Features I Wish Netflix Would Add

Preface: I like Netflix, and I’ve been happily using the service for years.

When Netflix changed their service last year, a lot of people quit using the service. To this day, I feel that Netflix has lost customers and is succeeding due in part to their monopoly. Too many other companies can compete in the streaming video business (or they think they can, at least); however, Netflix has an amazing algorithm to predict how much you will like a movie. If I were a product manager for Netflix I would showcase the ranking system and add a few new features to improve the user experience, rebuild the brand, and differentiate from the competition.

Before I discuss the features I would like to see added, let me explain a bit about how I use Netflix. I watch Netflix almost exclusively on my TV connected to my PS3. My tastes are pretty diverse and I watch all kinds of content (educational TV shows to samurai movies). My queue has contained over 50 items for almost as long as I’ve had Netflix.

With that in mind, here are a few features that would improve my Netflix experience:

Sorting. When looking at a list of movies, it would be nice to be able to sort, particularly by stars. Netflix has so much content! I don’t think I’ll stoop to the 1 or 2 star level anytime soon, so show those items last, or not at all. Showcase the ranking algorithm that can predict what I’ll like!

Filtering. Filtering is an extension to sorting, I think. With all the content, it is hard to wade through everything. As I said with sorting, I don’t plan to watch movies below 3 stars, so let me filter those out. I’m also not a fan of old movies, in general, so it would be nice to nix anything before some date. Often, I fire up Netflix with a vague notion of what I want to watch, but nothing particular in mind; it would be nice to find movies based on tags or multiple genres (like comedy and action). For example, one of our common searches boils down to a comedy made in the last 10 years; unfortunately, we have to keep those criteria in mind as we look through various queues (instant, comedy, new releases, recently added). I think there’s ample precedent of filtering interfaces (particularly in shopping sites like Amazon, Old Navy, Newegg, etc), so users would have little resistance to this change.

Guided decision making. Why not help people find something good to watch? The interface does a pretty good job of presenting a subset of content, but the sheer number of options can be overwhelming. This leads to choice-paralysis where it’s easier to watch nothing than to decide on the hundreds of options. To streamline the process, I would create a guided path that leads to a movie or a small subset of movies. For example, formalize the decision making process that is something like this: “I want a [classic|modern|new] [choose genre] [choose sub-genre] movie that is [short|medium|long].” This would also allow the user to find deeper content as well (the content that doesn’t fit in the 75 item lists shown in the current interface).

Intermediate “staging” area. Almost every time I have turned on Netflix I’ve scrolled through my queue trying to find something to watch. I’ll find maybe five items then decide what to watch off the short list. When watching with other people, we generally reach a group decision based on everyone’s input (Person A is game for “The Big Lebowski,” Person B wants to watch “Snatch,” and I’m feeling “Låt den rätte komma in”). This is another instance where a computer could assist effortlessly, but I have to hold all the information in my head.

There are other things Netflix could do (like increasing the amount and quality of content), but I think the above features could be easily achieved and provide a lot of bang for the buck.

What features do you think are missing? Do you use Netflix like I do? What would you like to see added or improved?