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New Xbox Experience (NXE) interface

New Xbox ExperienceThree years after the Xbox 360′s release comes a new version of the Xbox… software. In a similar move to the Zune, Microsoft has decided to focus on software upgrades for improving their current hardware. While some would say the new interface overhaul was unecessary, after actually using it for a while, besides being prettier, it starts to become clear why it was in a lot of ways necessary.

The main reason the change was necessary in my opinion is the amount of content that is now available on the system. What started out as a few downloadable games and videos has exploded into an extensive marketplace of game content, films (including access to Netflix titles) and television programs. The new interface does a good job of organizing all of it in a way that makes it all easily accessible. It does this in three main ways:

  • Primary navigation – Instead of the left and right ‘blades’ of the previous interface being used for browsing 4-5 main categories, they’ve been converted to a list in the top left corner that scrolls up and down. This allows for a dynamic view of categories that change as the user goes into a into a top-level category.
  • 3D titles view – As categories are browsed, game/video titles are displayed below with cover art similar the iTunes coverflow except with a 3D perspective. It not only makes it a more immersive experience putting the user in the ‘Xbox world’, but takes advantage of the widescreen format. A few titles closer to the foreground are fully viewable while letting the user know that there are more in the distance to scroll to.
  • Information panels – When selecting a title or piece of content, a few things happen. The primary navigation disappears, the background color or texture changes and three information panels appear that are layed out like titles view except bigger as each one has specific actions to choose from. Breaking actions into individual panels creates smart grouping of options that turns a potentially long overwhelming list into almost a step by step process, focusing attention on certain categories of actions, each category perhaps only being needed at different times.

The new interface also allows for integration of new features that have also been rolled out into the upgrade including the (Mii too) 3D avatars that are a part of the environment, with the environment itself customizable with ‘themes’.

The well-named New Xbox Experience is a great example of interactive experience design making it a great improvement to the old interface with plenty of room for what’s become the core aspect of the Xbox 360, online digital media.

Originally published November 25th, 2008