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Philippe Heckly
User Experience Designer

©Philippe Heckly, all rights reserved

Netflix – UX—adding a feature



Selecting a movie on screen


White boarding on a wall liberates you from the computer, makes the ideas flow more freely and makes collaboration easier.

A first attempt at showing the flow on a phone while still focusing on using “Groups” as our way to improve interaction with viewers on Netflix through social media. The idea was that social groups would be in synch with your taste and interests in movies. We ended up going for a simpler ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ rating as it was going to be easier to implement and likely to provide more accurate results.

Pile of sketches

Design studio is a quick way to bring out ideas and work collaboratively when ideas are still shooting left and right and one needs to whittle it down to the essential.

Movie recommendation screen

Here is what the movie recommendation screen with its thumbs up/thumbs down would look like.


Adding a feature

Category — UX
Date — April, 2015
Client — Netflix through GA


Selecting a movie on screen

A business problem

Though Netflix as a company is presently dominating its chosen market. It hasn’t always been the case. And as it is transforming itself, its current movie recommendation algorithm seems to be in need of improvements.

The team

This was a team of four project—Nicole Barron, Sophie Min, Kate Murdoch and myself—where we shared the responsibilities and deliverables among ourselves. Working in team is always both incredibly energizing and difficult as we wanted to make sure we respect each other’s work and process while making things happen.

My role

I took a business approach to this task as I wanted to investigate the company and find out everything I could on how Netflix makes money such as where the company is going, where its biggest threats and opportunities lay and how it should place itself in order to keep ahead in an ever changing market. I learned more about Netflix than I ever thought I would!

This resulted in some interesting finds such as learning about Netflix strategy of going global, its recent re-invention from an online movie rental platform to that of a new program provider, or the fact that the number of movies Netflix offers has dwindled from 100,000 when it was a DVD provider to just short of 10,000 movies that you can live-stream. These facts—though very important for the company’s future well being—we ended up shelving for the purpose of solving just one problem.

The problem

Even though Netflix, after investing heavily into movie recommendation algorithm was making the switch to streaming it was losing traction with millenials because of a confusing star rating system which left room for interpretation.

An spreadsheet for comparative analysis

The business competitive analysis I conducted confirmed Netflix leadership position even with its recent conversion from DVD rentals to Online Streaming Content Provider going head to head against HBO. In the words of Netflix CEO: “We aim to become HBO before HBO can become us!”

We created a survey on Typeform to gather quantitative data on users’ needs and habits. The above, first page of the survey, shows how prevalent Netflix is among movie viewers even with its recent reinvention as a streaming TV content provider.

Competitive analysis

Direct competition comes mostly from Amazon Prime Instant Video and HBO. Though Amazon is a powerful opponent it hasn’t invested enough to be a strong player yet. HBO just released in April 2015 its HBO Now package and offers all of HBO’s past, present and future programming without cable. This is a serious threat in retaliation for Netflix publicly stated goal to want “to be HBO before HBO can become us.”

The team decided to address this problem with a tangent and to look at what website thriving on recommendation were doing. We identified a few (reddit, spotify) though our main inspiration came from goodreads.com.[/vc_column_text]

A tool to help you better grasp the company.

Persona page

Our main persona was a Millennial with strong interest in social media and movie watching.

The process

After spending a lot of time trying to work with list we realized that we were not going anywhere with this approach and opted instead on creating a participatory way of influencing Netflix movie recommendation algorithm by adding a thumbs up or down button as a light and easy feature built on top of its existing system.

Testing, testing, testing!

Orpha testing on whiteboard prototype

Orpha, our TA giving us a hand in figuring out if the workflow we were proposing was working.

We learned to be resourceful and to test often, even with only a few screens.

Our proposed solution

Our goal was to integrate a small detail within the existing layout of the site that would improve its recommendation. We opted on placing a single link within the Netflix global navigation in order to increase its social network movie recommendation from within the Netflix ecosystem