Recently, I’ve noticed that every time someone on the Xbox team tweets, regardless of the topic, a bunch of replies plead for Microsoft to provide a new dashboard, often without context. I was surprised in my Xbox polls earlier this year how many people were genuinely upset with the overall design of the dashboard, with around a third complaining about details or general dissatisfaction. It should be noted that these surveys were in no way scientific, and also exhibit a bias around Twitter itself, which tends to amplify certain topics and produce trends that can fly at odds with internal Microsoft polls, more scientific.
Indeed, the Xbox Insider program is designed for and around feedback on the dashboard. Over the course of the Xbox One generation, we’ve seen the Xbox Dash undergo several major overhauls as it moved away from the “Metro” design language of Kinect and Windows 8 to something more closely resembling the Fluent Design system of Windows 11. It is also somewhat remarkable that the Xbox Series X | S is the first “next generation” Xbox console that did not receive a unique design. It looks and functions identically to the Xbox One dashboard, except for dynamic themes and other under-the-hood features.
I turned to the community again to ask what people specifically didn’t like about the Xbox Dashboard. For full transparency, I’m pretty happy with it myself right now. I appreciate the consistency between my Windows 11 PC and the Xbox console, and the new Xbox storefront is excellent, being much faster and more usable than its predecessor. That said, there are some points raised on Twitter that I To do Agree with, and I hope Microsoft addresses it in some form.
Cleaner, with fewer “ads”
Source: Windows Central
One of the biggest criticisms I see time and time again is the perception of clutter and “ads” on the home screen right after you start your Xbox. I put “announcements” in quotes here because I suspect Microsoft sees some of the content panels on the dashboard a little differently than average users.
The dashboard is made up of two rows of tiles. The top row is a list of most recently used apps and games, while the bottom row includes a direct link to your Games & Apps folder, with three panels featuring “dynamic content.” These content blocks are AI-powered and encourage you to engage with various Xbox features, whether it’s store promotions, achievements, or friends signing in. The last panel at the bottom right is often reserved for real ads, served by Bing.
I suspect complaints about the clutter of this dashboard are amplified since Microsoft introduced Dynamic Themes on the Xbox Series X | S, which are beautifully animated. Unfortunately, their impact is stunted as they are hidden behind the large immovable tiles. Fan mockups envision a more streamlined UI that gives more breathing space to the background while reducing the number of segments dedicated to “dynamic” content blocks.
Ads have long been a controversial topic on Xbox consoles, even in the Xbox 360 era. It’s partly symptomatic of the business model that console gaming represents: you sell the hardware at cost and earn revenue. money on digital purchases. Dashboard ads present a relatively unintrusive method of generating additional revenue and subsidizing the console itself. They’re usually much less intrusive than platforms like Instagram or Tiktok, which build profiles about your habits and offer ads specifically designed to entice you into making a purchase. Xbox ads tend to be corrected with a very generalized target audience in mind.
In the UK I often see adverts for random government run campaigns that don’t even try to sell anything. Right now I don’t actually see any external advertising in Germany, content blocks being focused on the benefits of Xbox Game Pass and a reminder that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands has just launched. That said, they take up an expensive part of the dashboard, hiding any dynamic themes or custom backgrounds you may have set.
Being realistic, I doubt Microsoft will completely eliminate dashboard ads, given the extra revenue they generate. However, I suspect there must be some sort of compromise that reduces their control over the overall feel of the home screen. Many users have asked for more control over the home screen, with the ability to resize or move tiles, for example.
Performance and speed
Source: Windows Central
Another topic I saw frequently was about speed. Many users have cited how slow Xbox can be to display updates or quickly navigate between different sections of the dashboard.
It seems true to some degree that the resource allocation for the operating system is holding it back. I recently tried using Clipchamp on Microsoft Edge on the Xbox Series X, which is Microsoft’s newest web-based video editing platform. Unfortunately, adding just a Single a short clip on the timeline caused the whole browser to crash since I maxed out its RAM availability. Xbox Game DVR is another area of contention, given how painfully slow Xbox has been in handling the basics of clip editing and sharing. Microsoft has removed the Upload Studio app entirely, removing deeper clip editing from the platform.
Potentially, some operating system performance constraints are not issues that Microsoft can fix easily, given that system resources are usually reserved for games and games. A deeper overhaul of the Xbox architecture may be needed in the future to improve some of these aspects of the console.
One thing users repeatedly asked for on my Twitter feed was the option of an HDR-capable dashboard. It’s certainly irritating that every time you switch from the Dash to a game with HDR enabled, most TVs flicker between HDR modes because the Xbox Dash misses the feature. If you’re using a slower TV, this mode change can be quite slow and annoying to deal with. Hopefully, this is at least one performance-related improvement that Microsoft can implement a little easier. From my experience with the Xbox staff about this stuff, it seems that even things that seem relatively simple can actually be quite complicated.
What is Microsoft is working on it right now?
Source: Windows Central
In previous interviews, Microsoft has said its priorities for 2022 include improving the Xbox Game DVR, while noting that it has heard calls to improve and overhaul the Xbox Achievement System, which has lagged PlayStation in modernization. Microsoft has made a series of small improvements over the past few months, including customization of the share button, improvements to Quick Resume, 4K dashboard, and improvements to store location and accessibility information.
For as many people who demanded a complete overhaul of the dashboard, as many demanded that Microsoft leave it as is. The number of Xbox One generation dashboard overhauls has been pretty intense over its tenure, and I’d say what we have now is much more streamlined and focused, although it’s come at the cost of losing TV features, snap mode, and the like.
I think a full dashboard overhaul isn’t needed until next-gen at this point, but much like Windows 11 itself, it seems this generation of Microsoft OS design is straying too far personalization. People asked Microsoft to improve the uniformity of Windows 11, and it’s safe to say that it succeeded. However, this came at the expense of customization in some ways. You can no longer move the Start menu taskbar, for example, and the new Start menu isn’t nearly as personalized as Windows 10 or Windows 8.1.
The same goes for the Xbox Dashboard, but it always has to some degree. I don’t think it would hurt to give users a bit more control over their experience, though. I opt for the Android ecosystem for the control it gives me over the usability of my mobile devices. It would be nice to see some of this design customization on Xbox (and Windows 11) as well.
What is you think? Hit the comments and let’s talk.