IXD AAD012 – 4. How Netflix Works

After researching the top 3 most popular streaming services, I chose to base my work on Netflix. I carried out some research from podcasts, interviews and YouTube videos with Netflix employees to get an insight into the inner workings and design processes within the company.

Many of these processes within Netflix are collaborative, with the interaction and user experience designers, also known as the product and visual designers, all working closely together, thinking through the experience flow and about how things could seamlessly move and transition into one another.

Each animation, effect, scrolling action or object fading in and off screen, the designers will curate the specifics to then be built by engineers.

At Netflix, understanding the flow of how an experience can guide a users perception of a service is a big part of the consideration designers specialise in as users pick up on subtleties.  UX/IX designers have the job of ensuring users don’t notice these differing movements or motions and enjoy the feel of the experience. The ideas generated for a new feature is mainly executed in wireframes by the product designer and the visual designer then takes these wireframes, possibly using photoshop, and makes it look more aesthetically pleasing with things like the colours and placement.

During the early stages of the design process of an idea at Netlflix, the engineers are involved to see if an idea can be executed or what is possible. Prototyping in the form of video loops or gifs helps to establish designs in the experimentation phase.

In an interview Michaela Tedore, a visual designer at Netflix, she explains during her first project at Netflix, she worked with a team to create a display page designed around Kong for the release of the movie, but it was slowly removed in the end. But since then, she has learned how important the business strategy of design is. Although what was made was very personalised and interactive, which at the time was a new thing for Netflix, it was something what wasn’t scalable for the company. When something is designed for one show, it is beneficial for the business if it can also be used for every other show that is like it as it saves time and money, this is a scalable idea.

Outside of Netflix, the ability to create playlists on a music service and songs that are followed by similar songs is an investment made by the business to ensure that users continue their subscription. With Netflix, this type of customisation is something that is brainstormed and deciding if a new idea or feature is valuable to the business in the long run is a big part of considerations.

There are strategies Netflix use as a business that the product designers include in their idea generation and thought process. Designers try to think about the most efficient way possible to find out if an idea will work. This could be by shrinking an idea or taking a small part of it and shipping it to see if it works globally. This is also used during the interview process, where a designer is brought in to present an idea, they will ask what the most basic form of the idea is to enable it to be tested with the least amount of investment needed by the business.

During another interview, a motion designer for Netflix, Alex Bronkie explains that it is hard as a service to be on the cutting edge of usability because consumers wont understand how to use your product. The Netflix app aims to be beautiful as well as simple so that, regardless of the users background or type of thinking, anyone can use the service.

There is a Netflix team in Japan, looking into the culture and user research, trying to understand if it is worth while for the business to customise the experience for that market. This isn’t just with Japan, the IX and UX designers are investigating into the idea that the way a person thinks and interacts with Netflix, in correlation to which corner of the world they come from, is fundamentally so different that the app could make some huge improvement with these insights.

Each version of Netflix has all languages available for the app, with the right to left language option, inverting the view of the app. Netflix has been working towards a global product, with each version you view being just one variant.

For qualitative research, Netflix  normally selects around 10-20 participants for feedback on human experience with a new feature lasting 2 days. Then tiny quals as they’re called, involve 6 participants with interviews lasting 15 minutes each asking about things like a close button or arrow placement for skipping episodes.


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