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Netflix Social

First built-in sharing feature

Imagining the start of a social side to the Netflix mobile app, encouraging friends to suggest films and TV programmes they think their buddies will love.

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Netflix Mockup Screen
Netflix Mockup Screen
Netflix Mockup Screen
Netflix Mockup Screen
Netflix Logo
Text saying "social"
Project Type

Case study

Deliverable

Added app feature

Audience

Netflix mobile users

Tools

Figma, Zoom

Time

80 hours

Role

UX Designer

Background & Brief

As of January 2023, Netflix has 223 million subscribers in 78 countries, making it the largest streaming platform globally. Over the years, Netflix has continuously led the market, introducing unlimited streaming in 2007 and becoming the top producer of original content recently.

But competitors are catching up... Other streaming services like Disney+ and Amazon Prime are in contention to overtake Netflix on subscriber numbers within the next few years. 

Research

I first researched Netflix's main competitors, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video, to understand things such as their market share, audience, targets, and current or future features. I paid special attention to to any social features and how they are received by users. However, it became evident that neither these platforms nor other major competitors like Hulu or Crave prioritize social features. Thus, I turned to Spotify, a music streaming service renowned for its extensive social features, for further insight.

I then interviewed 5 frequent users of the Netflix mobile app. 

Interviews were conducted with goals to understand:

  • how users discuss and share content with friends.

  • how users decide what to watch.

  • and how users currently use the mobile app.

Disney+ logo
Characteristics
  • Netflix biggest competitor and soon to overtake

  • Targets families and children, with 45% of users <18

  • Similar to Netflix, users can only share titles with 3rd party apps

  • Social features: Virtual movie nights with up to 7 screens (no native chat)

Strengths/Weaknesses
  • Exclusive library of fan favourite classics and franchises, plus add-on subscription bundles with Hulu and ESPN+

  • But Disney content doesn't appeal to everyone and audience includes minors who are limited on social features for safety reasons

  • Opportunity to pull Netflix subscribers with the addition of more mature content and original shows

Takeaways
  • Investing in exclusive content to pull in long-term subs across every demographic (and it's working)

  • Not focused on any unique mobile or social features

Amazon Prime Video logo
Characteristics
  • Healthy market share, 200+ million subscribers at the start of 2023

  • Similar to Netflix, users can only share titles with 3rd party apps

  • Social features: Host virtual movie nights with up to 100 screens (chat included)

Strengths/Weaknesses
  • Big existing customer base from Amazon - already serving millions with Alexa, Kindle, Amazon Music etc.

  • Subscribers complain that only select content is included free and watch parties require all viewers to have bought the title

  • Opportunity to continue creating a customizable experience that fits all consumer needs, from streaming to shopping

Takeaways
  • Currently lacks the content and subscription value that users need to make it their go-to streaming service

  • Not focused on social features, just expanding library and original content

Spotify logo
Characteristics
  • Digital music streaming platform for songs, podcasts, audiobooks and other media

  • Lots of social features, for ex.: following profiles and playlists; see what friends/artists are listening to; collab on playlists; download content for offline mobile listening; share links through 3rd party apps

Strengths/Weaknesses
  • A top most used app on people's phones (after social media and messaging apps)

  • But some social features like Blend and collab playlists are not used and may be removed (users are overwhelmed by too many social features)

  • Opportunity to remove unused social features and replace with better options

Takeaways
  • Spotify does social well - and they're not stopping

  • Plans to nurture a more social-media-like platform, improve public user profiles and make social features more accessible, plus AI

Research Synthesis Affinity Mapping Technique
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Interesting Insight

Interestingly, I found that people are happier to skip the process of looking up reviews and trailers if a friend says they'll really like something. People trust that the people close to them know them best.

Research Takeaways

  • Competitors are a numbers threat, with some platforms soon to overtake Netflix in subscriber count. Platforms are focused on expanding original content because, as Netflix has proved, excellent native TV shows and movies are a winner when pulling in new customers. With rivals catching up, Netflix might lose its 'original' edge.

  • Platforms, so focused on their content, are not innovating many social features for their apps right now. Competitors have watch party capabilities, but they aren't used much. There's an opportunity to take a page from Spotify's book here.

  • Despite having loyal users, Netflix faces frustration from users due to a lack of features like ratings, reviews, and customizable watchlists. Users desire better recommendations for less mainstream titles beyond the Top 10 lists.

Meet Karina

AGE
30
OCCUPATION
INTERIOR DESIGNER
LOCATION
SEATTLE, WA
INCOME
$75,000 USD

tv show gossip

rave recommender

high volume viewer

Karina, a dedicated Netflix subscriber, selects shows based on her mood and relies on features like "More Like This" and "Recommended for you." However, she desires advanced search and filtering options for better content discovery. Karina, describing herself as a regular consumer of content, is frustrated by the limited customization options for her extensive "My List."

 

She checks ratings, reviews, and trailers before deciding what to watch, expressing frustration at having to use external sources for this information. However, she is open to trying recommended content without researching it, especially if it's a trending show.

 

Karina would appreciate a social feature on the Netflix app to improve recommendations and engage in discussions with friends and family. If unavailable, she resorts to online platforms to avoid missing out on discussions about impactful season finales.

Karina, the user persona

needs & wants

  • personalized recommendations

  • a platform service that knows them

  • not to be disturbed while watching

motivations

  • high ratings and reviews

  • popular content, Netflix Top 10

  • trusting a recommendation source

frustrations

  • looking elsewhere for ratings, reviews etc.

  • lack of search filters and tags

  • unable to customize watchlists and recommendations

The Bigger Problem

Research revealed that Netflix's in-app recommendations fail to adequately cater to users' interests, genre preferences, and viewing history. Consequently, users experience limitations and dissatisfaction in finding content tailored to their tastes. To address this issue within the context of developing a new social mobile feature, the following 'How Might We?' question was formulated to prompt innovative solutions:

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How might we....

...create a social feature that helps users get more thoughtful recommendations for content that aligns with their preferences?

Solutions

I devised multiple social solutions to address the problem, narrowing down to three that best suited Karina's needs.

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Solution 1, emphasizing post-watching discussions, was initially considered for its social aspect but was dismissed due to its lack of emphasis on thoughtful recommendations.

Cross Mark Emoji

Solution 2, focusing on pre-watch recommendations, seemed promising but raised concerns about relying on generic lists.

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Ultimately, I chose Solution 3 for its strong emphasis on thoughtful recommendations, prompting users to share content they've enjoyed previously, aligning with user preferences and project scope limitations.

Product Roadmap

I identified and prioritized four essential features that the solution needs at a minimum. For both the features and user flows, I prioritized seamless integration with Netflix's existing app, mirroring the typical journey of finding something to watch. For instance, since the homepage is the top place users look for new content, I added a category to the homepage specifically for suggested content to facilitate easy access.

USER FLOW 1: MAKE A SUGGESTION

Users can recommend a show or film to someone by navigating to its episode/info page or by clicking on the three dots under a 'Continue Watching" information card. After clicking the icon to suggest something, an overlay screen pops up. Users choose recipients and send their suggestion.

User flow of making a suggestion
USER FLOW 2: RECEIVE AND VIEW SUGGESTIONS

Users can view suggestions they've received in two ways: a new category on the home page and a dedicated page. The home page offers quick access, while the dedicated page provides detailed information such as the sender, timing, and film/episode details that may not fit on the image-focused home page.

User flow of seeing a suggestion

Wireframing & Testing

Before wireframing, I spent some time studying Netflix's brand elements, including logos, typography, and colors to ensure my own feature would fit seamlessly. I noticed that Netflix uses:

 

  • dynamic cover photos drawing users into different titles;

  • prominent images and buttons, ensuring visually comfortable task flows and less emphasis on text;

  • a dark background.

I ensured that my own features followed these guidelines.

VIEW SUGGESTED TITLES

"Suggestions" is the inaugural feature of Netflix Social, introducing recommended titles to users' app experience. Initially, I created a dedicated page resembling a watchlist, allowing users flexible options to manage incoming suggestions: delete suggestions, block them from a particular user, and filter them to a non-priority list. The non-priority list aimed to help users manage incoming suggestions better, especially if they are receiving a lot of them. It provides a way for users to hide titles they don't necessarily want to delete, but also don't want to watch immediately.

However, usability testing revealed confusion about the non-priority tab's purpose, prompting me to replace tabs with familiar filter and search options for intuitive control. I also added visual feedback, as per user feedback, confirming if the user wants to permanently delete a suggestion and if their submission was successful. Additionally, users' positive reception of the social feature inspired me to elevate its prominence by adding "Netflix Social" to the navigation menu. The page was reformatted to encourage user engagement, incorporating categories akin to Netflix's homepage.

In addition to the new page, users can access new suggestions on the homepage, on their profile, or receive notifications when a friend sends one. Cards are styled similarly to "Continue watching" cards, with an emphasis on the title's cover page and a lower panel for sender details.

Wireframes demonstrating the process of seeing incoming suggestions
MAKING A SUGGESTION

I thought about different ways users could find their friends in order to send them a suggestion, including publicly discoverable profiles and private invites sent through 3rd party apps. However, I realized that the addition of public profiles might take the project beyond the scope of 80 hours, although they could be added in future. On the other hand, private invites could create a lot more work for users and make the experience long-winded and less appealing.

So, I chose a public route that didn't require the creation of whole profiles: users find friends by a public username or their registered Netflix email, if they know it. Users can also save friends to quickly send suggestions to them again. Users can create or edit their username and display name in App Settings.

 

During usability tests, participants faced confusion while searching for someone to send a suggestion to, particularly with the app's presentation of a user-selected friends list. To address this, I removed the list of saved connections and replaced it with smart recommendations.

Wireframes demonstrating how to make a suggestion
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Usability testing involved 5 users. I guided them through two tasks

  1. Suggest a film to a friend

  2. Suggest episode 6 of a TV show to a friend

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In addition to the wireframe changes, users also had some positive feedback:

  • Intuitive. All users provided verbal feedback that the feature felt straightforward.

  • Icon memorable. Users quickly learned and remembered the icon, managing to successfully use it in places where it didn't have a label.

  • Looks in place. Two users didn’t notice the new feature at first due to the UI fitting so well with Netflix’s existing look.

  • No hesitation or delay when navigating through the guided tasks.

New Icon

I began by studying Netflix's current icon style and then sketched ideas for a new icon that signifies "making a suggestion."

 

I noted that the icon should convey:

  • the action of sending something

  • and the thoughtfulness associated with receiving recommendations.

 

I avoided using confusing icons like chat bubbles. Instead, I opted for a heart symbol for its association with love and thoughtfulness. To ensure clarity, I experimented with combining the heart with a hand gesture (option 1) and a forward arrow (option 2) to enhance the communication of the action.

Research on Netflix's existing icons
Proposed new icon sketches

Introducing Netflix Social

With Netflix Social, users can now interact in-app by sending their friends personalized suggestions for the titles they think they'd love.

Netflix Social is a new section of the mobile app and easily accessible from the navigation bar. 

SUGGEST SOMETHING TO A FRIEND

Users can engage socially by sending thoughtful suggestions to people they know. The app encourages users to do this in several places so there are plenty of opportunities to engage with the new feature.

Simply click the new 'suggest' button wherever you find it and send a TV series, episode or film to a friend if you think they'll enjoy it too.

Netflix Mockup Screen
Netflix Mockup Screen
EASILY MANAGE SUGGESTIONS

Add suggestions to My List, mark them as watched or delete them if you're not interested. Get more control by seeing who has sent you a suggestion and muting a sender if their suggestions don't seem like your cup of tea.

Netflix Mockup Screen
Netflix Mockup Screeng
MY NETFLIX SOCIAL

Users get a dedicated section of the mobile app to view, filter and manage the suggestions they get from their friends. On this page, users can also easily view and edit their own public social information and access the Netflix Social Settings.

Netflix Mockup Screen
Netflix Mockup Screen
FIND NEW CONTENT

Suggestions help users discover new content that might be hidden from the Top 10 lists or New and Hot, for example if it's an older classic or less mainstream title. They can also search their suggestions by title, genre and sender name or email. Additional filters help the user conveniently find something to watch with just a couple of clicks. As an added bonus, users can see what the most suggested titles are in their country or region that month, giving them more ideas.

Netflix Mockup Screen
Netflix Mockup Screen
SHAVE OFF TIME

Users get notified that they have a new suggestion, and can also conveniently see what's been sent to them under the new 'Friends want you to watch' category on Home and My Profile. This lets them easily open up the mobile app and play a suggested TV series or film without needing to visit their Netflix Social page. In addition, the feature solves the need to visit 3rd party websites like Rotten Tomatoes, Reddit and IMDb to figure out if they want to watch something.

Netflix Mockup Screen
Netflix Mockup Screen

The Future of Netflix Social

This case study explores an introductory feature of a broader concept: the social era of Netflix. The Suggestions feature was conceptualized with expansion in mind. In future, additional features may include:

  • Public customizable profiles. Users can choose to display their recently watched, top rated, and highly recommended titles.

  • Public watchlists. Users could create watchlists based on prompts such as 'What are your top 3 rom-coms?' or 'Top Thriller Movies'.

  • Expression of favourites to elicit better suggestions. This idea lets users set publicly-visible preferences like their favorite genre(s) or actor(s) for improved suggestions.

Reflections

This project showed how important it is to set clear research questions and goals. At first, the aim was just to add a social feature to the mobile app, but this led to broad research goals. These goals helped somewhat, but they weren't detailed enough for me to feel confident making design decisions during planning and sketching.

I managed to come up with final designs through user testing and making changes, but things might have gone quicker with more detailed research goals and questions. This would've also allowed for more changes or even adding a small feature. Starting with such a broad goal - adding a social feature - meant it was vital to break it down into something more specific before brainstorming ideas.

Relying only on interviews and user personas made it hard to narrow down ideas, as there were many social features that could've improved the typical Netflix experience. So, I carried on with synthesis after sorting ideas. During a brainstorming session, I focused on the main challenges identified earlier and changed the problem to be more about the user. This led to the specific problem of users needing a way to recommend things to friends.

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