of thier themes and it totally messed up my phone i had to reload the software thanks to that stupid theme!!!!

I hate to burst all the bubbles... But this is how Google Market is set up... And btw, didnt kevin just recently go to Android anyways... Way to go and be original with the same design... AWESOME JOB hahaha

As an avid user/consumer on App World, I would greatly prefer this compared to the current implementation. RIM, are you listening?

The tabbed layout would be incredible. It is painful to sift through themes in the App World in order to find a good app and vice-versa. High level separation of themes and apps would be a big usability improvement. Splitting games off to their own super group also makes alot of sense.

I don't know why Games and Themes are in BlackBerry "App" World. "App" World should just have apps. If I want games or themes, they should be elsewhere under a different icon, or rename App World to something else. If I wanted time-wasters, I would have gotten an iPhone.

Crackberry App Store should keep apps, themes and games seperate!!!!!!!!!

Hypocrites! I contacted support twice with this suggestion and they were all like, "yeah we're going to have that soon..."

That was last year.


Thanks for your kind comment. Try reading my first article that I link to in the opening sentence. I stated this was a problem with our CB/Mobihand App Store. That's why I was surprised RIM didn't learn from that, as it's pretty easy to see from observation that treating themes the same as apps is messy.  Good news it IS being addressed soon for the CB store. Agree with you 100% it needs to be done... and it's coming. Wish it would have been here a year ago too.

Hey I apologize for the moron comment - that was rude and show-offy. Its easy to just flip off a harsh comment like that, and cheap.

I am a bit miffed that I fed you guys this idea, as others likely did, months ago with an email and got back a prompt response saying something along the lines of "yeah we're on it, man. We have that idea already. Its coming shortly" and then nada. Those of us who buy a lot of apps from CB App Store are really frustrated with the nauseatingly endless variants developers put out on a single theme - they run for pages, say the same thing except the color is different, and are really too numerous altogether now. I scroll for three pages just to see one single new app. What do these theme-fiends have a BB for anyway? To look at pretty colors or to get work done?

Again, sorry for the "moron" comment. That was mean and uncalled for.

hey, it's all good. totally understand. all i care about is the passion! as long as people care, which you do, that means things are good (but can always be better!). it's if and when ppl quit caring that there's a real problem.

regardless, hope to see some better organization in all bb app stores soon!

It's interesting to see RIM do a half-ass job like this. I really think they should have held off from implementing themes into App World and done some research first. Did they really not look at their community first to see what was happening? Of course viewing Crackberry along with a few other sites would have avoided this mistake by RIM. Are they that high and mighty that they just didn't give a flying leap and just released whatever? I expect more from such a corporate entity.

I may be a little biased since one of my themes is the #1 paid DL but even I think having them separate would be great, or at least have the option of viewing the top apps/themes separately if someone wants to. I love the sales, and I love the exposure, but sometimes I would just love to be able to see the most downloaded game too.

First, I would like to see AppWorld available to me.
List of available countries is joke.

RIM is EXACTLY like every other big company out there in that they have amazing people working there but those amazing people have IDIOT managers that are more concerned with moving up the corporate ladder and playing politics than they are with providing a better customer experience.

I bet some designer or engineer came up with a great system and some douche-bag manager had no clue and didn't sign off on it.

So sad...

My only concern is how to keep the list navigable with non-touchscreen berrys. I guess some hotkey(s) to take you directly to Apps, Games or Themes will do the job.

Great idea Kevin! My Dad works for RIM, so I forwarded this to him, maybe he'll know who to give it too so they can do something about it, in case they're not already doing so.

I agree that the current App World is a mess, and hardly worth
visiting. On the other, most of the screens look like Apple's App Store. Colours are different, Title and company are swapped. And rating and price are in different places. But essentially exactly the same thing.

What RIM needs is something brand new.

i think they should also add a whats new section. im always lookin through all the folders to see what new apps have been added.

Fantastic analysis of what Appworld SHOULD be. I love it. That would make navigating the store so much easier. Knowing whether you are looking for apps, themes or games specifically will make it easy for novice users so they don't get mixed up. And it will be easier for experienced people to go after only what they want.

Thanx for the suggestions and hopefully RIM sees this and runs with it.

Also, hope you guys are able to get your store running the way you would like to.

If you're not already on rim's payroll I don't know what they are thinking, you (kevin) should be president of customer relations!

I think Rim should make a Appworld site that you can go to and browse & purchase apps on the PC.. Honestly browsing App World on your BB sucks and is kinda slow.. You'd be able to browse & purchase apps more & faster..

Blackberry has to ramp up to compete with what is going on right now in smart phones. A great email just does not cut in todays consumer market and Apple is getting ready to put out a phone that is going to dominate again. REM needs to run and not walk. Tmobile is going to get the next Iphone because they are willing to give consumers what they want! They are getting ready now! Is it going to be to late at the rate Rim is going now.

Oh how I wish you did call the shots at RIM because I would love to see this implemented - get on to them, there could be a job in it for you ;) nobody knows a blackberry better than you!