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Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 both have 'bad' user experiences — here's why

Xbox Series X The Original Dynamic Background Live
Xbox Series X The Original Dynamic Background Live (Image credit: Zachary Boddy | Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Built for Mars' Peter Ramsey did a case study on why the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 both have poor UX (user experience).
  • Between a lack of auto procession, bad labeling, and too many clicks being required per task, Ramsey's study highlights a number of areas both consoles "fail" consumers in the UX department.
  • While the Xbox Series X fares marginally better than the PS5 in a few of this case study's categories of examination, neither console was deemed an overall success.

Built for Mars' Peter Ramsey has shared a case study on how Microsoft's and Sony's current-gen consoles do in the UX department, and the results aren't good: By his study's standards, both have bad user experiences that lack a lot of quality-of-life elements that other consumer apps feature.

The full-length case study is definitely worth checking out if you're interested in learning about what elements define a good UX versus bad UX. However, here's a little preview of what the case study went over.

Ramsey examined how many inputs it took to complete 30 tasks across each system. Those tasks took 279 inputs on PlayStation 5 and 215 inputs on Xbox Series X. After running a few more experiments, the conclusion was made that the XSX has more efficient menus than the competition. However, that didn't mean either UX was good. From Ramsey's point of view, both were "bad," in the sense that neither had the streamlined UX and associated conveniences of many consumer apps.

Here are some examples cited regarding where the PS5 and XSX UX fail: Poor labeling for settings and a lack of field auto-procession for tasks such as picking dates on a calendar.

The case study also explored how Xbox's achievement delivery system is more psychologically gratifying than that of PlayStation's trophy system, among other topics. Check it out if you want to look at your system of choice in a whole new way. And check out the best Xbox Game Pass games if you want endless access to all those endorphin-releasing achievements.

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.

21 Comments
  • I've yet to use the latest generation's UIs so I can't speak on those but my issues with the ones from previous generations is your game library (the main point of accessing your console) increasingly became an afterthought. It seems with each update, they put your library more and more to the side in order to better promote new paid content. All I care to see when I turn on my console is my game library with links to settings and the store. That's it.
  • After I'm signed in, it generally takes 1-3 clicks to launch a game, depending on how recently I last played it. If it's a game I've not played in a long time and have to dig into the library, then it's a bit more. By far the worst part, for me, is signing in. I NEVER had to do that with Kinect. It was all automatic and instantaneous by face recognition and voice command before I even picked up the controller. Now that's a chore every time I start, taking about a dozen presses and multiple remotes or manually turning on devices. I could disable the password, which would remove some of those, but then my kids would have unlimited access, which I don't want.
  • Yes, I was hoping for Windows Hello integration for this, but nope. A fingerprint reader in the controller would be great. I find that the PIN is much easier for signing in than the password, so try that. You can also assign a controller for auto sign in and then hide the controller or put it where only you can use it ( I have thought about doing this myself).
  • Yeah, I'm really surprised that at least a fingerprint reader on the controller still isn't a thing for Series X/S. I wonder if Microsoft data tells that majority of their Xbox customers have own console for each of their kid and not anymore placed in the living room? They made Xbox now less of a communal piece of gaming hardware with this lack of better convenience features. Kinect were great and was futuristic that time, but sadly the backlash were stronger and Microsoft is just going to extreme route instead and 360 everything including any good features. So they forgot that biometric sign in for Xbox and showcase Xbox still For Skype video call, way before the emergence of these Smart Homde devices like Alexa, Google and even Facebook Portal.
  • Yeah, I miss Kinect. I also miss being able to activate pack in codes by just holding them up to the camera.
  • One of the main reasons I like the Nintendo Switch so much is because right on the home screen. The games. The games I play and the reason I purchased the console. Then my games library is simply a listing of them all I own. No extra messing about to get to what I own. Easy game play.
  • I own a switch and really, it's not much different. You can customize the xbox home so that the app screen is your home screen.. I have ~400 games installed so I use the alphabet listing or pinned listing myself
  • Oh really? So you got rid of the ads and figured out how to only show games one the home screen? I agree you can simplify it, but not to switch level simple.
  • To each his own. The Home screen on the Switch shows 4 1/2 last used games before having to slide the listing items to be unhidden and accessible (depending on how many items you have scrol it can be more cumbersome to access "All Software") Xbox shows 7 on the last used games/apps (or is just a 2 clicks from the Xbox slide menu for your Full Catalog). I assume if the Switch actually had Netflix or other third-party apps they be shown as last used just like they are done on the Xbox Home screen as well. They both offer the same immediate access. You are just nitpicking about the list of items below that Xbox. If you want access to more than what is provided on the Home screen Xbox has Switch "simplicity" beat by a mile. Xbox Menu slide out menu (how most people I know access games) allows you to set up your own multiple subsections each with dozens of items. Not to mention (like PS5) Xbox allows complete user setup vertically of games from the Home Screen (which can mean none or as many as you want). You can make Xbox as full/complex with dozens of games/apps easily accessible in a variety of ways or make it Switch like simple.
  • Ugh, you can do the same with Xbox
  • I don't ever pick dates for calendar so i kinda have to chuckle at that. for 99.95% of console stuff the xbox ui is fine, where it isn't "fun" I use the mobile phone and for the most part, the crappy stuff is out of microsoft's control such as having to login to a 3rd party service for character/account sync and crap like that. I do miss built in cortana and voice through kinect but it's not hard to get some of that back with google/alexa... THere are other websites that show how to customize the layout, design, defaults, colors and backgrounds so you can "make it yours" and you can make it just a single row of games if that's all you care about... This story would actually be better if it did talk about this - and how the Mobile/search/voice experience can assist as needed and point out the cases where 3rd party devs are lazy and don't implement the UI/control elements of the native console and have their own crap. The worst experience by far is having to login to 3rd party services to use a game and those popping up browsers without some autofill is just stupid on a controller.. but then again, there could be a better UX there with the mobile app or "saved/shared" credentials or something (use the microsoft app to authorize auth or something)
  • FWIW: I find the XBOX dashboard just fine. Clean, simple but deep, and customizable.
    The XBOX drop down menu is very useful and available from everywhere.
    The second tier sections, though, could use some work.
    The store has been improved but search still needs work.
    Getting to the download queue does take too many clicks and *more* than it used to in earlier versions. Needs work.
    The game library is good enough for a flatfile database but it would be nice if it recognized games in a series and "stacked" them. I have several series of games that take up a couple of rows and it gets in the way. Likewise tbe sorting options are good but yes it does take an extra click or two too many to get where you want to be because of the drop down lists. They could save some by auto-dropping them.
    So yes; XBOX UI is good enough (you do spend the vast majority of the time inside a game or app) but it wouldn't take much to improve it if they wanted to.
  • I have a hate hate relationship with UX studies, as they often end up wanting things to be so simple that there is no creativity or form. Searching for something from time time isn't the end of the world. That being said, there is definately some work that can be done on the xbox interface, but I find it usable enough for how I use it.
  • Lemme guess Microsoft used a UX study to simplify Windows 11. Joking aside, sometimes useability studies completely miss customisation options. As they are more accustomed to clunky crms that take heck loada clicks to accomplish basic tasks. CRMs like Active H, Cloud Dialogs, Flare etc. Anyway, the full study will be worth a read to see if they made any recommendations - presuming they did make recommendations / proposed solutions. Which is the other thing, such studies often make none or make extremely vague recommendations therefore useless in reality.
  • And that's why kinesthetic and cortana should never had gone bad. I am not struggling with anything in particular on my side.... but the real issue of console it's the pad... it's terrible to navigate.
  • For me, BY FAR the worst (in fact the only) part of the navigation process that's a pain is starting up the Xbox and signing in. This used to be automatic through Kinect. I could turn it on by voice as I approached. Because the TV ran through it via HDMI, everything else came on too. Now, I can't start to turn it on until I'm at the couch, wasting several seconds. Then I have to use multiple remotes to turn everything on (and I have a Harmony remote that works on Xbox, TV, and audio system). Then, I have to sign-in and enter a PIN to get access to anything. This is all true whether I'm playing a game or watching Netflix. In other words, all of the problems I now have with Xbox UI trace to loss of HDMI-in and Kinect. Having said that, to be fair, that "problem" adds a total of about 20-40 seconds to the startup: noticeably annoying, but hardly life destroying. Still worth it for the improved gameplay on Xbox Series X.
  • Really, my only complaint (or maybe this is just so annoying to me that I don't even notice other issues by contrast) is that unless I play a game regularly, auto-updates just don't seem to happen. And then when I go to manually update it takes ~5 *minutes* for the Xbox to scan through my library and determine what items need to be updated. I'm not talking about the actual download/installation time here. I'm just talking about the time it takes for the system to determine that a given game or app needs to be updated. That should just be a database entry or an XML file on the system that has an application ID and a version number. How long does it take to send a text file to a server and get a response back, Microsoft? Seriously...
  • Is there some secret store where people can buy the Series X? That's my worst 'experience', is not being able to buy one.
  • You can get lucky. I've seen them off and on at Walmart, but most often the SS.
    Or, if you're willing to overpay a bit, there's a few honest brokers that will get you one.
    Dunno how "secret" they might be but I had a good experience with STOCKX when my OneX died.
    YMMV.
  • Co soles are Ad Billboards now. After the PS4, I vowed never again. I am sticking to that. Buying these consoles is like buying a Samsung smartphone...
  • I generally prefer the Xbox interface, but I will say that using the gyro/touchpad on the PS4 for keyboard selection is leaps and bounds ahead of using standard controller inputs (but both pale in comparison to a chat pad).