User Experience Review - Netflix
26th April 2012
This article was published in March 2012 Internet retailing
Netflix launched in the UK and Ireland on the 9th of January, having a successful precedent in other countries delivering films and TV programmes to more than 20 million subscribers. I was therefore curious to know how they were going to impact the British market.
My first impression was that the website homepage did not emphasise the success they had experienced in other countries. Given that the UK is a new market for them, I would have expected them to gain user trust by mentioning their other geographies. Being used to the homepage of their main UK competitor, Lovefilm, the very basic design and the lack of a stated clear purpose created some trust issues for me. Yes, it does say what you can do on the site, but finding the movies and TV programmes available or how to be able to watch them is hidden under the tabs at the top. It will help understanding the purpose of the site if some of the films and tv programmes were listed on the main home page and the steps for joining clearly explained.
The main call to action for the site is to sign up for a 30 day trial. You can either go for the usual approach of providing an email and password or you can link your Netflix account to your Facebook account and it automatically picks up your details from there, which is a nice way of achieving passive registration for their ‘social media savvy’ audience. The sign-up process is simple and direct, only having to provide a credit card number and accept their terms and conditions.
The requirement to provide your credit card for the 30 day trial (the only option available), though common practice, is likely to create trust issues for some. From a user’s perspective, providing payment details at the end of the free trial would likely be a preferable alternative.
On the positive side, there is a lot of information on how to can cancel your subscription at any time and online, which provided more confidence.
The second stage of the registration is to fill a questionnaire about your film and TV preferences. The questionnaire uses words that are unclear or vague, such as “Wacky”, “Cerebral” or “Mind-bending”. It is possible to look at some examples for those categories, but they may not match users’ own definitions. Is South Park wacky? This feels quite ‘American’ in its approach and may not translate well to this side of the pond.
Once your preferences are saved, you can start using the main site for browsing for content. The home page is very long with carousels displaying preferences and (if you have used the Facebook option) your ‘friends’.
You can look at other options by browsing on the categories at the top navigation for different genres, but I felt somehow disappointed with the variety of content.T here were not enough recent films in my opinion or the users would probably have to rely heavily on the search engine for finding them. I would expect to find as well some known features for browsing content like top-rated content lists or a more advanced search option that allows to search by actor, year of publication, etc. but I couldn’t find it.
The carousel and gallery modes can be a great interaction object but, as only the cover art is shown, it can be difficult at times to read/remember the name of the movie, creating more effort than it should.
In order to see the details of the content, the description and the members rating you need to move the mouse over each item. This creates a very severe accessibility issue, as the site is not usable without a mouse or touchscreen.
The information displayed on the pop-up is quite complete, having all the details that you may need (year, certificate, duration, and a short description with link for a longer version, as well as the main actors, director and members rating).
If I take a look at other competitor sites, some of this information could be moved to below the cover to help users choose which content they prefer. Ideally having the name of the item and the rating given by the members under each item would aid the decision.
Once I selected one of the movies or programmes, the process was as simple as possible, having the movie on my screen with a single click. The loading time was more than acceptable; the movie was playing in less than 4 seconds in most of the cases and the quality of the picture was great.
All the controls displayed while the content is playing are easy to use and familiar. Some users will particularly appreciate the possibility of having an HD mode and subtitles.
The only issue with the playing screen is that a Facebook message appears in the top right corner, that appears to share that movie on Facebook, unless the user opts out of sharing. This could create serious privacy and trust issues for some users and this should ideally be switched to an “opt in” policy.
Overall, although the design of the homepage does not provide enough confidence and the variety of content could improve, the video content is very quick and easy to access and is of a high quality for a streaming service.
What can you do next?
- Read some more usability and accessibility articles.
- Evaluate your internal search and the general usability of your site through usability testing.
- Attend one of our usability training courses.
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This article was written by Paula Mestre . Paula is a Usability Consultant of User Vision, a usability and accessibility consultancy that helps clients gain a competitive advantage through improved ease of use.