Xbox One dashboard UI evolution, from 2013 to today

Xbox One 2013 Dashboard
Xbox One 2013 Dashboard (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft demonstrates the original Xbox One dashboard.

The Xbox dashboard has evolved multiple times over the past years, since its launch in 2013. We've been given new features, had features taken away, and gradually seen speed creep up over time.

The latest February 2020 dashboard update brings another revamp to the system, further cleaning up the UI while improving speed. It feels a little more iterative than previous updates, meaning that Microsoft might finally be happy with the format they've landed on. They sure do love changing things, though, as our retrospective can attest.

Let's take a trip back in time and see how we got here.

2013: The OG dashboard

The original Xbox dashboard was shipped with the console back in 2013. It came complete with an array of unique features that, sadly, eventually got stripped out over time. Microsoft placed a big emphasis on entertainment features back then, with a game-app side-by-side feature called Snap mode, similar to what we had on Windows 8. Back then, it was possible to watch TV through the HDMI-in port on your Xbox One, while playing a game at the same time.

Over the next two years, the dashboard evolved a little more, gaining some additional requested features like wallpaper theming, transparent tiles, and so on. But it leaped ahead quite a bit in 2015 with the addition of Windows 10.

2015: New Xbox One Experience

Xbox dashboard

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

2015 saw the "New Xbox One Experience" update hit the console, which added elements of Windows 10 on top of the Windows 8-based OS, eventually leading to the inclusion of Cortana voice assistance and UWP-based apps.

This update also added the new Guide menu, adding quick access to various features and settings without having to minimize your game. It made it easier to navigate the console's features without using Kinect voice commands, such as creating clips or screenshots. This new design, in general, was all about making it easier to use without Kinect navigation, essentially, since the peripheral had become unbundled.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Microsoft shrank the Windows 8-style headers and put them further up. You could still navigate left and right to other sections of the dash at this point, but this marked the first significant shift away from the old "Metro"-style design language.

During the next two years, Microsoft refined and updated the "New Xbox One Experience" dashboard, adding various features such as the new Upload Studio for editing clips and videos, Xbox Clubs for creating social hubs, Xbox Arena, and Xbox Looking for Group.

Sadly, a lot of these promising features have been neglected to various degrees. Upload Studio hasn't received a meaningful update in literal years, and neither has Xbox Clubs. Xbox Arena, previously designed to be an easy-to-set-up tournament system for games, was really only pushed in Killer Instinct. Looking for Group lives on thankfully on console and on PC in the Xbox Game Bar.

2017: Creators Update

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Microsoft revised and adapted this design throughout the next couple of years, adding early elements of Microsoft's Fluent Design System from Windows 10. This update also finally killed off Snap mode owing to low usage, freeing up more system resources for other things. Microsoft's platform lead of the day Mike Ybarra confirmed as much in this previous tweet.

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This update added Dolby Atmos and Windows Sonic support for more dynamic surround sound options and added a range of refinements to the Guide menu, which some had called confusing. This update also included, Microsoft's newly-acquired streaming service, now called Mixer. Microsoft also added a feature called co-pilot, allowing you to split controls of a single game across two controllers, which proved invaluable for accessibility.

2017: Another Creators Update

Xbox dashboard (Image credit: Windows Central)

Xbox dashboard (Image credit: Windows Central)

Source: Windows Central

The first Creators Update design didn't stick around for very long. Microsoft revamped it again in the second half of 2017, incorporating even more Fluent Design System features, adding acrylic blurring effects to certain UI elements.

The "Fall Creators Update" also added some modularity to the home screen, which persists to this day. You can remove and customize the blocks that appear beneath the home screen, in addition to the main "twists" that you could navigate to the left and right. In this update, Microsoft also revamped the Guide to be on a horizontal axis, making it more reminiscent of the classic blades UI of yesteryear.

2018 to early 2020

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Here we have the 2020 February Update, which effectively pulls together and refines everything Microsoft improved over the past few years. Cortana was removed in 2019, again owing to low usage, while Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support came in instead.

We got some nifty features like Discord integration for showing what games you're currently playing, and clip trimming straight in the Guide, as well as direct video sharing to social networks.

Microsoft removed the "twists," replacing them with an entirely vertical interface on the home dashboard, with fully customizable blocks. Microsoft also rearranged the Games & Apps section to promote speed, the lack of which has been a consistent source of criticism for the platform.

Late 2020: Fluent redesign

Microsoft has now totally revamped the Xbox dashboard style using rounded borders, new fonts, and other Fluent Design System elements to bring the operating system in-line with the new apps on PC. Additionally, Microsoft fully revamped the Xbox Store on a new codebase, making it all faster than ever.

What comes next?

Xbox Series X Reveal

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Typically people expect new consoles to have a refreshed dashboard experience, and that may well be the case for the Xbox Series X, which we've heard may contain updated visual flair over the Xbox One version of the Fluent redesign.

Microsoft may have maxed out what it can do with the base Xbox One consoles, but the beefier specs and the speedy SSD on the Xbox Series X could lead to dashboard innovations and features that simply aren't possible on the past-gen consoles. We'll have to wait and see.

Either way, the dashboard is arguably in the best state it has ever been right now, even if it took us quite a long time to get here.

What do you think about the Xbox dashboard? What would you change? What features do you miss? Let us know, down below.

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Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • I hope this new console presents a better way than the current keep scrolling down experience that the newest update has left us. It's getting to the point where don't even want to see a dashboard. I'm sure that we are stuck with the current one though. It feels like it was half finished.
  • There's always been scrolling though. With the 360 it was horizontal scrolling.
  • True, but for some reason verticle scrolling just feels wrong. At the same time, the 360 had tabs and before that blades. This has no tabs!
  • LB and RB still "tab" between sections, but it does feel really weird using LB and RB to go up and down as opposed to left and right.
  • I'm willing to bet most forgot snap existed. Bury a feature and people will forget about it. I guess that is one way to remove features you just don't want to continue supporting. I remember back when it was easy to use and I used it often. I thought it was already removed. Goes to show they still just don't care.
  • Any combination of playing a game, watching tv or on a video call with Skype was awesome. Especially on the 21:9 setup my friend had. The good ol days.
  • I never got to use the TV portion, but the TrueAchievements app snapped with the solution while going for a particular achievement was awesome!! Now their app is almost useless.
  • Curious to see what the Series X brings to the table for UI
  • It's more than likely going to be the same across XBOne, One S, One X and Series X just like it has been.
  • Clubs + Mixer.
    I not see the necessary of browser Edge Chromium for play games.
  • The Xbox UI has gone from bad to worse with each update, with ads taking more and more space, now put front and centre.
    I expect the Series X to have just a massive ads screen and then tiny files for games hidden in the end of the screen. The OG tiles interface was the right path, they just had to get rid of the ads which are simply l inadmissible outside the store. At this point I don't care anymore. I've already made my decision to go back to the PlayStation in the next generation so I won't have to put up with constant UI changes and ads being spammed front and centre every time I turn on the console.
  • Lol you are a funny guy... At first I thought you were serious... Man you had me for a sec, good job
  • In the latest release of the dashboard there is one ad on the main screen, one. That's it, just one. If you can't deal with a single advertisement, how do you leave your house?
  • I don't even notice the ads and if that's the thing that's making you go back to PS you have got your priorities all screwed up but then again I think you are concern trolling rather than giving an honest opinion.
  • Cool article, thanks.
  • The vertically scrolling dash with a horizontally scrolling guide bothers me more than the *apparent* speed issue ever did. If they're going to ruin the UI, at least make it consistently bad.
  • I would liked to see a choice of vertical or horizonal? Everything else the same, just a choice. Would that really be so difficult? All I use my xbox for is to play games. Xbox doesn't support DV or my tv doesn't support the xbox verson of DV.