PS4 vs Xbox One – a Usability Review (Part 1)


Oliver McGough

December 5, 2013

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This is Part 1 of our review. Part 2 can be found here. Enjoy!

You can view/download the full PDF of the review here.

It has been a year of intense debate. Insults hurled from side to side. Two rival camps, passionately supporting and vouching for what they believe in. It’s nothing political. Nothing that will have any real righteous impact on the world. This has been the battle between gaming’s two behemoths. The battle to be under our Christmas tree.After years of speculation, the beginning of the year finally ushered in the big guns of video game console’s 8th generation, with the announcement of the PS4 and Xbox One. Both have launched within the last month, and it’s been difficult to escape the media hype surrounding their release. With all of this excitement, reviews of the two have come in their droves. Feeling somewhat left out, we have decided to join in on the fun, with our own unique take.

The Test

Using Usabilla Survey, we asked participants questions regarding the startup dashboard of each console in order to discover which is the most intuitive. After all, this is the main hub of the machine. It’s from here you jump into games, contact your friends and access the plethora of other features. Ensuring this meets the needs of the user is essential in getting the gaming experience off to a great start.

In an effort to keep things as impartial as possible, participants were drawn from a variety of backgrounds (though we couldn’t keep the gamers away!). Below are some key statistics, perhaps explaining any bias:


Also note the test took place 2 weeks ago, three days after the Xbox One release and a week prior to the PS4′s European release.

Question 1: What draws the most of your attention?

The aim of this question is to see where the users eyes are drawn to on startup: to see which elements the user is encouraged to interact with.


As a console that regards itself as a games console, for gamers, it doesn’t fare too well here – pushing social content to the fore, and the games overwhelmed.


“What’s New”

Attention is concentrated on the icon representing the four buttons of the console’s controller. This is very ambiguous and makes little sense without the text. Intended as a trigger for further attention, it hasn’t quite worked like that. As one participant notes, “I’m not sure what to expect from this…”

What’s triggered can be found at the bottom the screen. A stream of both your’s and friend’s activities on the console. Intended to help you catch up with what you have missed, little attention has been paid to it. The section appears sneaked onto the screen with little value to the user. In the words of one participant, “This attracts a lot of attention but I’m not sure if thats a good thing. It looks like a metro grid for the sake of a metro grid.”

System Symbols:

Here, the PS4 is more successful. The information at the top of the screen is of infinitely greater value to the user, allowing them to instantly see if they have friends online etc. However, this is perhaps the only thing the PS4 has to shout about.

The Games:

It is surprising is that a console so focused on games, has the user focus so little on them. With three present, eyes are averted by the larger, more prominent and contrasting features. The comparatively smaller size to the preselected “What’s New” icon certainly has a part to play, as well as the uniform size to the rest of the icons. We can see here how contrast affects perception. The blue system icons seeing little or no interaction as they blend so well into the blue background.

Xbox One

The Xbox One, rightly or wrongly, regards itself as more of a media hub. Intended for gamers, as well as anyone else who may inhabit the living room. We see evidence of this on the dashboard. Yet, it is also surprising how mixed attention is.


The ‘Metro’ Interface:

Microsoft brought flat design to the mainstream with the Windows Phone, and continue their faith with the Metro interface here. Shape and size is used to manipulate our perception. Forza takes up the majority of the screen, instantly capturing the attention. Unlike the PS4, here the focus is straight onto the game, as it is also preselected – ready for the user to jump straight in. As one participant notes,“I think this is the most/currently played game. I expect it rightfully got my attention.”

The result offers up a cleaner looking, and structured interface. “Looks neater than the other interface. The colours are bolder and the contrast starker” another person notes.


Unlike the PS4, Microsoft have used contrasting colours to manipulate and force the attention.The greatest beneficiaries of this is are perhaps the Xbox logo and friend pictures at the top – their usefulness debatable. On the flip side, we see the insert disc icon garner no attention. The darker colour reducing it’s prominence. Which is a good thing, as there is nothing of use here.

It is this contrast however that perhaps contributes to such a distribution in attention. Creating something that is very ‘in your face’ with a cluttered feel to it. The large picture in the centre may pull the user in, but with so much coloured content around it, you are unsure where to look. This becomes apparent when we look at the emphasis placed on Internet Explorer and the profile picture. Their colours clash with the limited palette over the rest of the interface. This results in IE garnering such high attention when you wouldn’t expect it to be used all that often on a gaming console.

Round 1: Result

The PlayStation has made a point of selling itself as a console, for gamers. Yet it is on this point that it fails most spectacularly. Social content is pushed ahead of the games, a debatable choice. The UI is very simplistic, which does make it easier to focus the user’s eyes where they’re wanted. This is the case, but unfortunately the emphasis has been placed on an area which carries very little weight to the user (the social side) over something which is far more important (the games themselves).

In contrast, the Xbox – derided for its move away from gaming – puts the gamer at the forefront. The attention is towards the games, even if in doing so Microsoft have tried to force as many items into view as possible. This has created an overwhelming interface, with attention confused as a result. Say what you will, it does its job. The featured game is pre-selected and ready to go, holding the majority of the screen. Anything else that is needed can be chosen later.

Round 1 Winner – Xbox One


The PS4’s interface may appear cleaner, but fails to give the user exactly what they need or want – ultimately hamstringing itself.

Question 2: Where would you expect to find the game you most recently played?

A much shorter test, aiming to find where a user’s instinct directs them. Unlike the previous question, the user could only click on the image the one time, their choice being final.


When compared to the previous PS4 test, the difference is extremely relieving. Finally Killzone takes the fore. For the majority of users, simple logic has prevailed: The design using our simple western logic of reading left to right.


This is in stark contrast to the previous test where little to no attention was paid to Killzone. Yet, this does show us that, when in need to get to their destination, the user can easily deduce where it is. Little attention may be paid to it, but it is obvious how to get there.

Xbox One

The previously mentioned clutter is the Xbox’s downfall. Users are left perplexed by the options on show in comparison to the simplicity of the PS4. Both show the same number of games – 3 – yet the plethora of other options has left users confused as to which choice to make.


The results are surprising. The user is confronted with a large image, representing Forza. It is here that the vast majority of participants have clicked, rightly. Surprising is the amount that have clicked FIFA, profile information, “insert disk” and “My Collection”. With such a large image I’d have thought the choice would be obvious.

Round 2: Result

I had assumed Xbox would win this by a country-mile, with the large image at the forefront. Surprisingly this wasn’t the case. The clutter noted in the attention test undoubtedly leading to the mistakes.

The PS4, with a more simplistic UI, comes up top trumps. Results showing it as more intuitive. Though attention may not be focused on the game, users still know where to go in order to access it.

Response times are also worth nothing: The Xbox coming out on top by 1.4 seconds, no mean feat. This Hints that perhaps on the Playstation users searched around for that game just a little longer, whereas on the Xbox the answer caught their eye far sooner – even if they chose the wrong option. This is interesting, and tallies with the attention test with games overwhelmed by the preselected icon on the PS4.

Round 2 Winner – PS4


PS4 is the clear winner here. The cluttered Interface on the Xbox contributing to its surprise downfall.

Continue to Part 2 here. Enjoy!

You can view/download the full PDF of the review here.

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