Nintendo Switch Usability Test
Drafted a protocol and conducted a usability test involving 5 Participants to uncover usability issues across both Software and Hardware Components.


• Through improved navigation, screen interaction, and communication, the Nintendo Switch can potentially provide a more intuitive and enjoyable user experience, fostering satisfaction and loyalty.

• If taken into account, the proposed enhancements can establish Nintendo Switch's position in the gaming market, appealing to a broader user base, increasing user trust, and strengthening its competitiveness against rivals.


For a class project, our group conducted a usability study of the Nintendo Switch, a hybrid gaming console.  It offers unique gaming modes for solo and group play. However, to keep users engaged, a satisfying and efficient user experience is necessary.

Our evaluation involved a product walkthrough, heuristic analysis, and user profiling to understand user needs across different age and skill levels. More specifically, we focused on the learnability of the device, how engaging users found the Switch to be, and how efficient and effective their gaming experience was while using the Switch.

My Role

User Experience Researcher
Study Design and Facilitation: designed the study, recruited participants and moderated usability sessions ensuring that tasks are well-defined.
Data Collection and Analysis: collected both quantitative and qualitative data, analyzed it to identify patterns, usability issues, and opportunities for improvement.
Reporting and Communication: compiled findings into usability reports and communicated insights and recommendations.

Google Workspace
Recruitment platforms: LinkedIn, Discord and SJSU Sammy app
DocuSign for consent
AV Equipment

Keertana Sureshbabu
Tala Jamjoum
Akhil Modali
Shanivi Gupta

February 2022 - May 2022

Study Goals

Our study aimed to assess Switch's user satisfaction, effectiveness, and efficiency, focusing on learnability, engagement, and gaming experience quality.
These goals were driven by the desire to enhance the user experience, minimize frustration, and promote brand loyalty, ultimately benefiting both users and the success of Nintendo in the competitive console market.


Exploring the Nintendo Switch Modes
The switch offers various modes to enjoy gaming and we identified the three modes that players mostly use.

Handheld Mode
Both controllers are attached to the tablet and held with the user's hand on both sides, much like a traditional gameplay experience.

Tabletop (Propped) Mode
The 2 Joy-cons are detached from the tablet and the tablet's back stand is propped out, allowing the user to place the table on a surface.

TV (Docked) Mode
This mode requires the tablet to be placed in the dock, with the dock connected to the TV via an HDMI cable, and the controllers be detached from the tablet.

Classifying users by experience
We classified users based on their experience, focusing on also researching and testing their "use case" and "user context," rather than solely considering them as "just a user".

The goal for this group was to examine the initial, out-of-the-box experience of the Switch, focusing on first-time buyers or users.

Users with limited interaction with the Switch, such as those who played it occasionally. Our emphasis with this group was to study their experience when playing with friends.

Avid gamers who actively engage in online gaming. They typically have been playing with Switch for 2+ years. These users represent Nintendo fans and we assessed their experience by examining free play and advanced-level tasks.


The goals we chased
During the test, our group decided to measure the following usability goals:
1. Learnability: How quickly users were able to learn and adapt to the features; important for product buy-in.
2. Engagement: If the interactions are engaging enough for the users to remain delighted and entertained.
3. Effectiveness and Efficiency: If the product performance is optimal as it will keep maintain customer loyalty.

How did we measure these goals?
We classified users based on their experience, focusing on also researching and testing their "use case" and "user context," rather than solely considering them as "just a user".

Performance Measures
1. Time per task
2. Selection Accuracy
3. Completion of the task

Behavioral Measures
1. Non verbal cues of frustration
2. Wandering or looking for instructions
3. Calls for help

Subjective Measures
1. Rating Scales
2. Verbal Feedback

Setting up the stage

SJSU MLK Library Room
We tested all the participants in the same SJSU MLK Library room that was equipped with a table, chairs, and a TV. The pictures were captured via a propped tripod placed at one end of the room as well as a tripod placed on the table next to the participants.

Usability test process at a glance
We followed a general procedure for each test session across user groups. This consisted of a structured sequence of steps and actions to ensure consistency and thorough evaluation.


A. Novice Users
We recruited 2 novice participants to evaluate Nintendo Switch's user experience when setting up and using the console for the first time. The study included four tasks and free play observations, yielding the following findings:

Task 1: Setting up the system
Participants faced challenges opening the box correctly. They faced difficulty in identifying the microSD slot and expressed frustration due to a lack of guidance.

Task 2: Get games on the Switch
Participants successfully completed the task but struggled to identify the system battery level.

Task 3: Transfer between handheld and tabletop mode
Participants completed the task but took a long time due to uncertainties. They were unclear about the need for additional accessories and mentioned a lack of feedback during the mode transition.

Task 4: Free Play with probes
Participants couldn't identify the joy con battery level but successfully identified the RZ and RL buttons.

Overall: Novice users found the Switch usable but questioned its value ($299 at the time of testing). They were unaware of all supported modes and were surprised to learn it could also be played on the TV.

B. Casual Users
We recruited two participants that had briefly used the Switch. Our aim was to evaluate their experience with switching between different modes and the ease of multiplayer gaming setup, considering that the Switch's appeal lies in its versatile gaming modes.

Task 1: Remapping of Buttons on Joycons
Participants faced difficulty and mentioned they "tried each button until one opened up some sort of menu".

Task 2: Switching to Two Player Mode
Switching to two-player mode proved challenging, as only one participant succeeded, while the other gave up after trying for several minutes.

Task 3: Switching Back to Solo Play
Both participants managed to switch back to solo play, but one expressed frustration with the kickstand's perceived uselessness.

Task 4: Free Play
Participants identified JoyCon battery levels approximately and couldn't tell the Switch interface could also be touch operated.

Overall: Casual users found challenges in button remapping and switching to two-player mode, emphasizing the need for user-friendly interfaces to maximize the Switch's appeal to this user group.

C. Expert Users
We recruited one expert participant to study some advanced features that switch has to offer..

Task 1: Free Play
The expert user played for over 20 minutes without navigation errors. They expressed frustration with certain aspects of the Switch's cross-functional UI during play.

Task 2: Inviting Friend to Online Play
The user gave up on this task, making multiple errors during a nearly minute-long attempt. They frequently called for help and expressed frustration with the task's complexity. They mentioned the interface lacked guidance and questioned the absence of tutorials.

Task 3: Finding Missing Joycons
The user gave up on the task, tapping the screen and causing selection errors. They expressed frustration and called the feature as ineffective, questioning its utility, especially noting that the joycons only vibrate when in close proximity to the console and with sufficient battery power.

Overall: The expert user showed advanced navigation skills on the Nintendo Switch but encountered frustration, especially during online gaming and system-related tasks. Improving feature discoverability, interface clarity, and aligning system behavior with user expectations is essential for enhancing the expert user's experience.

Systematic violation of Design Principles
Lastly, we found some usability principles overlooked throughout the app, impacting various user groups and carrying significant business implications. These are key for Nintendo's business and market strategy.

1. Discoverability: How easily users can find and access features

Why is it of interest to Nintendo?
Ensure new users easily discover features. This can help increase user retention as that is vital for brand advocacy and can lead to higher sales and positive word-of-mouth, contributing to the company's long-term success and competitiveness in the gaming market.

Label the kickstand for clarity, highlight system modes in UI and provide a user manual, explain the use of accessories.

2. Instructional Design: How effective and efficient are the learning materials

Why is it of interest to Nintendo?
Ensuring a smooth onboarding reduces barriers to entry and offering seamless guidance to users enhances their gaming experience potentially leading to increased engagement and loyalty.

Include a pamphlet or a user manual for explanations, provide Step-by-step instructions for JoyCon removal and add a user manual button in UI.

3. Recognition of Value Proposition: Consumer's appreciation of the unique benefits and advantages offered

Why is it of interest to Nintendo?
Effectively conveying the value of the Switch to various users helps in building a strong user base. It strengthens their buy-in, potentially leading to more conversions.

Simplify mode and feature communication, enable UI-guided mode selection, ensure seamless mode switching with guidance and enhance social gaming features.

4. Goal Based Design: If the design decisions align with specific user goals

Why is it of interest to Nintendo?
By understanding and addressing user goals, Nintendo can create gaming experiences that are more satisfying, engaging, and user-friendly. Ultimately leading to higher customer retention, brand loyalty, and success in the competitive gaming industry.

Improve box design for quick setup, provide a UI guide for mode selection, implement a clear multiplayer setup and Improve JoyCon design for comfort.


Based on our evaluation, we concluded that Nintendo has some work to do in terms of Switch's usability. Although they have a strong loyalty and fan base which is not dwindling soon, it would benefit the business if they focussed on the following goals.

Switch's UI falls short of Nintendo's typically user-friendly standards, causing problems for users of all skill levels. Participants were dissatisfied with certain interactions and found the system's learning curve to be unnecessarily complex, deviating from industry norms. This complexity hinders the console's usability.

Users struggled with the Switch's distinctive design and user interface, causing confusion and a disconnect in their experience. This hindered their engagement, as they found other consoles to offer a more intuitive experience, even though the Switch had unique game options.

Users faced challenges in efficiently using the Switch due to the extended time required to grasp its functions. This resulted in frustration and a perception that the system takes too long to become familiar with. Expert users also found the Switch's uniqueness added complexity to efficient usage.

Observation Skills

I gained the skill of moderating studies by closely observing and analyzing user behavior. I also noticed that users don't always say what they do or mean and it is the job of a good researcher to decode that.

Flexibility and Adaptation

Usability testing brings unexpected challenges like no-shows . I learned to adapt and adjust the test plan to maintain study integrity.

What we would do differently

Certainly, due to budget constraints in our class project, we were limited in recruiting additional users. To improve the comprehensiveness of our sample set, we would consider involving more users in our research.

Longitudnal Study

Instead of a single usability test, if we had more time, conducting a longitudinal study over an extended period would have allowed us to track changes in user experiences and preferences over time, providing more in-depth insights.

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