Netflix on tvOS

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Have you ever used Netflix on the newer Apple TV models? For me it is a premium example for who it shouldn’t be done. A example for what happens if marketing takes over product ownership.

What may be useful for some is a major annoyance for the majority of users: The auto playback of selected movies if there’s no user interaction for afew seconds. This wouldn’t be an issue if this behavior could be turned off on demand. Unfortunately Netflix has decided to withhold this opportunity from its paying users.

But that’s just the most obvious and annoying fail in user experience Netflix has made.

If you dig a bit deeper into the app then you might wonder how bad it feels to navigate through the different lists, Netflix provides. You can see only one full line of thumbnails at a time and you have no chance to see on which vertical position you are, because Netflix forgot the indicators for this. To make it worse, you have also no indication where you are on the horizontal position for the same reason.

The “home screen” of the Netflix app is a big advertisement.

But it’s worth to take an even closer look on this. Why has Netflix published such an bad app and is it really bad or ist it just me? Well, I do not want to answer this question and let you decide. But let me ask you one question: Have you ever recognized that the whole “home screen” of the Netflix app is just an advertisement?

Most users didn’t have recognized this but it’s a fact: If you start the Netflix app, you’ll see a big screen full of advertisements – you’ll see the preselected big teaser image from whatever a algorithm and/or the marketing division at Netflix decides to be shown here. If you’re not fast enough, it starts to play loud and bold just to distract you so much, that you have to deal with it. Below you’ll also see the preselected item and not much more… Maybe you can see 10% to 20% of the next thumbnail line, but you have to navigate there… So the full screen is initially coverd by advertisements.

That said you also have the reason why the auto play feature cannot be turned off. If it would be possible to turn it off, Netflix wouldn’t have a chance to distract you and there wouldn’t be a chance to force you to move around, if you do not want this behavior – e.g. late in the evening where you probably do not like the automatic loud previews. It’s about marketing and distraction – they want it and you’r their victim šŸ˜‰

Another big annoyance is the pseudo intelligent auto guessing what could be shown next – especially in combination with the auto play feature. Just have watched a cool movie and left the room to get some beverage or food? You should have actively stopped playback – otherwise random content will start without asking you. A really bad behavior – especially in the late evening. Again: If it could be turned off on demand, it wouldn’t be an issue. And again Netflix decided to withhold this opportunity from paying users.

The matching percentage shown on detail screens is just junk

Lets continue with minor issues of the app – or better: The general concept. Netflix has some algorithms responsible for generating lists with more or less matching guesses for the user. While this isn’t a bad thing and wouldn’t be worth a mention, Netflix shows a percentage to visualize the matching percentage of the algorithm – which is just junk information, because it doesn’t matter and it’s simply a mathematical output of an algorithm which may be used to sort the generated lists but usually has only very little value for a human user. It would be better to hide this useless information.

If you binge-watch a tv show, you might have recognized the vote buttons below the outro panel in the left top corner. They have absolutely no value for you as a user, but they may be useful to the algorithm used to generate lists for you. It will be useful too for the marketing division, to learn what works best for customers. Again this must not be a bad thing – but they way it works these days is usually not very smart: It contributes to automatic generation of filter bubbles and it will narrow the variety of items shown to users. From a cultural point of view, this could be considered a bad thing because it would lead to smaller bandwidth of future productions on a long term perspective – just because users put themselves (assisted by algorithms) into filter bubbles, viewing more or less the same stuff and do not just try out new things – because they hardly recognize that there exists something aside of the fully optimized lists.

From a user experience point of view the app is just bad. But also from the usability perspective it lacks comfort. That’s often the result after marketing took over product ownership and shift the former user centered design to a marketing centered design. Many companies showed in the younger past the same effects. Apple Music, the Apple App Stores on iOS and the all new macOS Mojave show the same effect… Did you know that Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, is or was responsible for thes products?

Companies should never allow that marketing divisions take over product ownership. They never should be allowed to control or dictate the feature set. They should just have a consulting and service position to help the product owners with marketing related tasks, to prepare marketing and sales material, to develop media plans and to conduct product shows. Unfortunately there is an increasing trend to empower marketing beyond good sense. If you have a look on the Netflix app you can see what could be the result: An app from the marketing division for marketing divisions of content providers – not for the paying customers which are only there to pay the bills.

mm About Axel Napolitano Hobby producer, DJ, certified scrum master, gadgeteer and coffee-addicted. A solid 18+ years experience within the IT industry and a strong track in all relevant roles from development to architecture makes him unique.
Posted in Technology
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