Designing a UI for BBM connected applications

You can use the APIs in the BlackBerry Messenger SDK to connect your application to the social features of the BlackBerry® Messenger platform. For example, you can design an application that becomes part of a community, where BlackBerry device users get together, socialize, and communicate. This social aspect can help your application maintain its presence on BlackBerry devices and can attract users back again and again.

As you design the UI, be aware that the layout of the screens and the flow of interactions impact the experience that users have with your application. Make sure that you support users by creating meaningful, streamlined interactions between your application and BBM™. The following best practices can help you meet user expectations and create the best possible experience for your users.

Best practice: General guidelines

Consider the following guidelines:

  • When you write a description of your application for the BlackBerry App World™ storefront, be sure to mention that your application is a BBM™ connected application. Since BlackBerry® Messenger is one of the most widely used applications on BlackBerry devices, users might be encouraged to try your application. You can use the following sample text in your description: "By connecting this application to BBM, you and your contacts can get together, socialize, and communicate by <insert a phrase that describes what users can do (for example, playing games against each other)>."
  • When users download your application, make sure that you inform them that BBM 6.0 or later is required to use the social features in your application.
  • Register your application with the BBM platform when users open your application for the first time. Users are more likely to expect setup activities the first time that they open an application.
  • If users do not agree to connect the application to BBM, avoid exposing functionality that requires connection to BBM (for example, in menus or buttons on the screen).

Best practice: Designing screens

Consider the following guidelines:

  • Include a title bar on your application screens so that users can easily see important indicators and notifications, such as when a new message arrives. If you keep important information visible in the title bar, you facilitate communication among users and users don't have to leave your application to look for new information.
  • Create a succinct name for your application. Long names detract from readability. Avoid including the version of your application in the name. For example, use "Word Mole" instead of "Word Mole version 2.0."
  • From the Launch Applications menu item, only allow users to start or return to a BBM™ connected application. Do not include support for other actions from the Launch Applications menu item.
  • Design icons that are visually interesting. Make sure that users can distinguish the icons from the background of the screen and that they can distinguish your application from other applications. Avoid using BlackBerry® Messenger icons or BBM branding in your application.
  • For most icons in your application, create icons that are 100 x 100 pixels. Test the icons on each screen to make sure that the icons, when scaled, still convey the intended meaning. When you create your application icon, use the recommended size that corresponds to the BlackBerry device model number and the version of BlackBerry® Device Software that you are designing the application for. To see the recommended sizes for application icons, visit

Best practice: Sending invitations and messages

Consider the following guidelines:

  • Make it easy for users to invite other users to join an activity. For example, if a contact is in focus on the screen, you can use that opportunity to recommend sending an invitation to the contact.
  • Make sure that users are the ones who initiate requests to engage other users. Your application should not initiate requests on a user's behalf. For example, users should initiate requests to send a file, download an application, or invite others to join games, forums, or chats.
  • If users want to send a file, voice note, or image, or invite others to join games, forums, or chats, you can allow users to enter their own text or you can provide default text in the message or invitation. If you provide default text, do not include advertisements or spam. Users might be annoyed if they have to delete unnecessary text.
    Figure 1. A user initiates a request to engage another user
    This screen shows an example of a wireless service provider therme.
    Figure 2. You can include text in the invitation
    This screen shows an example of text in an invitation.
  • If users send a file, voice note, or image, send only what the user intends to send. Avoid sending advertisements or spam along with the file, voice note, or image.
  • Include a contextual link in messages that recipients receive, where possible. For example, if a user sends a picture of the CN Tower, you can include a link to a map that shows where the CN Tower is located. Otherwise, link to the main screen of the application.

Best practice: Allowing users to chat

Consider the following guidelines:

  • Make sure that users have the ability to choose the people that they want to chat with.
  • When a chat begins, expose the chat interface so that the user knows that a chat has started.
  • If you include a chat interface at the bottom of a screen, limit the number of items that appear on the screen above the chat interface. This approach allows users who have a BlackBerry® device with a trackpad to scroll quickly to the chat interface. If you want to include more items, consider including some items on another screen. You can also provide shortcuts to allow users to return to and reply to a chat.
  • If you include a chat interface in your application, make sure that you design your screens so that users can access key features when the chat interface is open. If users chat using a virtual keyboard, be aware that the portion of the screen reserved for the application is limited, especially in landscape view.
  • Make a chat interface available on multiple screens in your application so that users don't have to open a specific screen to open and reply to chats.
  • If your application supports multiple chats, make sure that users have a way to switch between chats.
  • On BlackBerry devices with a physical keyboard, include shortcuts so that users can quickly start a chat or reply to a chat. Shortcuts allow users to access commonly used actions without having to scroll or open the menu. For example, allow users to press the "R" key to reply to a chat. If you embed a chat interface at the bottom of the screen, allow users to press the "B" key to move from the bottom of the application screen to the chat interface and to press the "T" key to move from the top of the chat interface to the application screen.

Best practice: Allowing users to choose contacts from a list

Consider the following guidelines:

  • When your application displays a contact picker, create a title that matches the user's action. For example, for invitations use "Invite Contact".
  • Provide contacts with filter options, if possible and if meaningful to the task. For example, in a game, filter the contacts by skill level such as beginner, intermediate, and expert. This approach makes it easier for users to find relevant contacts, especially if they have a lot of contacts in BlackBerry® Messenger.
  • Allow users to filter contacts by contact categories that they created in BBM™.

Best practice: Adding information to user profiles

Consider the following guidelines:

  • Always ask permission before updating the display picture, personal message, or status in a user profile.
  • If users allow your application to update their personal message, use the personal message field to describe a quality that is attributed to the user (for example, "I am a fan of Word Mole"). To describe a current activity, create a personalized status for the user (for example, "I am playing Word Mole").

Profile boxes

A profile box appears at the bottom of the My Profile screen.

  • Give users the option to add information to their profile box.
  • Include only new events that users accomplish or specific activities that are meaningful milestones in a profile box. For example, include events such as "Kevin has achieved level 4." Do not use the profile box to promote a feature or a new version of your application.
  • Provide a succinct description for each event in the profile box (for example, "Catharina has posted a new playlist. Take a look."). If possible, provide users a way to get more information by allowing them to click a description. For example, allow users to click a description to see a playlist. If a link cannot point to a specific location in the application, link to the main screen of the application.
  • Include a meaningful icon for the activity or event. For example, use a trophy icon to mark noteworthy accomplishments in a game. Try to create a unique icon for each activity. Avoid shrinking a large picture and using it as an icon. If you do not create icons for each activity or event, then your application icon appears instead.
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