The most recent episode of the Official Xbox Podcast features a conversation between long-time Xbox pitchman Larry ‘Major Nelson’ Hryb and Xbox product manager Ivy Krislov around forthcoming changes to the Xbox dashboard. The new UI, dubbed ‘the new Home Experience,’ is now in testing on its Insider beta program. It was only unveiled last week but won’t be implemented until 2023 at the earliest.
Fans hoping for the return of the Xbox 360’s simple, stratified UI will, unfortunately, be left wanting.
“No, you can’t have the blades back,” Hryb quipped during the podcast. “They were lovely, they were nice, but you can’t have them back because they don’t scale, as we say in the business, to what we want to do.”
The blades Hryb describes come from the original Xbox 360 dashboard that launched with the console in 2005. The UI split each of the console’s submenus into five individual tabs, separated by silver ‘bladed’ edges. They even made a pleasant swiping sound whenever you moved between tabs. People really liked the blades! They were easy to navigate, and anything you might have needed was only ever a few swipes away at most.
Hryb and Krislov discussed design decisions around the new Home screen and the team’s primary goals. The team wants to put the most important information from multiple tabs right in front of you. That’s why, when you look at the screenshot Xbox shared when announcing the test, you can see a row of recently played games above and a slew of ads and Game Pass recommendations below.
This is because, according to Krislov, not many people scroll down the current home page.
“People don’t scroll down that often because they’re going to be jumping right into games from the top of Home, which makes perfect sense,” she said. “We’ve started by building the infrastructure where we can put different game channels with curation, with personalisation, and with customisation in front of the customer. As we progress through these tests, which right now we’re in the first one but we have two more planned, [we’ll be] adding different content types in, so for example, for customers who use their console to watch TV, we’ll be adding a media experience — one on the most common pinned groups on Home is people pinning apps that they want to watch TV with.”
That tidbit about multiple planned interfaces caught many people’s attention. Yes, the current UI being tested by Insiders is actually the first of three planned versions. According to Krislov, changes and observations are already being made based on user feedback. “The feedback we’ve gotten so far with the test has been that the top row is obscuring dynamic backgrounds a little more than some customers would like,” she told Hryb.
So there you go. While we can’t have the blades back, we can still hope that the spirit of the blades infuses whatever version of the UI ultimately emerges from testing. We’ll find out next year.