Got up early this morning and made it over to the hotel’s gym. It was nice to get some exercise in before starting my day. When I finished, I decided to walk around a bit just to get my back loosened up. As I walked past the BlackBerry World registration desk, I thought about my registration process and thought I’d write about it.

This is my 6th BlackBerry World (or Wireless Enterprise Symposium, WES, as it used to be called), so I knew exactly what to do. I walked toward the registration area, following the signs and walked up to the registration tablets. Of course RIM uses the BlackBerry Playbook for registration, makes sense. Of course, there’s always someone there to make sure you know what you’re doing – as I walked up purposefully to one of the tablets, she asked me ‘You here to register?’  I’m not sure what else I’d be doing in the Registration area, but yes.

Anyway, as I typed away at the registration process, I truly struggled. For some reason I just couldn’t type my email address (all that’s needed for that part of the registration process). I love my BlackBerry Playbook; I use it all the time. Suddenly I kept mistyping then having to back up and fix the text I just typed. Embarrassing. It wasn’t until I walked past the registration desk this morning that I realized why. The tablets were attached to the table using Velcro! Of course I couldn’t type on them – they’re designed to be held in your hand not strapped to a table. The angle was all wrong. If I’d been able to pick up the tablet and use it like I always use it, I wouldn’t have had problems with the registration process.

I understand the need to keep the tablets from walking away, but they should allow me to use the device in the manner in which I’m accustomed. Not force me to use it in an unnatural way.  Attach it to the table using some sort of cable; accommodating both left- and right-handed people and you’d have a better experience for registrants.

Once the application showed me that my registration had been accepted, it told me to go to badge pickup area B to get my credentials. As I walked away, the handler, the girl watching everyone register, told me I had to click the finish button to finish the registration process. This isn’t critical, but I think this is an application design issue that needs to be addressed.

The finish button was a standard web browser button that I’d completely missed because it was too small for fingers. When the application told me to go to badge pickup area B, I immediately attempted to walk away from the station to pick up my credentials. That’s expected behavior, right? Why do I need to click the Finish button? The application knows I’m finished, why not leave the information up there for 15 or 30 seconds or so before moving on to the next screen itself rather than force me to click the button as I leave? Another option would be to put up a ‘Next Registrant’ button or something so that if someone else comes up before the 30-second window had completed (which is highly likely during the first 24 hours of the conference).

What they should have done is use up more of the screen real estate for the button, so it’s more easily seen and, very importantly, large enough that the user can easily click it as they’re walking away from the table. I found that because of the limited space allocated for the button that I had to force myself to stand still and concentrate on getting my finger within the button borders. If they’d used a much bigger button, I could just have swiped at it as I was leaving.

This is a perfect example of what happens when a developer designs, develops and tests an application outside of the environment where the application will be used. I imagine that if the developer had to test the application while standing up and while the tablet was strapped to a table, that he (or she) would have made some adjustments to the application’s UI before putting it into production.

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