Overnight Xbox’s chief Major Nelson showed off a new build of the Xbox Dashboard that’s rolling out to Alpha ring Xbox Insiders today. It’ll soon be released to a broader community of Xbox Insiders, then all Xbox One’s will receive the updated UI in the coming months.
The new UI is different, but as someone who usually rushes to embrace change, this update makes me cringe and shows how the Xbox and Windows divisions of Microsoft aren’t talking to each other. The new design system at Microsoft is known as Fluent, which is actually beautiful and intuitive and subtlety gives users hints about what their interactions will do to interface elements.
I hate to say it, but the Xbox team have taken Fluent and bastardised it to be meaningless.
In the new Xbox UI, you can customise your home screen, which is supposedly a result of user feedback, which sounds good on the surface, but the actual implementation is terrible. There’s so much wasted space, not negative space, wasted space at the top two-thirds of your home screen, the one you see every single time you turn on your Xbox. There’s then a strip of confusion. Naturally you need access to the currently loaded game, that’s fine, but then a friend recommendation, really? This belongs in the friend section. Then there’s essentially a help item and an ad for the Store.
What users want is the ability to switch between apps and games rapidly, but your set of pins are below the fold. Seriously this can’t be the vision of a single person driving the design direction at Microsoft, its clearly design by committee where everyone looses.
They’ve taken aspects of Fluent like Acrylic, which provides that transparency effect in the background of the active application to reveal a little of what’s underneath, but instead its just used here to fade the background of UI elements.
Then there’s the blue highlights on the active buttons that collide with the next selection element, this is clumsy at best. Next is the multi-pane guide which doesn’t reflect the hamburger menu of any UWP app.
Fluent UI elements are also supposed to animate, transition and just feel slick. While the speed of the UI looks to have finally improve, there’s no sense of this feeling slick. Like I said, this is bad, real bad.
The customisable elements are available when you scroll down from the home screen and now feature circles in an otherwise perfectly squared-off interface. Circles are used commonly for profile pictures, but blowing it up to this size to show your friends Xbox Avatar just feels broken.
Perhaps the most confused element is the mess of the Guide. Previously vertical options are now horizontal. First of all this pushes Microsoft into a corner with the horizontal space of that pane limited, meaning there’s no room for future items.
The next issues is the fact the guide now contains loads of information on selection options, yet despite your entire focus being on what you’re selecting in the guide, you’re left with 2/3 of the screen unused. Why doesn’t the guide take up the majority of the screen, something understood even back at Xbox 360 days with the blade UI. This would alleviate the need to use mysterious icons that easily confuse first time users.
Check out the video for yourself and leave your thoughts in the comments.