If you have been a regular visitor to the PlayStation Store over the last two years, you will probably have noticed the various changes we have made. During that period we invited many people from the PlayStation community around the world to come and participate in focus groups and one-to-one user-testing sessions in order to help us understand what we were already doing well and, more importantly, where we could improve the PlayStation Store.
Thanks to the invaluable feedback and insight we gained from the community, we were able to make incremental improvements to the old store and, at the same time, develop a set of design principles which would help us create the all-new PlayStation Store that we’re launching later today.
So, what’s new? Almost everything! We’ve still got all the latest and greatest games and DLC for PlayStation 3, PS Vita and PSP. The biggest changes are to do with how you find the stuff you want. Whether you’re looking for the latest AAA release or a PSOne Classic, it’s now so much quicker and easier.
When you launch the new store from the XMB, the first thing you’ll see is the What’s New section which is, essentially, the store’s homepage. What you’ll find here is a mixture of the latest content to hit PlayStation Store that week.
The old store’s homepage was made up of a ‘mosaic’ of product images (or banners) which meant visitors to the store could see at a glance what was new or on offer. We wanted to keep this mosaic idea intact with the new store but really focus on making browsing through the great new content we have every week much more fun and visually immersive.
You told us that you wanted the PlayStation Store to be a much more HD experience and much more like the great PS3 games we all play and love. So, what we’ve tried to do is create a design where the products really are the stars of the store.
When you scroll through the What’s New ‘carousel’ (or any of our new ‘feature categories’ – more on these later), you’ll see what we call a ‘Hero’ on every page. As well as the Heroes, we’ve continued to use the mosaic idea, which you told us you liked, to display the rest of the content on the page. With the average TV screen being much larger and sharper these days, we’ve tried to make all of our featured product images as big, as sharp and as clear as possible so that we can deliver a store that feels like a truly HD experience.
You told us that you didn’t ever want to feel like you had reached a dead end anywhere while you are browsing. We’ve tried to address this in every area of the new store and, here at the end of the What’s New carousel, you can see that we provide ‘see all’ links to the different types of content you’ve been looking at so you don’t need to go back to the menu (if you don’t want to) to continue browsing.
As well as What’s New, you’ll find more of these new ‘feature categories’ with Heroes and HD product images throughout the store anywhere you see a ‘Latest’ or ‘Most Popular’ category ‘above the line’ in the menu. ‘Above the line’ is a concept you’ll see throughout the navigation and in search as well. It’s our way of indicating that something is ‘featured’. You can expect anything you see ‘above the line’ to be have some sort of featured presentation style like a carousel. Anything ‘below the line’, will be a much more familiar experience to regular users of the old PlayStation Store. So let’s have a look ‘below the line’.
Regular product categories should look pretty familiar in terms of their layout. What we’ve focused on here is making everything much clearer to browse and understand. We’ve made the product images bigger and we’ve provided the key information for each product right next to the image. So, now the title, price, content type and the platform the content is playable on are always displayed clearly.
Speaking of content types and platforms, you told us that when you’re browsing the PlayStation Store you don’t want to see PS3, PS Vita and PSP content all mixed together. So, we’ve created separate sections within the Games category dedicated to PS Vita and PSP. They’re easy to find and make browsing through content for those platforms much simpler. At the same time, it makes browsing for PS3 content, which is what most people are doing on the PlayStation Store on their PS3s, much easier.
When you do dive into one of the product categories you’ll see straight away that we’ve added two key features you told us you wanted: sorting and filtering. Now, in any category, you can filter the products being displayed in one of a number of different ways such as by price range, game feature (e.g., online multiplayer), accessory compatibility (3D TV, PS Move, PS Eye, etc.). As well as filtering, you can now sort alphabetically, by release date and by price.
Everything we’ve done to improve the browsing experience, both in feature categories using carousels and in product categories using grids with sorting and filtering, has been with the singular goal of helping you get to the kind of content you’re most interested in as quickly and as easily as possible.
But what if you’re looking for a specific title?
We’ve completely overhauled the search functionality from top to bottom. You told us that it took too long to perform a search and find what you wanted. So, we set ourselves an ambitious target: to design a search feature which would allow users to get to the content they were looking for without having to enter more than three or four characters.
We’ve replaced the on-screen keyboard with a ‘tumbler’ text input. You enter each letter by scrolling up and down through the list of characters. Each time you add a letter, you’ll notice two things: firstly, that the list of search results on the right-hand side is updated and, secondly, that the list of characters to choose from shrinks so that you can only select letters that will complete a title which contains that sequence of letters.
If you’re searching for LittleBigPlanet, for example, by the time you have input L-I-T using the Tumbler, you’ll see LittleBigPlanet appear ‘above the line’ in Top Results. Top Results will always show what people have been searching for most based on the characters you select. So, the more people who search L-I-T and then click on LittleBigPlanet, the higher that product will then appear in Top Results.
This is one of the many ways we’re trying to make PlayStation Store more dynamic and have it reflect what people are actually doing in the store. As people use the search more and more, so the search experience improves for everyone.
Search is only one place in the store where what you do shapes the overall store experience for everyone. Whenever you purchase something, you can give it a star rating. Not only will your star rating be added to the overall rating displayed on the product page but it will also help drive the Top Rated chart in our Most Popular categories.
Star rating is not a new feature, but the fact that it now drives our Top Rated chart certainly is. Loads of you are using this feature already but, if you haven’t done so yet, get involved. Top Rated in Most Popular is your opportunity to tell other gamers what the best of the best is from your point of view.
Also in Most Popular, you’ll find the Top Downloads chart which, as the name suggests, shows you what the most downloaded products are that week.
Speaking of products, let’s have a look at a product page and how it works. One of our biggest challenges was making sure that you could find all of the content related to one product as simply and easily as possible.
So, we have created a brand new product page which acts as a portal or hub for all of the content for a given title. As you can see on the LittleBigPlanet example above, at the top of the screen is the most important information for that product, such as playable platform, file size and release date, as well as the different ways you can get hold of it – whether that’s buying it, playing the demo, or even downloading a trial version you can play and then unlock later to turn it into the full game.
Further down, all of the add-ons, themes, avatars, and videos for that product are also displayed on this ‘parent page’ as we call it. You can scroll through all the content on the right-hand side like a web page or you can jump quickly between the different sections using the quick links on the left-hand side of the page. If you do click through to one of these related products, getting back to the ‘parent page’ is now easy.
You told us that, in the old store, pages for add-ons were difficult to find and that it was often hard to tell which content an add-on was for. In the new PlayStation Store, if you arrive at an add-on page via search, or via a category page for example, it should now always be clear which game that product relates to. At the top of the page, you’ll find that information in the title area. You’ll also find a (Game Page) tile which shows what the ‘parent product’ is and links straight back to it.
So there you have it, the all-new PlayStation Store. Easier to use, quicker to find the products you want and designed with your feedback in mind. But this is not the end. It’s just the beginning of a journey that will see PlayStation Store evolve over time. We’re planning to drop in new features and make updates every month or two based on the backlog of features we’ve already got lined up and on the feedback we get from you.
We couldn’t have produced what we have without your amazing input and feedback. We’re really proud of it and we hope you like it.