Earlier this week we brought you an article regarding the PlayStation 4’s UI and how a few simple changes might go a long way towards a cleaner, quicker, and more usable platform. Now it’s the Xbox One’s turn to be put under the proverbial microscope, so here’s a few thoughts for small changes that might collectively make a big difference.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about the Xbox One is how quick it can start up and jump into whatever it is I want to do. Having said that, I don’t always want the console to launch back into the last app I used during my previous session. Even with the ‘resume games quickly’ option turned off, my XBO consistently launches the last thing I did right after it boots, and I really wish it would just drop me at the main dashboard like the its predecessor did, or at least give me the option to turn that auto play off.
Speaking of things you can turn off, there should definitely be an option for nixing gesture controls completely. I’m one of those people with a privacy cover over my Kinect, but not because I think someone at Microsoft cares how often I drink beer and play games in my underwear. Rather because Kinect still picks up my minor hand movement and thinks I’m trying to navigate the dashboard that way. Gestures can be turned off while watching videos, and that option should be extended to all tasks.
One of the best things about Kinect is the fancy IR blaster its packing. With that, it can turn on or off just about any other electronic device, even if that device doesn’t support HDMI control. What would be great is if Microsoft took that one step further and added the ability to change the inputs of connected devices on startup, similar to a Harmony remote. There’s no guarantee that the XBO was the last thing I played when I boot it up, so simply turning on other devices often still leaves a seam in the experience.
Pins play a substantial role in the speed of the XBO and launching apps quickly, and just about anything you see on the dashboard can be pinned for quick and easy use later. Unfortunately, there’s no good way to customize the layout of this section of the dashboard. Once something is pinned, you can only delete it or move it to the front, so putting your pins in a specific order is a cumbersome task.
Microsoft did add the ability to move pins around via their SmartGlass app, but getting the app to save the changes I’ve made has proved to be less than reliable. One solution to this problem would be allowing users to quickly change the location of pins on the console with a flick of the right analog stick. This would allow for a swift way to reorder pins in any direction, and since the right stick isn’t used for anything else on the dash, it seems like a natural fit.
Having the full dashboard at your disposal mid-game is one of the things that really makes the XBO feel like a step above the Xbox 360, but sometimes I miss the quickness and simplicity the in-game dashboard on the 360 afforded. I’d love to see Microsoft take the snap menu and make it a little more functional mid-game.
It seems like they’re leaning in that direction already with the inclusion of a snap-able achievements app in July’s update, but what the snap menu also needs is a fast, lightweight friends app. Being able to quickly snap your friends without having to back out to the main dash and wait for the full app to load would be great. Even better would be one-touch game/party invites for this area.
For that to work as well as I’m envisioning the entire snap menu would need to gain a bit of pace. There are times when snap lags for several seconds before actually opening up in the middle of a game or app. The ‘double-tap snap’ coming in July will help with this but I hope they continue to make that area of the interface faster and more usable.
I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to leave system-wide genre default options (like inverted controls) off the XBO but they deserve a slap. Not having to rush to the options menu in every shooter or racer to make these simple changes felt like magic on the 360, and it’s a pretty big disappointment this didn’t make it to the XBO.
Last, just squashing the bugs that continue to survive inside the OS would be a huge help. Random controller disconnects, the occasional flickering screen, audio cutouts, and even the entire dashboard locking up for several seconds at a time are all issues that still crop up now and then. Putting feature improvements aside, ensuring the system we have now works without these hiccups would greatly refine the experience.
There isn’t any single adjustment that’s going to pull the Xbox One’s interface from mediocre into greatness, but if they can just keep doing what they’ve been doing and chipping away at user requests, fixing little niggles here and there, and continue with the monthly updates, they’ll have a solid interface that can likely withstand the test of time sooner rather than later. But for now, there’s work to be done.