Project Overview

01 Summary

While Nintendo* is a beloved brand and the Nintendo Switch has been well received, there are certainly improvements that can be made to the user experience. For this project, I explored adding Theme functionality to the console with the intent to "Design for Delight." *Personal project, no direct affiliation.

02 The Challenges

While wildly successful both critically and commercially, the Nintendo Switch is not without its flaws. It didn’t take much digging to identify what missing features really irked users, easily found across different mediums like gaming blogs, Reddit and YouTube:

Beyond missing features, there seems to be a bit of divide amongst users overall, on whether the current UI (user interface) is great due to its simplicity or if it comes across as far too basic and boring, with a significant portion falling into the second category. Based on my secondary research, I believe “Custom Theme” functionality support could be a great feature addition that could strike a balance between remaining consistent with the simplicity of the current design, while also bringing some excitement and delight at the same time.

03 Users & Audience

As part of my research, I looked at demographic information to better understand the Nintendo Switch consumer. While early adopters skewed heavily male, over time that has shifted to represent a more even gender split. According to the Q4 2018 LTD (life-to-date) owner data, 35% of users fall between the age range of 30-44 which was another interesting insight. As such, I wanted to reflect this in my user persona, and even use a real life representation of a Switch owner for the empathize stage of the design process.

04 Role(s)

UX/UI Designer

Interested in exploring further?
Case Study

The Process

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate & Design
  4. Prototype
  5. Test & Iterate

01 Empathize

The Current Landscape, User Expectations, & the Psychology of Personalization

As an April Fool’s Day joke, Switch Stop, a popular YouTube channel focused on the Nintendo Switch, released a video titled “Introducing Nintendo Switch Themes!” in 2018 which now has over 785,000 views. Obviously viewers were fooled and disappointed when they realized it was a prank, and made that known in the comments section, hoping that Nintendo would pick up on this request and address it in a software update in the near future.

Switch Stop April Fools Video

Over two years later, Switch Stop posted another video outlining 10 features that they “NEED” to get soon, with the first feature listed as themes once again. The creators appeared baffled that this still hasn’t been addressed and even referenced their prank video from 2 years prior, and ultimately this frustration is justified because of the expectations that have been set in the current landscape.

Starting with competing video game consoles, the Playstation Store boasts nearly 10,500 free and paid themes across different devices compared to the 2 (Black and White) available on the Switch. Meanwhile, Theme My Xbox, has even created an independent Xbox compatible app on the Microsoft Store with over 5,000 themes available.

Beyond consoles, mobile device gaming is another huge player in the space, generating over $68.5 billion globally according to an article in TechCrunch in 2019. Without a doubt, that figure has increased in 2020 and will continue to do so in 2021. It has long been an established trend for users to be able to customize their smart phone themes and backgrounds, along with their laptops, tablets, and desktop screens, to the point where it is now an expectation rather than a “nice-to-have” feature.

This need for personalization and customization is touched on in greater detail in Josh Allsopp’s article on LinkedIn, where he outlines the psychology behind these motivations, including the desire to express individuality, convey cultural identities, facilitate social connections, fulfil personal requirements, and navigate choice overload.

Josh Allsopp's Personalization Article

Designing For Delight & Nintendo’s Brand Identity

Jared Spool recently hosted a webinar on Leaders of Awesomeness titled “Designing for Delight Is the Ultimate End-Goal (and, Yes, Everything Can Be Made More Delightful)” in which he explored the meaning behind designing delightful experiences. Within it, he provides a simple breakdown as follows:

“For any experience, the user has an established expectation of what their experience will be like. 

Missing those expectations results in frustration.

Meeting the expectations results in satisfaction.

Exceeding the expectations results in delight.”

He goes on to note that people typically associate the term delight with “bubbling over with joy”, where in its most simplistic form it can also mean gratifying, contentment, gladness, and exceeding expectations. Doug Bowser (yes that is his actual name), President of Nintendo, is quoted on the Nintendo about page saying, “At Nintendo of America, we are constantly working to deliver surprises and “ultimately” smiles to our many customers throughout the Americas.”

Bowser, King of the Koopas

After reading this statement, I instantly made the connection between the phrases “delivering smiles” and “designing delight” as they are essentially synonymous. So if adding “Custom Theme” support is only going to “meet expectations” then how will Nintendo exceed them and deliver delightful smiles to its users?

Nintendo & Music

When people think of Nintendo, oftentime Mario, Luigi, and Mushroom Kingdom will come to mind. Or Zelda’s Hyrule Castle, Samus’s spaceship, Donkey Kong’s Country, or the many other icons and their respective homes within the Nintendo Universe. And the one thing that brings everything together and truly connects the Nintendo Universe is the music. Over the last 30 years, Nintendo has developed an immense music library that has delighted their customers for generations. Yet, when you start up the Switch and get to the Home Screen, all you hear is…silence.

Well, not entirely true. There are sound effects as the user goes from one icon to the next within the UI, but there is no music! Not only is that a little eerie, but it is also the antithesis to the Nintendo identity. This presents a huge opportunity for Nintendo to delight their customers, not only by allowing the user to customize the visual aesthetic of their UI theme, but also to personalize their theme with a favorite Nintendo tune. With those simple adjustments, the gaming goliath has a sure shot way to deliver smiles for millions of people around the world right under their nose (and subsequent mustache).

02 Define

User Persona

As part of my research, I looked at demographic information to better understand the Nintendo Switch consumer. While early adopters skewed heavily male, over time that has shifted to represent a more even gender split. According to the Q4 2018 LTD (life-to-date) owner data, 35% of users fall between the age range of 30-44 which was another interesting insight. As such, I wanted to reflect this in my user persona, and even use a real life representation of a Switch owner for the empathize stage of the design process.

Annie Murphy, actress from the hit TV show Schitt’s Creek, spoke about her newfound gaming hobby in a Fashion Magazine article. Using insights from that article and other resources, I put together the following persona.


User Flows

Prior to jumping into sketching and wireframes, I pulled up Miro and created two distinct user flows. One for a user “Selecting A Theme” and another for a user “Selecting Music.” While I had a general idea of how I wanted to execute the design in my head, it was helpful to have my own Nintendo Switch in front of me and start thinking through the various flows to accomplish these goals and get them on paper.

Theme Select User Flows

03 Ideate & Design


I took a unique approach to the wireframing stage, given that I am building off of an existing UI and am more focused on identifying which screens will need to be redesigned and how they need to be modified. This also gave me the opportunity to identify established design patterns. One of which, for the music flow, I actually pulled from a popular Switch game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, rather than the UI itself, as seen below.

Music Player Design Pattern From Super Smash Bros Ultimate.

Style/Brand Guidelines

Before building the actual redesigned UI, I wanted to create a document outlining the branding guidelines. After doing quite a bit of research, I was able to determine the typography, icons, logos, and more that are currently in use for the Switch UI. Having all of these in place definitely made it easier for me to re-create the screens with the necessary modifications.

Nintendo Brand Guidelines

04 UI & Prototype

UI Design

Now for the fun part! I really enjoyed re-creating the UI for the Nintendo Switch to accommodate the new features. My goal was to make this feel seamless with the current UI, and stay consistent with existing Nintendo Switch design patterns. Here are some noteworthy adjustments that I made:

  • Slightly decreased the size of the game images on the home screen, and increased spacing in between each game. This made the background theme more visible.
  • Pushed the game images and the circles for each menu item down slightly for the same reason.
  • Created and added “Music” and “Theme” menu circles on the home screen using a similar logo style as the others
  • Pulled the music player and selection design pattern from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, while integrating it in with the existing UI
  • Added a “music player” bar at the top of the home screen to show what song is playing and give the user an easy way to change the song
Music Player

I created two prototypes to showcase the “Theme Select” and “Music Select” flows, where you can see more of the UI below:

Theme Select
Music Select

05 Test & Iterate

Gathering Feedback

In order to gather feedback on my designs for the added Nintendo Switch features, I tried to get input from a variety of sources, including in person interviews, group critiques from other UX designers, as well as engaging with users on Medium, Reddit, and YouTube. Based on that feedback I conducted a short round of revisions (~4 hours) to address higher priority improvement opportunities, detailed below.

Design A Distinct "Theme" Page

In order to remain consistent with the current UI and ease user confusion, I built out designs that walk the user through a unique flow after selecting the "Themes" icon on the home screen. While upfront it may seem like an oversight, my initial thought was to direct the user right to the "Themes" area in the "System Settings" where it currently exists, as that is familiar with current users. Upon further reflection, that would likely deviate from the current user's expectations based on the UI today.

Themes Page

Improve Visibility of the Game Thumbnails

When gathering feedback on the Home screen design, one concern that was raised was the visibility of the game thumbnails, especially for the video/gif version. While the "Mario Kart" video I initially used was popular, there was definitely a lot of distracting motion that could be an issue for some users. If Nintendo were to pursue this added functionality, it would likely be wise to keep this in mind when thinking about creating Themes that feature animation or video. I found that less is more when selecting a replacement, and went with an adorable Yoshi sleeping on a tree stump.

By making that adjustment and making improvements to the borders and drop shadows on the game thumbnails, visibility was notably better. As I was considering further customization of the game thumbnails, I brainstormed ways that these could be better integrated in with the Theme aesthetic. For my Breath of the Wild V2, I studied the UI used in the inventory screen to select items and emulated that for the border design (top of page).

Free Themes With Game Purchase or Online Subscription

While some users may be willing to pay a small fee for a Theme, including them as a complimentary item as part of a game purchase would be a great value add. One of the participants I discussed this with recommended taking it one step further, by including Free Themes as part of the Nintendo Online subscription. I thought this was a wonderful idea and created a mockup of the Nintendo Switch Online screen featuring this new offer. Considering that the Online subscription is only $20 a year and includes over 90 classic NES and SNES games in addition to online support, adding Free Themes would make this already great value even better.

Free Themes w/ Subscription

Increasing Delight

As I was wrapping up my iterations for this project, I brainstormed a few ways that Nintendo could further increase delight with Themes. One idea that I that was feasible and would allow for further personalization was the ability to customize the Theme with text and stickers. This would likely work best with Solid Color Themes or screenshots, and I created an example of the Home Page below with a solid blue background.


Top 5 Things I Learned

Even though this was purely a personal project with no direct affiliation to the company, designing for the Nintendo Switch console was an extremely unique and rewarding experience. Here are the Top 5 things I learned:

  1. UX and UI design is much, much more than simply website or app design and is always evolving.
  2. When designing new features for an existing brand or product, it is crucial that you pay close attention to current design patterns to make sure it integrates in seamlessly.
  3. Great design goes beyond a functional and seamless experience, and has the power to bring people delight.
  4. Pay close attention to feedback from your customer base.
  5. Start with the problem, not the solution. I had initially planned to design a Product Walkthrough for the MPC One when I came to the conclusion that Akai's extensive video tutorials were already addressing that problem. With this project, Nintendo Switch users were vocal about a feature that was missing from the console and so I pivoted to address that instead.

"Exploration is curiosity put into action" - Don Walsh
Want to explore the possibilities of working together?
Get In Touch With Me