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HEURISTIC EVALUATION

Blackberry Curve 8520

Shane O'Regan Student No : R00073773

1. Visibility of system status

One of the first functions that you have to use on any phone is the unlock function however I question the placing of the unlock button on the Blackberry Curve. Instead of being located on the rim of the phone it is instead located on the keyboard as a small key. To actually unlock the phone you have to use a tricky combination of holding down the rubberized media player button on the top of the phone and click on the unlock key at the same time. I feel this is an extremely clumsy and awkward design and deters users from bothering to lock the phone at all which leads to accidental phone calls being made when the phone is is in the users pocket.

The Home screen of the Blackberry Curve is the central place where the status of the system is displayed. The screen is divided into three sections with the top section acting as a notification bar as seen in the image below.

The top status bar holds much information about the current status of the phone including Wifi status, missed calls, battery life, the current time, network and date. Although it's great to see all the information at one time I feel that the logos in the

notification bar are too small and especially the size of the current time is too small. The time would be much better displayed in a larger size in the middle of the screen where I feel much real estate is wasted. This status bar remains at the top of each menu opened and displays the time, battery life, number of unread text messages, wifi status and network signal strength. This information is the most important in the phones use and is important that it is always accessible.

2. Match between system and the real world

The language used in the phone's interface is clear, easy to read and follows realworld conventions. Although the logos could be confused with each other the large descriptive text below the icon helps to counteract this. Most of the logos resemble real life objects which helps the user to recognize the function of the application quicker.

The names for the applications are clear and easily read.

3. User control and freedom

On the first look the interface looks quite simplistic however once you enter the applications or access sub menus and settings the navigation gets quite complex. There are however a few ways in which the user can learn how to use the interface. A Back key allows you to go back and exit any dialogue box/navigational menu you have accessed by mistake. This is a really useful feature but I found myself having to use it way too often due to the complexity of the navigational menus.

There is also a dedicated help application which provides links to an online help tutorial. These are generally easy to follow. There is also set-up help tutorial provided on the phone.

Frustratingly the phone does not support any re-do button/function. This is incredibly frustrating especially when using the keyboard. I do appreciate the inclusion of a dedicated delete button on the keyboard. The keyboard's Qwerty design is particularly poor. The keys are spaced far too closely together and are incredibly small frustrating the user. It requires two hands to use the keyboard and you must also shape your hands awkwardly when holding the phone. This kind of keyboard is much better suited to a horizontally orientated phone rather than the portrait shaped Blackberry Curve. The keys unfortunately are made from plastic but they are beveled and given a textured feel to aid your typing experience.

The trackpad in the device is much better than the traditional roll-ball associated with the blackberry. It does take a lot of getting used however the sensitivity of the infared sensor can be adjusted. I found this one of the most frustrating elements to get used to as I often over-shot my selection when trying to click on a certain element in the interface. In saying that the button is also clickable which helps greatly in navigating to have all the functions in one device. There is also the option to turn on an audio tone or vibration when navigating which gives the device a more tactile feel.
4. Consistency and standards

As mentioned in Point 2 the applications for the most part are clear and easily identified.

There is however an element of ambiguity with the naming of the email app as Messages as it can be confused with the SMS & Multimedia Msg app located right beside it. This goes against the conventions of SMS messages being associated with the Envelope logo. The rest of the applications do however follow the usual mobile cell phone application naming conventions such as options, contacts, help, games, media, setup wizard, browser, video camera, camera. Also the logos follow similar conventions such as a clock representing the alarm clock app and a folder with a symbol of a cog representing the option menu. The white outline in each logo also helps it stand out against the dark black/blue background.

5. Error prevention

The only place I have really experienced any sort of error prevention is in the sending of SMS messages and Emails where it will ask you do you want to save your message if you don't add a recipient. Outside of that there is very little error prevention.
6. Recognition rather than recall

For the most part in the main navigational menu's the information is easily remembered however the information displayed in the sub-navigation is unnecessarily complex. You have to go through too many options to perform a simple task such as sending a sms. For example in order to send an sms you must first open the sms app, then you must click on the menu button to display a list of options and you are given the options to send a MMS, SMS or an Email. Then you have to first enter the name of contact to whom your sending the message to before you can finally start typing out your message.

I question necessity to include all of these steps in order to perform a simple task and you are given too many options. I find it strange that you are given the option to send an email from the SMS application especially when there is a dedicated messages application for emails. The use of big clear logos in both the home screen, the main menu and some of the sub navigation really helps when re-calling information as I find that i recognize visual information such logos quicker than i do with text. As stated earlier however I do think that you are given far too many options in the sub-navigation and I find myself returning to the options far too often to try and remember where exactly I had found a particular option beforehand.

7. Flexibility and efficiency of use

The Blackberry Curve is designed to be a business orientated mobile phone so for business orientated functions, primarily email and phone calls the phone performs quite well with quick response times. When you need to go beyond these functions issues in the design arise. Customizability is limited only to changing the background wallpaper on the home screen and changing the shortcut logos on the home screen also. The phone's themes can be changed however it involves a lengthy installation process via the Blackberry Desktop Manager when the phone is connected to a PC. This lack of customizability slows down the efficiency of the device and just creates more frustration for the user.

8. Aesthetic and minimalist design

The Blackberry Curve is quite poorly designed aesthetically. I have previously mentioned the poor design of the keyboard but this isn't the only poorly part of the design. The outside rim of the phone has volume control buttons, media player control buttons, voice command push button and also. The location of such buttons are awkward to say the least.

I really appreciate having the 3.5 mm audio jack input on the Blackberry as it allows me to use any headphones I want with the device. I would however question

why the jack port is on the side of the device. This causes problems when the phone is in your pocket as the headphones are sticking out from the side and it gets caught when taking it in and out of your pocket. Also the Voice Command Push button has no real function and would be much more suited to an unlock button. The Voice Command feature on the phone has some uses however no-one ever really uses this function anymore and was possibly used as a sales feature.

As you can see above, the device has three music control buttons located on the top of the device. These controls themselves are quite handy when you'r listening to music but the fact that they are rubberized makes them much harder to push and you also have to hold the phone in one hand while pushing the button with another hand in order to use this properly. The screen's resolution is also poor at 151DPI where the industry standard for most cell phone screens is 200DPI minimum. The screen glossy surface is also susceptible to finger prints and this can be extremely distracting when typing.

9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

Fortunately I have yet to encounter any major errors on the Blackberry Curve as the Operating System is exceptionally stable. A friend of mine has only once got an error message on his device and instead of saying what problem there was it displayed a message saying Error no.324 which is of no use to the user and fails to offer any constructive advice on how to solve the problem.

Also warning messages are displayed navigational menu whenever there is a problem in sending an email.

10. Help and documentation

The Help documentation provided with the Blackberry is excellent however for a vast majority of people it will be impossible to use the phone without the documentation. Unfortunately the documentation compensates for the phone's poor design. The information in the help manual is clear and easy to read. Colour is used to indicate the different parts of the phone and each part is shown in a simple manner. The basic start-up steps are shown such as how to insert the sim card and battery, charging battery, set up, emailing, moving around the screen, typing tips, application logo's, status indicators and message list status indicators. There is however only basic instructions provided and you have to go online or use the Help function on the phone in order to solve other problems and learn how to use other features.

Shane O'Regan March 2011 - R00073773