Yes, I went there.
I’m not talking one of the newer Blackberries with an updated OS and HTML5/CSS3 handling in its browser. I’m also not talking about a more modern browser for Blackberry like Opera.
I’m talking older, black-text, blue links, purple visited links, little to no image support Blackberry browser.
Why On Earth Should You Design For A Blackberry!?
Simple: If it can be viewed on a Blackberry, it can be viewed on just about any device and browser.
For anyone starting out in web design, you need to think about what you are doing. Your job is to design for the web. What that really means is, you need to design the web for your audience. And from working with many different clients, I’ve seen my fair share as to what that means. Think about these (paraphrased) quotes I’ve heard from past clients:
“We can’t view this in our offices. We all use IE6 and our IT department refuses to upgrade.”
“This site doesn’t look right on my Blackberry. It’s all blank!”
“Is this site compatible with visitors who are blind?”
Believe It Or Not…
I checked out the numbers for mobile browser usage for this month (May 2011), and found some interesting numbers:
With 21.8% global usage, Opera shoots high above Android at 17.01% and iPhone at 16.71%. Rounding up the top 5 mobile browsers are Nokia (16.49%) and Blackberry (12.77%). Even with the popularity of iPhone, mobile browser usage of Safari in the iPhone is still below Opera and Android, with Nokia’s browser right behind it. There are also a notable amount of people using Blackberry’s built-in browser as well.
While the other mobile browsers are slowly accommodating the requirements for HTML5 and CSS3 compatibility, we can’t be browser biased when it comes to designing and developing for mobile platforms. The same can also be applied to desktop browsers.
Yes, many people hate IE6, but many corporate companies still use it and won’t upgrade. Sometimes, that can’t be changed.
What we can change is how our sites load on these browsers, regardless of version.
This includes Blackberry.
Benefits of Limited Functionality
The Blackberry is an interesting device. Before my iPhone, I used to be on Verizon Wireless with a Blackberry Curve. It wasn’t a bad device! It wasn’t a touch-enabled device, but that little ball can scroll through just about anything.
What was frustrating is how sites would load—or, rather, how they would not load—in the Blackberry browser. Downloading Opera was the fix to this problem, but to anyone who’s pretty tech-savvy, this was pretty obvious.
For the average person with a Blackberry, they would be stuck not being able to view most sites on their device.
On newer devices, sites can have many effects and do wonders visually. However, never forget that the main reason for having a website: To deliver information. No matter how “pretty” a design is, if the user can’t get the information they want, the design has failed. It’s that simple.
If you can design your site in a way that without styles or images it can still be viewed, then the information can get though to the end-user.
Ever checked the analytics for a site you worked on and saw a high bounce rate? You should check to see if this issue contributes to that.
If you have a Blackberry, give loading your sites a try.
No Blackberry? No problem! Download a Blackberry Simulator for an older device, and see how your site would look.
Either way, ask yourself these questions:
Could you still get information off of your site?
Is it still viewable, even without all the font-faces, styles, and images?
Can you navigate through the site only using your thumb?
You’d be surprised how many visitors will stay on your site longer with just a few accessibility changes during the planning stages of your design.
Update 6.3.2011—Ironically, the day after I posted this article, a family member got a new Blackberry Curve. After asking me to help them figure out how to use it, they left me view my website on the built-in mobile browser:
Looks good to me!