Product packaging with its multiple layers, twist ties, plastic bags, seals, and tape is a frustrating inconvenience for many; for some, it's an outright obstacle to using the thing inside. Microsoft took this into account when designing the Xbox Adaptive Controller, though, by surrounding it with accessible packaging.
In a detailed blog post, Microsoft outlines how its design team went to work creating the packaging for the controller to ensure it was accessible for users who might have limited mobility or dexterity, or who might only be able to use one arm or certain fingers. Creator Mark Weiser worked closely with design researcher Scott Wang and a team of gamers, testers, disability advocates, and various Microsoft employees with limited mobility.
Key design takeaways included the frustrations of twist ties, difficulty reaching under things to slide them out of boxes, and how so many packaging designs ended up requiring use of teeth to open--a non-starter. One feature that helped ease many of these issues was the addition of oval-shaped loops to many parts of the packaging, which could be used to hook and remove seals, slide pieces out, or lift lids.
"I'm excited that Microsoft is taking the opportunity to try to understand individuals who have less ability to open a traditional package than able-bodied users," said Mike Luckett, one of the testers who has limited mobility in his fingers. "Having this easy-to-open packaging doesn't just benefit us in the disabled community. It benefits everybody to have a package that opens a lot faster, with less hassle, so you can game faster."
Rethinking packaging was time-consuming and work-intensive, but Weiser and other project leads say it was well worth it. Microsoft will continue to examine the design and research from the Accessibility Controller's packaging project, possibly to see how future package designs can be created for accessibility as well.