From demo to app

Designing demos for big tech events is a weird kind of showbiz. Demos shown at extremely busy environments such as CES or MWC compete for people’s attention among thousands of other objects, screens and noisy people. In these types of crowds, a demo needs to excel in at least three things to really make an impression.

1. It has to look good. An appealing visual design is needed to make your audience even look at your demo.

2. It has to be very easy to understand. You must be able to explain the idea behind the demo in just a few seconds (just listen to the background noise in this video).

3. It has to be memorable. Without some type of novelty, something unexpected or fun, your audience will forget about your demo within a few minutes. At big tech events, people get thousands of impressions and only a few will be remembered.

We created the Scrapbook demo to show off the impressive new BlackBerry Playbook at MWC 2011. It was great for visual effects, so we made sure to include reflection shaders on photos and “juicy” animations when opening menus. The intense use of multitouch, where two objects could be scaled or rotated at once was also a neat effect.

Still, the greatest advantage of Scrapbook might have been that it was so easy to understand. When we showed the demo to children, they instantly understood how to use it and they didn’t want to stop playing with it. The experience of remixing photos and stickers perfectly matched the tablet format.

Many of the things that make a demo great also make sense for real apps. After MWC, we released Scrapbook as an app on BlackBerry World (and we told its story in a blog post). The app kept all the great visuals and fun interactions and it has received excellent reviews for several years now.