It’s a popular misconception that people who don’t have iPhones and Androids don’t use the web on their phones. I caught up with my cousin Taylor, a geologist living in Pittsburgh PA, and asked him to shed some light on how he interacts with the web on his Blackberry.
Why do you have a Blackberry and what kind is it?
My work provided it. It’s a Curve. My company has a cycle for getting deals on popular devices and I got my Blackberry two years ago. Other people at my company are on a newer cycle, so they have iPhones and Androids. It’s a mix now.
How often do you use the web on your phone? Do you use your phone mostly when out and about, at home, or both?
Every day. I use my phone to access the web both when I’m out and about and also at home. It’s peppered throughout the day; I don’t really have set times.
What types of sites do you visit on your BB?
I visit a wide variety of stuff. A lot of it is just general information. Just stupid stuff that I want to find the answers to like “What’s the capital of whatever”. My phone is set up search Google by default so I just pull up “Go to…” from the menu.
I look up local information when I’m not with my wife, who has an Android phone. It’s way faster for her to look it up, but yeah I’ll look it up if she can’t or I’m not with her.
I also click on links in both personal and work emails. A lot of it is me sending myself articles to read later when I’m traveling. But most of the time it’s not even worth clicking the links because I know that the sites probably won’t even work.
Do you have any favorite sites that you go to on your phone?
I go to Weather.com to check out the current temperature and the hourly forecast. I go to ESPN to check out scores and articles. I’ll also read articles on CNN and other news sites that I get to through Google.
What’s the most frustrating thing about using the web on your BB?
It’s slow as shit and sometimes the web page never loads cause it’s too big. There’s an error message that says something like “site is too big” and refuses to download the page. I don’t know if it’s a restriction from my company or from the Blackberry.
What’s the most enjoyable thing about using the web on your BB?
If it’s my only source of internet, it sometimes allows me to find what I’m looking for. It’s convenient to look something up on the spot.
If you could ask web designers to do anything to help make your mobile web experience better, what would it be?
Make the sites have less data, so I can view all of them. It might be a data restriction through my company though; I’m not sure. I don’t think you can speed up my Blackberry, but that would be nice.
What’s your next phone going to be? Why?
I’ll probably get an iPhone because when my company’s plan runs out that’s what I’ll get upgraded to. I think I’ll have a choice, and I’d choose it because it’s much more effective and efficient for web browsing.
There’s a few takeaways from this. First, it’s clear that people like Taylor do indeed access the web from their phones, even though they know it’s not the best experience. Basic access to information and performance are important aspects of their experience.
Another thing I think is really interesting is the fact that some sites don’t load because they’re too heavy. Blackberries and other lesser mobile devices are under-represented in site analytics, which ultimately leads to the misconception that those devices don’t get online. As it turns out, they do attempt to access sites, but are ultimately rejected. Next time you’re looking at site analytics keep that in mind that they might not paint the whole picture.
Now I’m not proposing that we stop the presses and bend over backwards to cater to the needs of Blackberries and other old devices. Just be considerate that a lot of different devices access the web and understand that there is a difference between support and optimization.
Prioritizing basic access and performance is good for users because they have a better chance at getting the content they want. It’s good for business because it puts your content in front of a larger audience. And it’s good for the web because it keeps information open and accessible.