Intuitive versus Logical – The Blackberry Strom Keyboard

When I posted my initial review of the Blackberry Storm a week ago, I mentioned I was dissapointed with the interactions needed to show and hide the keyboard. The system as I interpreted it required a single touch to call the keyboard to the screen and three steps to hide the keyboard. Since then, I have learned a second method to close the keyboard:

Simply swipe in a downward motion across the keyboards overall target area and the field will dissapear.

When I first read about this feature I thought “wow, how intuitive”. In closer inspection of the interaction, I realized I mislabeled the interaction. There is no affordance (to add to the abuse of the term) that the keyboard closes at all. No virtual hinges, no hatch marks or trianges to denote any type of interaction. It was with this in mind I rephrased my discovery to “wow, how logical”. The entire interaction makes sense after all – once it was shown to me. I thought “how could I miss that?!” If I were a random user I would have accepted it as a great solution and should have known better.

That is not the case though. I do know better and it shouldnt be the user who feels responisble for ‘you shoulda known’. The only reason I discovered the interaction is because, in my waiting for the device to actually release, I read every piece of documentation I could get my digital hands on. That is not normal. I never read manuals and I would be shocked if the majority of people read much of them at all.So yes, I will admit in the UAR world this is a minor problem with easy learning and little persistence. But the feature is so rich that it should be learnable.

So to return to the subject of logical and intuitive. Logical interactions are not a replacement for intuitive interactions. A system is no good if the user spends half of their time not knowing about a rich interaction. (based on the two year contract for mobile phones) There should always be some way to display action and direction of functions, even if it is easily learnable. I want to clairfy, this is not an excuse for ad hoc overbearing labels, tags, and callouts. The system should intead talk with the user and not to it. To interact in a subtle way without additional clutter (remember combinatory explostion from psychology?) It is the challenge of interaction and interface designers to find this balance and I challange RIM to offer an alternate solution to this simple design issue.

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