Netflix Features: Removing & Minimizing

Good design requires sound decisions about what not to include rather than what to include. Netflix has been trimming down and streamlining several areas of its website. Two recent changes have stood out:

  1. Removal of profile attributes to customer reviewers (avatar image, nick name, and bio)
  2. Immediate playability of films while browsing thumbnails within featured categories (namely on a member’s logged in home page)

Netflix just announced its decision to remove avatar images and associated attributes to customer reviewers. It seems to be effective immediately. Their reasoning:

“…very few Netflix members use them.”

If these features aren’t used by the majority of Netflix members, or if they are simply getting in the way of writing a review, what justifies their existence?

For anyone who’s been paying attention, Netflix as an organization seems rather hostile towards the entire “social” media scene. They’ve never had a very good social platform for connecting with other users who like film (even though they permitted member profiles, avatar images, etc.). And note that there is no use of any social plugins for third-party platforms anywhere (e.g., Facebook and Twitter). If their internal data shows that these social functions are popular or used (face it: people love Netflix because the service provides immediately accessible, quality streams of a deep selection of film and television shows), it’s in their best interest to minimize the user experience.

The same goes for another design choice recently employed: the immediate playability of the Watch Instantly catalog. Instead of clicking on a film poster thumbnail, arriving at the film description page, and then clicking “Watch Now”, you have the option of simply clicking/tapping the film poster thumbnail and immediately triggering the film to begin. It can be guessed that the time spent on film description pages from the homepage and category pages (not search) was so low that Netflix merely optimized the speed for users getting to their desired destination: playing the actual video.

Netflix Immediate Playability