How I would fix Netflix

by Ben Myers

I took Netflix up on their 30-day trial offer as soon as it launched in Canada. With a PS3 and enough monthly transfer allowance from my ISP, I’m the ideal tester for this great new app that will – before you can say ‘Rogers sucks’ – change how people watch television

Overall, Netflix is a godsend; the content streams quickly, the interface is image-rich simple, and there are lots of movies. Too many. In fact, that’s Netflix’s #1 problem: How to help customers find movies they will like.

Netflix attempts to address this from the moment you sign-up with a questionnaire that tries to nail down what sorts of movies you’re in to by suggesting films and asking you to rate them. For me, that was pretty easy.

Terminator 2: Judegment Day – 4 stars

Superbad – 5 stars

500 Days of Summer – 5 stars

So I enjoy movies with guns, vulgar language and heartbreak (and/or explosions)? That sounds about right.

So Netflix has suggested dozens of movies for me over the past 20 days or so, and I still find myself browsing the library for 15-20 minutes trying to find something appealing to watch. It’s extremely frustrating.

But this problem is certainly not limited to Netflix. Bringing the right content to the right people is, some might suggest, the problem of our time. For instance, it’s Google’s mission statement:

To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Though for the purposes of this blog, I might replace ‘useful’ with ‘relevant’. How can something be useful without being relevant?

So let me suggest these three features that Netflix could use to make their app more relevant for Canadians sifting through their library of movies. Later, ask yourself what you could do to your website to make it more navigable, relevant to the user, and customized based on their data.

Here we go:

1. Add to “watch later” – Just because I don’t want to watch it right now doesn’t mean that I don’t like the movie, let me add it to a playlist or special category so that when I want to watch it, this movie is right in front of my face.

2. Remove irrelevant movies – If it’s been on my main page for 3 weeks and I haven’t watched it, rated it, or added it to a playlist (see #1) then chances are that I’m not interested. Use this main page space for a new movie for me to watch or ignore. Then use this data to further tailor my Netflix suggestions.

3. One random suggestion – Though Netflix might like to think that 100% of my likes and dislikes can be found in an algorithm, it’s just not the case with current technological limitations. So show me a movie that just barely fits among my ‘likes’. In the past 7 days, I’ve gone from ‘Air Force One’ to ‘Man On the Moon’ and loved them both for different reasons.

Have you tried Netflix? What features would you add?

Ben Myers


See more posts from Ben