In May, Microsoft announced the Xbox Adaptive Controller – a first-of-its-kind controller for gamers with limited mobility. On their journey of inclusive design at Microsoft, they looked at extending this methodology and its principles—enabling and drawing on the full range of human diversity—to the complete consumer experience, including where that very journey starts – with product packaging.
Microsoft’s packaging is a series of moments that create a unique customer experience. These moments can manifest themselves in many ways. Physical touchpoints, visual or material cues and structural elements are designed to lead the customer through a logical and seamless unboxing. With the Xbox Adaptive Controller, the team at Microsoft knew they had to make the packaging accessible for gamers with limited mobility. That required them to re-think some things about how they package their products, including what type of moments would be most meaningful. It was critically important to incorporate accessibility into the packaging design and unboxing experience. The out-of-box experience is the first thing customers encounter when they purchase our products and it was of utmost importance to get that right.
With the Xbox Adaptive Controller, Microsoft aimed to do something new and different in the packaging space and push the boundaries beyond what has been done before at Microsoft. They asked themselves, “What does this packaging need to do?” That’s where the team began re-approaching their assumptions on what accessible packaging needed to be. There’s lots that can be done in the ‘accessibility’ packaging space, but for this job, Microsoft were focused on making the packaging more accessible in the area of mobility, specifically.
This challenged everything Microsoft knew about packaging requirements, and how to gauge success. In fact, beta testers were a significant part of the early review process and much of the final design elements can be contributed to their feedback. It was important for Microsoft to understand what was useful on a package, and what should be avoided. Insights gleaned from beta testers and UX respondents was invaluable during the team’s creative explorations.
For example, the team developed a ‘no teeth’ principle, reflecting the common behaviour practiced by individuals with limited mobility when opening packages. Often when engaging with packages not designed for maximum accessibility, customers resort to improvised means of accessing the product –including using their teeth. With the Xbox Adaptive Controller packaging, Microsoft wanted to ensure that no such extreme measures would be required! They also heard how painful twist ties, zip cords and paper that can cause cuts can be—things commonly overlooked by many, but which become so much more difficult for people with limited mobility to navigate.
With tester feedback, the team built many different iterations for the packaging – ensuring every detail was right. They wanted to ensure the packaging fit within the Xbox packaging ecosystem – a true member of the controller family – and didn’t want to create separation or ‘otherness’ from the Xbox brand. They wanted gamers to say, “Wow, this is truly an Xbox product.”
Here’s a few other, key accessible features of the Xbox Adaptive Controller packaging:
- Both the single-shipper and retail package have been designed to “unfold” to reveal what’s inside with minimal friction. The shipper reveals the retail package, and the retail package reveals the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
- Discreet air cells integrated into the shipper packaging for protection for the product while maintaining a small footprint and clean design.
- Every major step of the unboxing incorporates loops, a feature that we heard resounding positive feedback on from beta testers. Loops are a highly proven lever to assist in accessibility. The leveraging of loops begins with the tear-strip on the single shipper, kicking off the out-of-box experience seamlessly. On the retail box, a specially designed ‘break-the-seal’ label (which keeps the box lid secured to the base) employs two loops, for multi-directional removal. A soft, grey loop initiates the opening experience, then there are integrated loops on both the paper Quick Start Guide (QSG) and cable folio. There are five loops on the XAC packaging from beginning to end.
- An open cavity area under the controller, enabling multiple ways to remove the controller from the box, including pulling via the loop or sliding it out directly.
- The box has a low centre of gravity, grounding the unboxing experience and creating a sense of stability for the end-user. Additionally, the hinged lid provides a low-effort, single-pivot access into the package.
It was through continued engagement with the disability community and research groups that Microsoft grew their understanding of what accessible packaging could include. The Xbox Adaptive Controller required the team to think in depth about accessibility in packaging, and believed it was a powerful milestone on their accessibility journey.
The Xbox Adaptive Controller – complete with accessible packaging – is available for gamers in September of this year, and available for pre-order now for $129.99 AUD from Microsoft Store.