The new version of Xbox 360 dashboard is here. The new graphical style is fairly good, and the only thing I was really psyched out - the new voice chat codec - turned out to be a good improvement. Instead of completely garbled speech, I can make out individual sentences sometimes. Solid improvement, there. Now all Microsoft needs to do is to teach people to speak clearer and understand that incoherent roaring sometimes doesn't take the point across. But that's hardly Microsoft's worry.

However, what really baffles me is that the overall design of the other parts of the Xbox 360 UI haven't changed. They actually took a few steps back.

I think Wii's user interface gets one rather important issue seriously: Important things in the user interface should be right at hand, while the less important things should be buried in logical and comprehensive menus. Xbox 360 dashboard, by comparison, seems to assume things are good as long as they're found somewhere, in somewhat related place. Grouping things that are related sounds good, but that's not the same thing as making often used things easily available.

When using Xbox 360 dashboard, you think in terms of what goals you're aiming for, what group of actions the action you're going to do is in. The next step is that your brain develops a pattern and you no longer look at the menus: "To get to the cheevos, hit up, right, A, then keep pressing right...."

User account management group is a good example. Why do most people use that group most of the time? Maybe change their avatar or theme, or see their achievements. So adding a new entry in the first damn menu in the lists that says "Change Gamertag" isn't very helpful; there's already a bunch of entries I don't use regularly in this menu, and adding one more just doesn't help the situation. Sure, people change their gamertags all the time. Like, every day. They definitely need that function much more often than viewing their achievements. Rrrrrright. Before you can browse to your achievements, they added account management as a new freaking page along with online safety. That's three pages you need to flip through before you get to your achievements, as opposed to one general menu. Online Safety isn't even something you need to muck with often; I imagine most people pick their settings and they're done with it for life.

Which leads to an interesting conclusion: Things aren't quite as customisable as you imagine they should be. I like looking at the achievements more than I like twiddling with my online safety settings - I guess I should be able to move the online safety settings out of view so I can get to the achievements easier.

The lack of customisation is almost laughable in My Community. They added a new entry called "Video Kinect" right on the beginning. Kinect isn't out yet. After that, you get to avatar store, Facebook, Halo Waypoint, Twitter and Game Room. It's hilarious because that's just about the exact opposite order of frequency what I actually use; I don't use Facebook and use the avatar store somewhat rarely, but I use Halo Waypoint and Game Room, and Twitter to some extent. Why can't those three bubble to the top, because I actually use those things more?

In conclusion: Stuff is still broken, and adding more stuff in the problematic areas is exactly the opposite of what should be done to fix things. But thank you, Microsoft, for the new voice codec. Voice chat might actually be usable one day.