The Little Things: A Few Refinements Could Take The Xbox One Pretty Far

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.

XBO Home

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.

XBO Pins

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.

Xbox One Snap 2

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.

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –

18 Comments

  1. Out of curiosity is the main dashboard screen still and advertising area primarily or not as that was one of the things that pushed me away from the 360.

    • Look at the picture that shows Forza in the centre, that’s what it looks like, Forza is the game he has open (or as it’s just the title screen and not what he was doing in game the last game he was playing) what ever game or app which is active or last opened appears there, then the last 4 games or apps at the bottom, bottom right is the disc tray (eject or play what is in there, or has the installation progress) then as you see it has the games and apps section on the right and then the option to snap something or what is currently snapped on the top right. then on the far right disconnected to that stuff is some ads, not too intrusive and usually shows game demos sales and time sensitive stuff like E3 announcements and betas.

      I really like the Dashboard, but also agree with every improvement he’s said, I still haven’t had a chance to get on a PS4 but don’t like the look of it from pictures and videos but I may like it more when I get to use it (hopefully will have one by the end of the year)

    • Also your name should be “An Inferior Race” the lack of the “n” is really bugging me, I’m not a “grammar nazi” by any stretch but still….

      • He’s special.

      • I ran out of letters for my gamertag which is the same as my tsa name.

        That made me laugh Kenny.

  2. I only just got my Xbox One a few days ago, so I don’t have too many comments yet. I think I do prefer it to the PS4 UI though.

    Mine doesn’t have a Kinect, so I can’t comment on that, but I have no problems navigating and using it. Only thing I’m missing is the IR blaster, but I may connect an IR sender myself.

    I agree that pins need easy manipulation (how about selecting size using the triggers?), and I think the games and apps folder should be made much more prominent.

    I also really want the ability to select whether I want it to shut down or sleep (power saving or instant) similar to the PS4 without having to navigate several sub-menus to change my preference.

    • Man you miss out on so much ease of use without the Kinect, pins are pretty much pointless with it so I’ve never cared. Being able to move them and change sizes would be good, you can do that on Win 8 and Win phones so seems odd you can’t do it on the X1. I don’t have an issue with the games and apps but then I usually just open everything by voice.

      Also to address your shut down issue, it might not be as easy as doing it from the controller but if you hold the power button on the console for 3-5 seconds it fully shuts down.
      Good if any game crashes or you have an issue.

      • Holding the power button down should only really be used in the event of a full freeze, being able to choose from your normal shutdown to your other one should be part of the guide button hold menu really.

        Achievement snap seems like a good use of Snap mode, I have no issues at all with Kinect and the auto login is quick and I rarely have issues with voice commands except when I’m being too quiet.

        One thing it does need is the ability to eject from a menu rather than having to press the button in all cases.

        Haven’t yet delved into Twitch on the XB1 all that much so far, and I’d like the ability to use your OneDrive for some kind of background personalisation and setting your own gamerpic.

  3. I didnt realise they had removed the option to set inverted controls accross all games, that was one of my favorite things about the 360. Shame.

    • I think the best thing with the XBO is the fast pace at which changes are being implemented. There are definitely some weaker updates, but by having something guaranteed to come out each month, there’s that very real sense that Microsoft are listening and improving their system.

      Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same for Sony, who are taking longer with updates and even when they do want to talk about them, then take a lot longer to actually deliver. It means I don’t have any real confidence in being able to pause downloads or get a PDM update to allow for the creation of folders any time soon, which is a shame, because the already seemingly endless line of games and apps is only becoming longer.

      • Its been like that since the PS3, Microsoft have really gone to another level completely with their system software.

        However, when the PS4 beta update has finally been tested (sometimes there are hints from Shu’s PSN profile, like a media player app that he has used), I’m sure it will be huge. Sony just don’t have the expertise and knowledge of operating sysytems and software like Microsoft does, so cannot do rapid feature addition updates every month.

        I reckon that could be the focus of gamescom, along with an announcement of a first party title and a couple of indies.

      • Ironic is it not? Last gen 360 owners took a lot of pride in their yearly fall updates and laughed at the frequency of PS3 updates.

        The biggest problem for me with the PS4 is the lack folder organisation, or at the very least make ‘Library’ the second icon after the game you last played.

        My biggest problem with the XB1, is that launching and/or snapping any apps, such as achievements or friends/Activity is disappointingly sluggish.

    • Same here.

  4. I’d like ps3 style themes to brighten the dash up and not adding achievements when you don’t own the dlc would be nice.

  5. There have definitely been some backwards steps from the 360 UI. I can’t fathom why they went for an app-based approach to key functionality – firing up separate apps for Friends, Achievements is just bonkers – and the achievements menus themselves are much less clear than they were on the 360 (this has been alleviated somewhat by the chievo-snapping stuff). I also find the Store much more complicated, with no clear delineation between sections of the ‘shop’.

    But I think MS are doing a great job of amending the UI on a regular basis with some of the most requested features… The thing that’s a little baffling is that most of these features are ones that were in place on the 360, so it’s strange that we’ve taken a few backwards steps with the new console…

    • Both consoles have taken backwards steps & some in key areas too – The best that can be hoped for is that they listen to their customer base & add stuff as time goes on (which MS seem to be doing an pretty admirable job at thus far).

  6. You’ve got to hand it to Microsoft, they’ve been very good at providing frequent updates to the system. I would like to see some improvement from Sony in that regard.

Comments are now closed for this post.