Research In Slow Motion: Back to the iPhone

Most folks that know me well know that I am a huge fan of the BlackBerry. A few years ago I switched to an iPhone 3G, but ended up switching back to a BlackBerry a few months later. I found the iPhone slow and cumbersome and the virtual keyboard drove me batshit crazy. I loved the BlackBerry because it had awesome battery life, the interface was fast, and email and calendaring were amazing.

Since I switched back I have had two BlackBerry devices. The BlackBerry Torch (my most loathed BlackBerry ever) and the BlackBerry Bold 9900, which I got about four months ago. The Bold 9900 is a gorgeous, solid device and the keyboard is the best that the folks at RIM have ever produced, but the phone has two problems that ended up being deal breakers for me:

1. No Apps (Just crApps)
Everyone knows that there aren’t many apps in BlackBerry App World. However, the larger issue is that even if an app exists in the store, it often doesn’t work with RIM’s flagship phone. Developers have to certify their apps for each device and a number of them haven’t.

RIM has too many models, too many resolutions and too many OS versions. Developers are ignoring the platform because it is a pain in the ass to develop and test for. The apps that do exist on the BlackBerry are crap in comparison with their iPhone and Android cousins.

A great example of this is the Air Canada app. For a number of months the app wasn’t certified for the device. Air Canada finally certified the app and you could download it to the Bold 9900, but the app displayed sideways on the phone. If you somehow overlook the need to turn your phone sideways to use the app, it also doesn’t include a number of features the iPhone version does.

The only exception is applications written by RIM themselves, which are often pretty good (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). The problem is that RIM can’t write every app for their devices.

2. Battery Life
My BlackBerry Bold 9900 was getting 6 to 8 hours of battery life before per charge. Even if I had the device in airplane mode and didn’t use it, it would still use a significant amount of battery life during the flight. Battery life used to be RIM’s strength, but in becoming more like their competitors, they removed an advantage their devices always had — amazing battery life. I remember my old BlackBerry only needed charging once every few days. That was amazing.

So how’s it going with the iPhone?
So far I am loving the new Phone (4S). The device is speedy, and the app selection and quality is amazing, especially the travel apps like FlightTrack, Tripit, Air Canada, SPG, Hyatt and Marriott. I’m really impressed with the virtual keyboard — it has dramatically improved since the 3G and I can type with two thumbs. It still doesn’t provide me with as good of a typing experience as the BlackBerry but overall I’m pretty happy. I still find the interface cumbersome in places, but the device has a level of polish that is impressive.

The one thing I miss the most about the BlackBerry? BBM! BBM is a huge asset for RIM and they are trying to leverage this through the creation of apps like BBM Music to increase the power of the platform. My worry — it won’t be enough. As people leave the BlackBerry platform BBM becomes weaker. RIM should have developed a version of BBM for both the iPhone and Android. Hell, if they charged $10 or $20 I would have paid for it in a second. Might as well make $10 off an iPhone user than $0.

I hope RIM will make it, but the outlook doesn’t look promising. Calling the BlackBerry Playbook launch disappointing would be generous. The new phones based on QNX won’t be here until late next year. The folks at RIM haven’t really addressed the app issue, and are instead suggesting that they need to do more marketing. Blurg.

Nortel was sad enough, I don’t want to see another large Canadian technology leader die.

Why no Windows Phone 7?
I really, really like what the team at Microsoft is doing with Windows Phone 7 and think it has the nicest experience of any phone on the market today. I just didn’t want to switch from a platform without a number of apps to another. I wouldn’t rule out a switch in the future (especially with the Nokia partnership), although Apple is going to make this harder with iMessage, FaceTime and iCloud.

Me Want Food! (NYC Edition)

Here are a few places I love to eat at when visiting NYC…


247 South 1st Street
A great cocktail list and good comfort food in an old factory

Marlow & Sons
81 Broadway
Gourmet store in the front and awesome little restaurant in the back.

El Almacen
557 Driggs Avenue
Delicious Argentine restaurant — food was phenomenal!


Cafe Habana
17 Prince Street
Trendy little Cuban-Mexican place. Gotta have the Mexican corn on the cob…

Barrio Chino
253 Broome Street
Crowded, but awesome Margaritas and probably the best Mexican food I have ever had.

Posto Pizza
310 2nd Avenue
Crazy-ass thin crust pizzas! It's all about the Shroomtown with added Pepperoni… 


User Experience Done Right!

Jas and I are going to be teaching User Experience Done Right! in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver in November. We are updating the course with new content and will cover the following topics during the two-day course:

  • Information design and content strategy
  • User interface design techniques
  • Mobile website and app development
  • Social computing and social media
  • Data visualization and mapping
  • Usability testing and prototyping

PS: If you register before September 20th you will also be entered in a draw for a 32GB iPad!

Ten Reasons for Hosting Web Sites on SharePoint Server 2007 for Internet Sites

On Wednesday Jas and I are presenting a webcast for Microsoft TechNet entitled "Ten Reasons for Hosting Web Sites on SharePoint Server 2007 for Internet Sites".

Join us for an in-depth look at how your organization can benefit from SharePoint Server 2007 for Internet Sites. In this webcast, we review ten areas in which SharePoint Server 2007 for Internet Sites is delivering concrete value to organizations that have deployed the technology.

The deck is all finished and I think we are ready… If you are curious about using SharePoint for your website or extranet we hope you will join us!

The SharePoint 2009 / 2010 Conference

I'm spending the week down in Vegas at the SharePoint 2009 Conference, which should probably be called the SharePoint 2010 Conference — a lot of 2010 goodness. We have 11 people from Habañero at the event and have been blogging quite a bit. If you are using SharePoint today or want to know more about the product check out our blog at

After the conference I am going to make my way to Soquel (just outside of Santa Cruz) and visit family for the weekend. Will be a nice relaxing break after Vegas!

SharePoint 2010

We have formerly kicked-off our SharePoint 2010 learning program at Habañero and have started to play with the bits. Ten of us will be heading down to Vegas from October 18th to the 23rd for the SharePoint Conference where Microsoft will be doing the big reveal.

The last SharePoint Conference I attended was for the launch of MOSS 2007 and it was awesome… As such, I've got high expectations for this one. A number of our clients and partners will also be sending attendees so it should be a good chance to catch up and learn what everyone else is doing on the platform.

Are you going to the conference? If so drop me a line…

Internet Marketing Conference

The Internet Marketing Conference is coming to Vancouver and I will be leading a one-day training session on user experience and usability. The session will be a condensed version of the User Experience Done Right! course that Kathleen and myself teach and should be a lot of fun! 

In this workshop you will explore a number of tools and techniques that you can integrate into any website project to create a first-class user experience. Dig deep into the key elements of successful user experiences, learn how you can develop easy-to-understand website structures, and discover how you can take your usability tests to the next level. In addition, Ben will review Habañero's best practices for website design and development.

The session is geared towards anyone who wants to learn how to make websites more usable. Executives, IT managers, project/program managers, developers, and designers will all benefit from the real-world tips and techniques covered during the session.

Register for the session

VanUE Event

Wow, we had a packed house for Tuesday's VanUE event! Gentry Underwood did an awesome job of showcasing some of the knowledge sharing initiatives underway at IDEO. One concept that really resonated with me is having an always-on video conference link between offices in the water-cooler area of the office. I think it would be pretty cool to grab a snack or drink in Vancouver kitchen while chatting with someone in Calgary who is doing the same thing. Maybe we will be able to incorporate something similar in the new office design :)

From a presentation standpoint Gentry's talk was one of the best I have seen in a long time. He had an incredible deck (which seemed more like watching a timed movie then static slides). In addition he showed us the actual IDEO intranet, which was cool to see. 

Thanks to ThoughtFarmer for footing the bill to bring Gentry up to Vancouver, Analytic Design Group for the kick-ass snacks and of course VFS for continuing to host us. In addition a huge thank you to Gentry for such a solid presentation!

VanUE will be back on Tuesday January 20th with Greg Bell.

Blame Twitter!

It has been approximately five months since my last post :(  You can blame Twitter for the lack of activity on my blog… Lately I have been finding that I can disseminate the majority of my thoughts in 140 character posts on Twitter. Not sure if this says more about my thoughts then the usefulness of Twitter. If you are interested in keeping up to date visit my Twitter page.

Anyway, here is a little update of what has been happening in the last little while:
  • Habañero has been growing steadily in both Vancouver and Calgary. The Calgary office now has seven people! In Vancouver we have the entire fifth floor and recently acquired a large portion of the seventh floor. We also have our name on the sign in front of the building (a small thing, but it makes me happy when I see it).     
  • I have been doing quite a bit of client work as of late. Most of it has been focused on strategy and high-level information architecture. Last year I stepped back from client work to focus primarily on business development, but I have found that spending a portion of my time on client work makes me stronger at business development. I figure it is because I have more real-world examples and client scenarios to bring to the table when chatting with perspective clients. Looking forward I am always going to try to be working on one or two client projects at a time.
  • I took a month long vacation in September and went to Paris, Istanbul, Berlin, London, Dublin and Los Angeles. Istanbul, Berlin and Dublin were amazing!
  • I have been flying A LOT this year. I ended up hitting Super Elite status on Air Canada in under six months. The good thing? The more you fly with Air Canada the better it gets. Interestingly enough, it is not the lounges or the upgrades that are the biggest benefit, although they are nice. The best perk? You get a special phone number so you don't have to wait on hold when you call. The second best perk? Instant KK (IKK) which means you can use your Aeroplan points to book any free seat on Air Canada at the Classic Reward level. No more Aeroplan reward seat availability problems. Yay!
  • Kathleen and I will be teaching the User Experience Done Right! course in both Calgary (December) and Regina (January). During the two-day course we will teach participants how to master the real-world tools and techniques used by Habañero to create exceptional user experiences for each website, intranet, and web application we build. The cost of the course is $799, but anyone reading this blog can sign up using the Habañero customer rate of $499. You just need to send me an email first to let me know that you heard about the course here :)
  • I purchased an iPhone 3G a couple of months ago and hate it more and more every day I use it. A good percentage of the calls I make fail or disconnect within the first minute and the interface is S-L-O-W. I am going to switch back to a BlackBerry when RIM releases the BlackBerry Curve 8900 "Javelin" in Canada. I'll likely pick up an iPod Touch as well for music and video on the go.

WWDC Roundup

The WWDC keynote was a bit of a snoozefest, but there were a couple of interesting announcements….

iPhone 3G
There were no real surprises with the iPhone announcement other than the price and the fact that Apple hasn’t included a better camera. It is too bad that Apple is getting rid of iTunes activation, it was one of the more innovative features of the phone. It sounds like iPhones will now have to be activated the old fashioned way (in the store). Perhaps it was just too hard to work with all of the different carriers to make online activation work. I’ll wait a couple of weeks before calling our Rogers rep to figure out how I can get one that works with our business plan.

Snow Leopard
Yes! More software companies should focus on performance and stability. I haven’t had many problems with Leopard, but many people have found it to be the buggiest release of OS X to date. From what I can tell the only new feature is that Mail, Address Book and iCal will natively support Exchange 2007. Apple seems to be courting enterprises more and more, which is great. Perhaps this announcement will
give the Entourage team a big kick in the ass to turn Entourage into the
best Exchange client on any platform, and not just a medocre version of

The other big announcement of the day was MobileMe, which impressed me more than I thought it would (based on the rumours). Some thoughts:

  • The messaging is simple and clear — "Exchange for the rest of us". This should have been released a year ago from Redmond as Windows Live!
  • The web applications look well designed, simple and elegant
  • Hopefully Apple has sorted out all of the reliability problems that have plagued .Mac
  • Where is the ability to use your own domain name
    with the service? When I stopped using .Mac I
    decided to get my own domain and use it for everything. I never want to have to change my personal email address again