Grad Week 2021 | Nintendo Switch Joycon Study (Spring 2020)
To celebrate my graduation in May 2021 I am sharing highlights of my coursework through the past 4 years in Utah Valley University's interaction design program. These projects are not perfected but ones that I enjoyed working on and I think show my progression and understanding through the years as well as give a window into the work that is done through the program. Think of them as bite-size case studies.
For one of my classes, we were directed to select a physical product that we had recently had difficulty with so that we could explore if improvements could be made and if we could reiterate and build upon it. This project was to accomplish two learning outcomes:
Apply the UX design process to a physical product and learn/explore how the skills transfer over to creating physical experiences
Dig deeper into specifics about what needed to be resolved
In choosing my product, I thought back to when I had recently been playing "Super Smash Bros" with my brother. I love the Nintendo Switch but when we would duke it out in SSB using only a single Joycon each, I would run into issues with the "L/R" button hitting my palm. So instead of winning a match, I was accidentally having my character initiate the "taunt" action several times. Instead of landing moves I was only going "show me ya moves!"
As I researched into ways that the single Joycon experience can be made better, I only found results that were mostly solved through first and third party peripherals that the Joycon can be inserted into. I wanted to explore what could have been done differently to the actual controller and console itself so that the single Joycons were easier to use while remaining portable.
The issue with the joycon controller is the placement of the left and right triggers on the joycons when they are used separately to the main console. When held in a traditional “controller grip”, the controller itself can be difficult to use but the bigger issue is the existing triggers that are where the palm should rest.
Reviews for a joycon grip add on show that playing with a single joycon is difficult and that extra attachments or modifications are needed to improve the experience. So, what could be done to improve the experience of using a singular joycon without having to modify it?
To begin a redesign on the joycon, I imagined how the controller itself could be improved. I created three quick sketches to formulate an idea of how the joycon could remain functional as it is now but could also be improved by a modification that would prevent the accidental activation of the trigger buttons.
After doing a sprint with initial ideas, I took the second concept that dealt with a trigger cover and moved into the “crazy 8’s” method. During this method I quickly sketched out 8 different modifications that could improve the joycon when being used solo. I found myself coming up with ideas that focused on a flap or nub that can remain with the controller for ease of convenience.
Sprint 2 Part 2
Once I had completed the fast eight minute sprint, I took my best design and elaborated on the process of the design. Looking over each design carefully I kept being drawn back to the grip arm that could fold down. Yes, it might seem impractical when connected with the system but for solo use, it felt like it was practical and helpful.
Below I have outlined how the flip arm works and how it looks. In my opinion, I think it would help eliminate the issue of the triggers being activated unintentionally while creating a comfortable and improved hold.
Through a panel of peer reviews, I was able to confirm my research and received feedback on the in detail plans that I had created. Taking the feedback I received, I moved forward to create a process of how the flip arm would work on the joycon. I displayed how it would fit with the main console and then the process that would be taken to arrive at the desired experience, which is to have a joycon controller, in solo mode, where the users palm isn’t hitting the triggers.
The root of the issue is that the controller layout is set up in a way that favors one person playing on the console but when joycons are detached for multiplayer use, the experience of controller handling greatly differs and causes issues for the player. If the trigger placement was modified and other modifications made then it would make the controller grip and usability better for the average player.
SPRINT 4 - Prototype
To begin sprint 4, I planned out how I could prototype the add ons. I came up with two options, the first being a digital test environment where I would present a joycon but digital. This prototype option seemed easy way to test but I felt like it would be difficult to build and would also take away from the experience, which was important because its about the feel of the joycon. I opted out of this first route and decided to take a more physical approach. With the second option, I planned to use cardboard or clay to build the additions onto an existing joycon. This option would be easy to build and would help with creating a fuller test environment for the prototype to be better experienced.
During this phase of the sprint, I prototyped the sketches I had created in part 3 and attempted to bring to life a physical version of my ideas. Using modeling clay, I was able to craft a very crude version of how the joycon would look and function with the additions to help the single hold be more comfortable. In testing it myself, it was much better to have small appendages that helped with grip and hold. The prototype also helped to cover the triggers on the right (shown in images 3 and 4) while maintaining a low profile look. Obvious with proper precision crafting, the additions would be able to sleekly fold onto the joycon.
For this final section, I'm going to share the pages from my original PDF as there is a great deal of information from the testing.
An arm being added to the joycon seemed to make ergonomics and comfortability more apparent to the users, that said the look of the joycon when coupled with the Switch is a peculiar look and doesn't project a compact and portable feel. While the functionality is good and helps with single joycon handling, the look and feel of the Switch as a whole suffers.