Kinect UI gets usability breakdown: plenty of weaknesses

Chris Davies - Dec 27, 2010, 9:56am CST
Kinect UI gets usability breakdown: plenty of weaknesses

With plenty of households now getting to grips with a new Kinect to hook up to their Xbox 360 consoles after the holidays, it’s fair to say there are a lot of odd gestures going on in living rooms across the world. Just how odd is something usability expert Jakob Nielsen has been looking at; he reckons that while Kinect is “fun to play” it’s also inconsistent, full of awkward dialogs and poorly-communicated warnings, and relies too greatly on gamers memorizing instructions.

For instance, while there’s a general pause command that’s consistently applied across Kinect titles, most other commands are left up to the developers; that means that the back command on one title, for instance, can use a different hand or movement than in another title. The confusion is amplified because of the lack of direct feedback. As for dialog problems, Nielsen suggests that developers will have to work on communicating status messages – such as instructions to move closer to the TV – within the area the gamer is concentrating on, since even large messages posted up in the periphery of the action are being overlooked.

To be fair, Nielsen does conclude that despite Kinect’s teething pains, gamers get to grips with it more readily than, say, the inconsistent UIs of iPad apps. He suggests that this is because gamers tend to immerse themselves in a single Kinect title for an extended period, saturating themselves with the control dynamic, while iPad users tend to hop between apps more frequently. It’s an interesting analysis overall, and if you’re a Kinect developer – or, indeed, work with motion-gaming at all – then it’s a must-read.

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