As part of our ongoing approach to delivering new capabilities and refining existing experiences, our team at Blackboard is debuting a considerable update to the Blackboard mobile app. The updates reflect both the ongoing requests of our users and continued iteration we believe is at the heart of great product development.

These updates correspond to four major elements:

  1. Animation
  2. Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Global Architecture

Animation

During early development of the Blackboard mobile app (formerly Bb Student), the mobile platform allowed us to share our new brand personality in a way that other platforms don’t. We consistently hear about anxiety associated with the educational experience, and we saw this as a distinct opportunity to show moments of playfulness and delight in a traditionally task-driven environment.

Initial feedback proved our visual hypothesis but time provided another perspective. What was initially human and playful, became burdensome, exhausting, and ultimately increased the amount of time required to complete tasks—we had introduced elements that became hurdles to our goals. Personality trumped expediency. In this new update, animations are more judiciously used and whenever possible, utilize motion and patterns native to the user’s device. We still strive to create an experience that is playful and fun, but we have become more calculated about finding places where brand personality doesn’t distract our users from achieving their goals.

Navigation

The largest change is at the heart of the app – the navigation. We heard from our users that our core navigation model often made basic wayfinding difficult, and we strayed too far from their device’s platform interaction conventions. To resolve this, we’ve adopted a more traditional navigation paradigm. Access to base navigation and secondary content as users move across courses and deeper into content should be more intuitive and familiar to our users. We also removed superfluous swipe interactions that confused our users more than it helped.

Content

These changes didn’t stop us from continuing to deliver additional features into the Blackboard app. With the launch of the new user experience, we are including a handful of valuable new features and enhancements. Students are now able to access their course announcements and see items that are due next on their course overview. Discussions now launch natively everywhere, instead of launching our web view. Additionally, the profile now provides students with their basic school information.

Global Architecture

Another big change, though hidden to the user, is in how we’ve (re)built our app. Our designs are now broken into components that are reusable and extensible, allowing us to iterate faster and drive change across the system, not just page by page. This has also allowed us to effectively introduce the native tablet experience with full feature parity on initial release. Knowing this has been an overwhelming request from our users, our ongoing development of features will always consider the tablet experience, and they should launch hand in hand. And finally, emphasizing our dedication to accessibility, we’ve made a number of changes to our components to further manage color contrast, text size, and truncation rules. The July rollout of our Blackboard Instructor app introduced the first round of these changes and the extension into our student experience will mean a consistent offering across our apps, which is particularly beneficial for instructors and their understanding of what their students see.

These changes mean big things for Blackboard, our product development team and our users. The reduction of maintenance will allow us to spend more time addressing crucial feedback and implementing desired and needed features. This is important as we are never finished with our work. We will continue to listen to the feedback and iterate to make our products better. It is at the core of what we do. Iteration and validation is what makes us designers, and our product experiences better.

We’d love to hear from you about these updates. Go to our community site and give us your thoughts.

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