Netflix social - a movie watching experience you can share
What is netflix social?
Click to view prototype on Axure Share. http://5jw22c.axshare.com
Let me put forth this concept to you in a few short scenarios. You’ll have a better chance of understanding it that way! Just take some time to think about each scenario and consider them. Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below.
While watching a great show on Netflix (maybe Suits), hit the share button and get your desk colleague Sharon to watch it too. The both of you will have fun ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the bodylicious actors the next day at work.
You just met up with your good friend Gerald for dinner. He is super excited about this new Netflix Original TV series “Jessica Jones” and wants you to watch it too. All your shows are currently on season break and you think “sure, why not?” Next thing you know, you receive a notification on your Netflix app. Gerald has just sent you a recommendation link and you can follow up on his recommendation when you get home to your wifi network.
Introduction to brief
If the above scenarios appeal to you, you have just validated the concept put forth by my team — Netflix Social.
As part of UXDI’s third project, I was given a chance to explore any app/website, find out the inherent problems and fix it. Of course this has to be done with user research backing up our redesign every step of the way. It is User Experience after all!
It was not easy choosing an app to work on. We all had apps that we loved and apps that we hated. The ones that we loved, we wanted to make them even better. The ones we hated, we wanted to make them suck less. It was a tough call. Among the choices, we had the big names (Google Hangouts, Airbnb), to new entrants (Fintech startups), to the unexpected (password managers). Ultimately, we wanted a fun subject topic (while we still had the power to choose), so we settled on Netflix.
Why Netflix Social?
Netflix is great. It is a subscription-based service that provides users with a range of TV shows and movies on-demand. Previously only available in the US, it came to be available in Singapore early 2016.
The app does one thing and it does it well. The app is optimised for a user who chooses to watch shows on the mobile or tablet.
The question is:
Do Netflix users agree and think that it is all they need in the app?
We set out to answer this question. An interview with 4 Netflix users revealed interesting results.
Quotes from interviewees mapped into an affinity map to identify pain points. A total number of thirteen points were identified. These pain points were then used to craft the 2 personas that were then used for the rest of the project.
- I like sites that are simple and straight forward.
- I expect quality streaming when using Netflix.
- I need a reason to pay for a subscription.
- I enjoy watching Netflix Originals.
- I depend on visuals to search for new shows to watch.
- I like how categories are organised.
- I don’t like scrolling.
- I don’t rate shows because I don’t think ratings are useful.
- I turn to external sources for reviews because I trust the community they have.
- I don’t depend on recommendations list to find new shows to watch.
- I want to receive recommendations from my friends.
- I enjoy the personalised experience Netflix offers.
- I would like to share recommendations with my friends.
The findings clearly indicate that the Netflix app has some hits (personalisation, content, straightforward) and some misses (ratings and recommendations are not fully utilised, missing social element). We moved forward to try and address these shortcomings but first, we need to understand who our users are.
Who uses Netflix Social?
Knowing the problems that users have but not knowing who they are makes designing for them impossible. Imagine that you are asked to complete the Rubik’s Cube blindfolded, without having first looked at the cube. It is an impossible task and you never know when you have completed the task.
To help us along, we create personas. A persona embody a group of users that we are designing for and guide us to design specific features that would appeal to them. There can be more than one persona for each project and for our team’s purposes, we identified 2 prominent personas based on the pain points generated from the user interviews.
Alan and Kumar were our BFF (best friends forever) during the 2 week duration of our project. Read more about them below.
Alan is the techie who is very social. He wants to share content and receive content from his network. He also relies heavily on external sources to decide what to watch.
Storyboard showing a ‘typical’ day in Alan’s life
Kumar is the hippie who has a lot of time on his hands. He is not so big on sharing content but he trusts his friends to recommend good shows to him. He is a typical binge watcher.
Storyboard showing a normal day in Kumar’s life.
How do we get to Netflix Social?
With the personas in place, the team then went on to chart the customer journey map (CJM) for both personas to identify the pain points they encountered at every juncture of their journey.
The pain points were then expanded on to identify the opportunities that Netflix as a company can leverage on. These opportunities were mapped on a graph to examine the relationship between the business side of things and the user side of things.
In a perfect world, we will always prioritise the user but the reality is that the purse strings are in the control of the company. The graph help us balance the needs of the company and the user, finding the feature set that would benefit both stakeholders.
We recognise that we need to balance business needs (what the company wants) with user needs (what would be useful to users). Ultimately the company is concerned with profit margins and features built need to translate to financial gains.
The cluster on the top right hand corner of the graph was the most obvious choice. From the circles concentrated in that cluster, we arrived at the following goal.
To create a trusted community on Netflix in order to increase engagement within the app promoting greater loyalty among app users.
There were 3 problem statements and the respective feature solutions that we then generated from the goal.
- Users want to be able to able to find and engage with their friends on the Netflix application.
* Implement social sign ins & sign ups using Facebook
* Allow users to “Add your friends” by suggesting “People you may know”
- Users want to send and receive recommended content from their friends easily, in-app and cross-app.
* Implement an in-app inbox feature
- Users want to view reviews from trusted sources such as IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes and given the option to share their own reviews with their friends.
* Incorporate IMBD’s reviews into the Netflix experience
* Include social sharing buttons when posting reviews
We started out drawing sketches of the screens, incorporating the features above. With these sketches, we tested. With just 2 people, we found obvious flaws.
The biggest takeaway for me at this stage is the realisation that sketches need to look decent and buttons should be correctly named across all the panels. Otherwise, the errors become distractions and the test becomes inaccurate.
Having our WDI friend help us test out our sketched prototype. Truly insightful and helped us refine our screens!
Concurrently while the usability tests are being done with the paper sketches, I loaded up Sketch and proceeded to digitalise the sketches.
I felt that it is important for the users to try the app with screen interactions, while holding the device. Simulating the context that they will likely be using the app could possibly give us more insights.
The changes to the sketches were updated in the digitalised copy so that it remains the most current version that we can then use for the second round of usability tests.
2nd iteration: greyscale wireframes done in Sketch. I love this software.
(The Invision link is not available because of version issues. Please refer to the screenshots of the wireframe in the meanwhile.)
Unveiling the final product
Introducing Netflix Social.
Click to view prototype on Axure Share. http://5jw22c.axshare.com
Getting here was not easy. We used the wireframe prototype and managed to test it out on 3 other users. With the feedback, there were significant changes.
- The hamburger menu was axed. There was no real utility and all the functions hidden in the menu found a place on the bottom navigation bar.
- A new category “Browse” was added. This is to aid discovery and further filter content away from the homepage to prevent endless scrolling.
- Content for the homepage was reassessed and only included the recommended lists in the final version.
- The initial flow of adding new friends in the onboarding process was also amended. The profile page was revamped and words reduced. A user very nicely told us that he didn’t care about his friends’ biography but what he watched. So content was prioritised.
There were of course other minute changes but as they are mostly cosmetic in nature so I will not elaborate.
The final version of the prototype was done entirely in Axure. Most of the content is real instead of using placeholder text or images to depict how the final product might look like.
It is not enough to come up with an app idea. I wanted to go further and validate if the app features were feasible from an engineering perspective. It is easy to dream up ideas but it is important to know the limitations to keep designs useful.
To help me, I got in touch with a friend of mine, Felix, who is an experienced iOS engineer. I got him to evaluate the app, focusing specifically on the engineering effort required for the features and whether the app as a whole adheres to the iOS design guidelines.
Felix was really helpful and thorough. I ended up with a whole list of considerations I missed. He also estimated that it would require 6 months for the MVP (minimum viable product) to be built and pointed out features that required customisation (read: more time and effort).
Having an engineer (or two) look at our output makes it more real. I enjoy the insights and the different perspective shared. It gives me much more to think about and makes me a better designer (yes, even pointing out that things are not aligned just right).
It is not easy working in a team. Yes, there are more brains working together on the same problem but that also means there are more people to convince and persuade.
Many a times, I find myself in a position where I have to convince my team mates that we are backing up the wrong tree. UX concepts do not come naturally to us and we tend to retreat back to familiar territory (marketing and sales, customer service etc.) when we are unsure of how to proceed. In such situations, I realise that it is really helpful to reference class exercises to realign ourselves. The advice of our classmates and instructors are also invaluable.
My team took almost one week to settle down into a comfortable rhythm based on mutual understanding and respect. We lagged behind the other teams quite badly initially and panicked when the second week rolled around. But luckily for us, we learnt to compromise and was able to move forward as a team. We ended up completing the project satisfactorily and I feel proud of our achievements.
Individually, I have also grown. I am not design trained and I’ve always been conscious about my UI designs. This project, I stepped up and took the initiative to work on the prototypes. I am really pleased with the results and it feels great to have compliments describing the final prototype as looking “legit”. It sure gave me great confidence knowing that I have achieved some level of proficiency in UI design.
What I have learnt
- Put aside your differences and know that your team mates are not your enemy.
- Compromise, compromise, compromise.
- When your team mates are stubborn, they might just be afraid of making mistakes. Create a space where your team mates feel comfortable voicing out their concerns so you will have a chance to address them instead of bickering all the time.