Usability Journal Post #2

In my post last week about the bad Playstation 4 touch buttons, I mentioned when describing the PS4 itself the great controller. So, last week was my least favorite part of my PS4, and this week, it’s all about my favorite part. The Dualshock 4.

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This controller is very user friendly for many reasons. For me, the most important thing I found when first picking up the controller is that feels like it belongs in your hands. It’s shaped so that it fits your hands almost perfectly. It feels very natural to hold, and it doesn’t feel like you have to get adjusted to the controller to use it properly. The controller for the Playstation 3, the Dualshock 3, (see a trend there?) didn’t fit your hands not even close to as well as the DS4 does. Sure, it’s the same basic controller design, but Sony really wanted to change their 17 year old controller design for the new PS4. Seriously, for SEVENTEEN years, since the original Playstation in 1996, Sony used the same controller, except for changing and adding a few minor features along the way, such as being wireless. However, this is also an advantage for Sony, because by using the same basic design for all these years, people have a mental model of what a Playstation controller should be. If Sony was to change the layout of the sticks and buttons, such as change around the order/layout of the shape buttons (X, circle, square, and triangle), I’m pretty sure people would riot. I grew up with this layout and I know personally I don’t want anything less, or more, than the shape buttons, D-pad, two analog sticks, and 4 shoulder buttons.

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Another new design feature that I love is the inclusion of analog sticks with an indented top. This is much better than with the old design, because now it is harder for your thumbs to slip off the sticks, which was an occasional problem with the old dome-top design. Also along the same lines, the L2 and R2 triggers are of a concave shape that also allows for better gripping by your fingers, which you can see in the picture below.

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The last major usability feature of the Dualshock 4 is that the controller has an internal rechargeable battery. When the battery is running low, simply plug the controller into the PS4’s USB 3.0 port and it will charge, even when the console is turned off. Now, I know, this isn’t an exactly groundbreaking feature, as many electronic devices these days have an internal rechargeable battery. Even the Dualshock 3 did. But, I bring this up because the PS4’s main competitor, Microsoft’s Xbox One, uses a controller that still takes AA batteries as its only means of power. Microsoft, what year is it?  Why in 2013 are you designing a video game controller that doesn’t have an internal rechargeable battery? Most likely because they can make even more money on their $70 controller (I might add that the DS4 is $60) by selling rechargeable battery pack kits. But that aside, its very convenient to never have to worry about buying batteries.

The controller is also great for its other features, even though they’re not as usability centered. The touch pad, built in speaker, 3.5mm audio jack for microphones and headsets that don’t have to be proprietary to Sony (unlike Microsoft and the Xbox), the light bar on the back of the controller, and SIXAXIS motion controls. They all work extremely well and only add to, in my opinion, the greatest video game controller ever created. I’ve used a lot of different controllers in my life so far, and the Dualshock 4 for the Playstation 4 is easily my favorite. It’s a very usable electronic device that shouldn’t take long for even non-gamers to get acclimated to.

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