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Cleanliness is next to godliness - The key to an organized next-gen UI/Marketplace


boogieman
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Eurogamer had a lot to say about Sony's online store, and I haven't seen it, so I don't know. But it served to highlight what a haunted, wretched warren the Xbox Live Marketplace is. That is not how we arrange content on an otherwise world-class service. I always emerge from it gasping for fucking air, having downloaded the first file I saw. I'm always slightly afraid that whatever lives in there will find its way out.

 

Give me a fucking break. :td

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I give the marketplace a C+ which isn't great for a top of the line tech product like the 360. There is a lot of crap to organize, and being without a search mechanism makes it a challege to help people find what they're looking for. Fortunately they are probably focus grouping the hell out of this thing every couple of months and plan to do an update every six months.

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I f'n love that .jpg Thomas.

 

And count me in as someone that never had a problem with the marketplace layout. I've never had a problem finding anything.

 

I do agree that there are improvements to be made - one of which is game titles being listed as full titles versus shortened titles (i.e. PGR3, GRAW) - but personally, I don't feel these issues are anywhere near as bad as some people make them out to be.

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I think the key with any organization system is the question: does it do what it is supposed to do? For the Marketplace, the answer is yes, it does. It's certainly not the prettiest thing in the world but I've never been lost or unable to find what I am looking for and that is the primary function.

 

I think of EA's menus in this year's sports games. They're great to look at but, functionally, are piss. 2k's menus, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. Hideous to behold, they function beautifully. I wish we could have both but if I had to choose, I'd go with the function. Form can follow.

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I do agree that there are improvements to be made

A search function would be high on my list personally (as Keith mentioned). The last update helped to get things far more organized but the service is still very open to improvement and reorganization (which they are doing more of in the fall update from what I understand). Of course if it isn't a game demo or DLC for a specific game I don't venture much into the marketplace. I don't download trailers (movie or game), music videos, or any other content so take my commentary with a grain of salt.;)

 

Exagerate much?

Of course it's exaggeration. It's in the usual Penny-Arcade style of stating the obvious with a healthy dose of embellishment (for better or worse and for comedic purposes). I wouldn't take it as such an evil condemnation but more a commentary on where improvement can happen thanks to competition.

 

The Marketplace as it stands now is not a barren wasteland where we find ourselves lost at every turn. (No, that was the marketplace at launch when there weren't even sub-categories) I don't agree with that assertion at all, but I do agree that there is room for further improvement.

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I think the key with any organization system is the question: does it do what it is supposed to do? For the Marketplace, the answer is yes, it does. It's certainly not the prettiest thing in the world but I've never been lost or unable to find what I am looking for and that is the primary function.

 

Wow - are our expectations for UI design and usability really that low?

 

I suppose I have just become accustomed to a more elegant way of getting things done with other products. Apprently the guy(s) at penny-arcade agree. At least I have allies somewhere.

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I split this off into its own thread from the Playstation 3 discussion since it could be the foundation for an interesting discussion on next-gen marketplace useability, function, and UI implementation. I would ask that we please tone down the attitude a bit and remember that we're having a discussion here. (i.e. this isn't about allies or enemies, just differing opinions).

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Actually, I agree with you. And others do as well. It needs to be improved. It's just not a four alarm fire of a problem.

 

I was going to say something about overheating 360s, but ... shit. I just did.

 

It's true that it's not a four-alarm fire of a problem, but I really wish it wasn't as poorly designed as it is. I do user experience as part of my job, and I can't imagine XBLMP's taxonomy ever getting past in-person usability tests. In my field, what they have here IS a disaster that requires a fire-fighting team.

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what they have here IS a disaster that requires a fire-fighting team.
Well I infer that you give it a D while I gave it a C+

 

That's fair. Let's turn the ship a little bit. If it is so obviously flawed, then offer a few basic suggestions to spark a discussion about how it could practically be better. For example, I really think it is lacking some sort of breadcrumbs device, a way of navigating around the heirarchy and knowing where you currently are at the same time.

 

Maybe an expand/collapse UI implementation. It's tough. Because you cannot be ensured that people using it have an HDTV, so the text can only be so small to accomodate a persistant navigation bar of sorts that makes it easy to get around.

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I would begin by redoing the entire taxonomy. I don't have it in front of me, so I can't give a detailed critique, but many things stand out:

 

For instance, when you go to download (and then play) demos, include an action-oriented language like "Download demos" and "Play demos."

 

When an action is occuring (i.e. downloading a game), give me a notice that it's happening. And still happening. "View active downloads" just doesn't do it (and for some reason I always forget where it is - omigod look at that - it's in an entirely different blade!). Show me that it's happening and how much is left. There's plenty of wasted screen real estate for that. Speaking of which, just up and down? Are you kidding me? I have a 3D-capable controller in my hand and you've designed a text-based interface reminiscent of Apple and DOS II applications. Have we learned nothing from iconography, interface visualizations, hierarchical representations, user feedback, action-oriented language, action metaphors?

 

As for your breadcrumb, yes, but visualize it so I can see what the hierarchy is. Do I have any idea where I just came from? Does my current screen represent a clear parent-child relationship in terms of where I just was?

 

So many questions it hurts. These are all scarily-intuitive things that shouldn't even be discussed a year after release, imo.

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I have a 3D-capable controller in my hand and you've designed a text-based interface reminiscent of Apple and DOS II applications.
Now THAT is interesting. A 3D interface? Maybe too ambitious when all we want is better organization and some visual clues. And I don't see them redoing the fundamental blade interface anytime soon because they worked hard on that.
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Now THAT is interesting. A 3D interface? Maybe too ambitious when all we want is better organization and some visual clues. And I don't see them redoing the fundamental blade interface anytime soon because they worked hard on that.

 

That, or at least make use of the fact that I have a pretty complex input device in my hand that's capable of a heck of a lot more than up/down, yes/no. Not to make it unnecessarily complex, but use what I have available.

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I think a nice addition to the XBL Marketplace functionality would be a "quick download" button that, when pressed, starts downloading whatever I have highlighted without bringing me to the info/confirmation page. That would have been much more convenient for all the "Bringing it Home" videos...

 

And while we're at it, let me me queue up as many items to download as I want, as long as the storage space is there. Sometimes I want to leave my 360 on overnight and let it download (,whilst praying it doesn't burst into flames in the night, yes.)

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I've never had a problem finding the content I was looking for. It's user friendly as far as I'm concerned. A few blade swooshes and a couple of button clicks is all it takes. You can find items by Type of Content, Game Title, Genre, etc… How much more user friendly does it really need to be? I mostly find my content by way of the "Type of Content/Newly Released" sort.

 

Sure there is always room for improvement, which is what the dashboard updates continue to address. This will be especially important for those new to the 360 that have much more content to navigate through when compared to existing owners who are just looking for the newer content.

 

One addition I would like to see is being able to sort through conent by release date or predefined time periods (i.e.: current or prior week, month, etc..)

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Lets remember, the dashboard needs to be designed to accommodate a number of user variables (i.e.: multiple languages as well as varying display sizes and resolutions). All of which may not work well with the GUI enhancements we envision. Getting LIVE ready for the hurried 360 launch probably required a more simplistic approach (blades with linear/sequential navigation). As they have more time to refine the GUI and test the refinements against most of the common user variables, I'm hoping we will see a much improved interface.

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The marketplace is manageable right now, but I think that there could be some real improvements made. The "quick download" is a brilliant idea, since going through a whole pile of new videos means having to scroll back to the right spot in the list every time. Just a quick "download to default storage device" would be great. I'd also like a better "new content" filter than "stuff we posted in the last 2 weeks". How about a "new since your last visit" page? Again, except for things like the Bringing it Home promotions where there's a lot of content posted in a short period of time, I really don't have much of a problem with it, but it'd be a nice to have.

 

I also find that the file navigation for things like videos is pretty cumbersome. Perhaps a list you could pull up with "recent downloads" or "unwatched" instead of ongoing? That way, when you grab a pile of videos/trailers, you can quickly find what you haven't seen, watch it, and then choose to delete or archive the content.

 

Competition is a wonderful thing though, and we'll see who comes up with the better interface in the end.

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