Xbox FAIL: One Dad's Story

My friend, colleague and all-around sharp guy Kendall Miller related the following story about an extremely frustrating user experience with Xbox. I asked him to share the details, and he graciously obliged.

To me, the scenario Kendall describes is symptomatic of an issue I see again and again across otherwise brilliant organizations: I call it the “it’s just an admin” scenario. Meaning that anything which departs from the core path of functionality — in particular “admin” areas of configuration or customization — or use gets little consideration. Knock it out and ship it, people will figure it out. But guess what? Human beings have to use those parts too…and frustrating them when they attempt to do so doesn’t exactly engender warm and fuzzies in terms of brand loyalty.

Take it away, Kendall:

So here’s the user goal: Having purchased a family subscription, I want to add my kids to my Xbox subscription. Now, they currently use the Xbox, but they don’t have Xbox live accounts yet (this’d be the normal situation; after all – if they already had individual subscription, you’d have no reason to buy the family sub).

Item one: How do I add family members?

I went to the web site, logged in, and went to my account. I couldn’t find anywhere on this screen to do so:

After much clicking about I gave up and did a search for “Family Pack.”  The right link finally turned up at the bottom of the results (I also eventually discovered it in the Xbox Live menu at the bottom of the page):

Here’s  link to the FAQ which in turn had a link to add or remove a family member:

Which humorously had an incorrect link for the obvious “Manage Gold Family Pack members” — it goes to troubleshooting errors — but the link at the bottom of the page turned out to be correct. That led me here:

The first thing I notice is how long the process is. But I have a computer, so I wanted to follow these steps, which looked reasonable enough…

Note this though: I have to have a unique Windows Live ID for each person I want to add.  This basically means I have to have a unique *email*address for them.

I don’t have email addresses for my kids, nor do I want to give them addresses yet. And yet, this is my only choice if I want them to be able to use the Xbox.

Once I clicked into the family center, it asked me to log in again. Then it sent a text to my phone on record, which I had to confirm (apparently because I hadn’t used that computer to do important account stuff before).

That finally presented me with a pretty reasonable UI to add someone to the account. No problem. So I enter the unique email address (not the gamertag that’s otherwise used everywhere, mind you).

And I get prompted to log in again.

The screen doesn’t say this, but apparently the reason you have to log in again is to log in *as the account you’re trying to add* That’s sensible from a security standpoint (I shouldn’t be able to just suck in anyone’s account), but nowhere on the screen does it *say* which account you’re supposed to log in as, and since it’s prompted me a few times through this process to log in it took me a bit to figure it out.

I was feeling more charitable overnight, until it hit me that the experience wouldn’t have been bad if I had found the item in the menu (other than requiring an email and it being totally unclear what account it wanted me to log in to, but I digress).

But then it occurred to me that this was all too ridiculously complicated.  It could have been so much easier (and would have met my expectation) if it had used some form of invite – say the original account asking the family account to be added to it or vice versa. That would have been much easier, particularly given the limited input capabilities on the console themselves.

 Thanks for sharing Kendall! When it comes to UX, the path to user adoption and brand loyalty is often a war of attrition — a matter of getting all the small, seemingly insignificant details right. Kendall’s story is a perfect example.

How about you? Had a similar experience, with Xbox or a different system? A story where you couldn’t believe the company overlooked something so obvious? If so, please share it here! 

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About Kendall Miller
Kendall Miller offers over fourteen years of experience in designing, creating, and deploying entire information systems (hardware, software, and networks). His extensive knowledge and breadth of experience allows him to translate large, sophisticated enterprise systems into affordable, workable solutions for smaller environments. Prior to joining eSymmetrix, Kendall served as Chief Information Officer for Benelogic, LLC. As CIO, he oversaw the development of the IT infrastructure and product development of a Software as a Service (SaaS) benefits administration system that serves hundreds of mid sized and large employers across the United States. Under his leadership, the company went from its initial startup to sustained profitability with over 15 million in annual revenue from technology services. Follow Kendall on Twitter @kendallmiller.