3 Ways to Make Netflix Even Better

by     Posted 4 years, 208 days ago

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For my money (and it does get my money), Netflix is far and away the best way to rent movies.  Its “Watch Instantly” service is fantastic and their overall library contains so many movies that you can rent films that aren’t even available for sale like Ishtar and Mr. Frost.  It’s a service that’s constantly trying to expand its availability as well as its digital distribution.

However, there are some frustrating problems that I think could be easily fixed with some programming tweaks and no need for major overhaul of their impressive navigation or recommendation system.  After the jump, I’ve listed three ways that Netflix could be even better for customers and take another step ahead of its competitors.  Keep reading for my suggestions on how Netflix can improve customer queue organization, provide information on demand for a title, and notifications of title expiration.

netflix_matt_watch_instantly_queue_jan_2010.jpg1. QUEUE CUSTOMIZATION

The Netflix queue system is where the company needs to drastically improve the user experience.  It’s great to have hundreds of movies you know want to watch but it’s easy to get overwhelmed and forget there’s a movie you really wanted to see because it’s buried beneath hundreds of other movies that only rank higher because you chose to add them to your queue first.  I add movies to my queue based on what catches my eye and as a reminder that I want to see the film some day.

The Fix: FOLDERS.  Rather than just being able to rearrange your queue by rank of when you want to be sent the film (since you’re assuming what you’re going to want to watch days or weeks in advance using their rent-by-mail service), Netflix should offer users to create their own folders so they can organize their viewing preferences.  Whether it’s by genre, movies you want to re-watch, or a series of films by a director, actor, etc. that you’re planning to marathon, it would make the queue more accessible than just having to scroll through hundreds of titles and trying to pick just one.

2. CUSTOMER DEMAND

It’s difficult to understand the demand of a particular title.  Even the Netflix “Top 100″ doesn’t make it clear whether it’s measuring films by how often they’re sent our or by how queues they’re in.  And if I click on Crash, the #1 title of the Top 100, I see it has “3,485,240″ ratings.  But that doesn’t equal rentals.  I saw the film in the theaters and rated it on Netflix without ever renting or adding it to my queue.  And no matter what the title, I don’t know how many times it’s been rented out, how many customers have it in their queues, and how it would rank among its genre, director, or any other major category.

netflix_distribution_center_01.jpgThe Fix: MORE DATA.  Obviously, Netflix needs to follow what Amazon does when listing a sales ranking.  It’s not enough to have users rank a film on a one-to-five scale and then use that to demonstrate a title’s popularity.  More data means customers can make a better decision on what to rent and they can help bring attention to a film that may be overlooked by the masses.  It’s one thing to just rate a film, but if you see that it’s in a bunch of queues or has been rented loads of times, you may want to trust the wisdom of the mob and give the flick a shot.

3. NOTIFCATIONS

On December 31st, 2009 and January 1st, 2010, I lost a huge chunk of my “Watch Instantly” queue.  I understand the reason for expiration since licenses expire, but I wouldn’t have even known about the expiration had I not checked my “Watch Instantly” queue on December 30th to see if there was a film I felt like watching in that instant.  If I had known that I would be losing certain titles indefinitely in the near future, I would have re-arranged my queue to see these films before they were gone.

The Fix: USE THE ELECTRONIC MAIL. Netflix will notify you via e-mail about your account status and when they’ve sent and received films from your queue.  How difficult would it be to send out an e-mail saying, “The following titles in your ‘Watch Instantly’ queue are set to expire in…”  And then say when it’s one month out, two weeks out, one week out, two days out, one day out, and finally when it’s been moved to your ‘Saved’ queue.”  You don’t know what you got until it’s gone, but it would be helpful to let people know when it’s about to go.

Do you have any other suggestions on how to make Netflix better?  Let us know in the comments section.




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  • Corey

    Also, the same cost for blu-ray as dvd would be nice

  • http://twitter.com/cablebfg Bill Graham

    It would be nice, but they have to justify the extra expense. As a Blu-ray owner, I know going in that they cost more to purchase. Why would I expect to rent them for the same money?

  • http://twitter.com/cablebfg Bill Graham

    I like alot of the logic here. I think alot of titles do get buried. It is ALOT easier to manage when you have a small queue.

    Also, I'd love to see a reminder for when certain titles expire as well. Man, I really was shocked to see so many films in my “saved queue”.

    Also like the idea of seeing what are popular RENTALS. As you suggested, perhaps alot of people missed out on a gem in theaters and are catching up through rental.

  • Steve Capell

    Thinking out side the box here are some things I would like to see:

    Streaming over wifi to the iphone

    RSS feed to your queue for fast view from a browser

    I would love to see a better sort for moves i.e. Show all Blu-ray, comedy, 4.0 or higher rating produced in 2009. (Or any combination various selections) I feel this help with searching out those truly have to see movies. All too often I find myself looking through lots of movies to find what I want to rent. They do offer a way to kind of get to this but you are only given one field to sort on i.e. Year, Maturity, or Rating.

    I agree with Corey Blu-Ray rental kept at the same price as DVD.

  • http://collider.com Matt Goldberg

    I think Blu-ray will eventually come down to the same cost. If you look at DVD and Blu-ray prices right now, the Blu-ray version of a movie falls fast in price.

  • flicster

    I've been a Netflixer since 2000 and am am a huge fan of them (the thought of going to a Blockbuster utterly repulses me to the core). They used to have a link to request a title, but I no longer see that (maybe it moved?). I would love to have that back since there are some obscure titles I'd love to rent before I buy. They also need to be getting more copies of newer titles as I've fallen into the “very long wait” trap on many of them lately.

  • onesixcore

    “FOLDERS. Rather than just being able to rearrange your queue by rank of when you want to be sent the film (since you’re assuming what you’re going to want to watch days or weeks in advance using their rent-by-mail service), Netflix should offer users to create their own folders so they can organize their viewing preferences. Whether it’s by genre, movies you want to re-watch, or a series of films by a director, actor, etc. that you’re planning to marathon, it would make the queue more accessible than just having to scroll through hundreds of titles and trying to pick just one.”

    I do love the idea that Matt has brought to the table. I'd also like to add, they should do the same for the XBOX 360 feature. I've found that I've been adding lots of movies to the instant que and when I got to watch one I have to search through lots of movies to select which one I would like to watch. The folders idea is a great way to cut down on searching through the dreadful que.

  • Michael

    The “Folders” idea is interesting, but I think it adds a number of complications that aren't brought up here. In particular, you're still going to have to decide the order you want your discs shipped. Which “folder” is your next disc going to ship from?

  • cholm690

    My only real problem is when I go to watch a movie on Netflix Instant and its non-anamorphic. Most of the time I stop watching and add it to my regular rent queue.

  • Corin Prendiville

    They should also include their own pre-built movie packs. Like Top 100 Horror Films of All Time, Oscar Winners, etc.

    More data would be awesome I like learning facts about movies, seeing how many are watching them, or under-appreciated films as well.

    • Audra

      I love that idea!

  • http://collider.com Matt Goldberg

    I was thinking this applied more to Watch Instantly, but that's a good question regarding the general queue.

  • http://twitter.com/cablebfg Bill Graham

    that bugs me sometimes, but I really could careless. If it is a good film, it will overcome that shortfall.

  • Name

    being able to browse all the watch instantly titles
    old titles don't appear when you are browsing its not they have expired either

  • Cinimod

    I've been very disappointed with Netflix lately. I have not received a movie rated above 4th in my queue for months. I called their customer service line and was advised to limit my queue to just those top 3-4 movies. I did this and they have not sent me anything for almost 2 days. I downgraded my membership to 1 movie at a time instead of 3. It's not the money but the frustration of the service. I've been a Netflix subscriber for over 4 years. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who is frustrated by this poor service.

  • Al Swearengen

    Expanding NETFLIX into other markets might be an idea. There's a huge potential market in the UK that is left largely untapped. Still no love over here…
    What gives? Are they still having licensing concerns? After all this time?
    Lazy, sloppy… and frankly quite worthless.

  • http://twitter.com/mattsaari Matt Saari

    A big improvement for me would be getting Blu-Rays that actually play. I'm on a run of 15 out of 16 movies where at least the first two copies they sent to me had cracks in them. They blame my local post office, but then put the onus on ME to fix the problem with THEIR shipments. The on-demand stuff is nice, though.

  • Lisa

    Add a notes field where you can keep a list of titles not in the database but ones you want to keep checking for. It does not have to do anything but just be a free form place to store movie names within Netflix.

  • Mani

    Get more newly released movies, the long waits are something that would have me going to their competitors, depending on how long it took to finally get those movie and make them available.

    Have the mainstream movies that have just come out be listed highest to lowest rated and separate from the obscure stuff for the instant movies.

  • mark

    for physical discs, this feature already exists in the form of profiles … along with the solution, you simply define shipping preferences within the profile particulars.

    All that needs to happen to address the cumbersome queue length (which I'm merely re-iterating from comments I've seen elsewhere online) is to allow each profile tied to an account a Watch Instantly folder on the Roku and other interfaces for Watch Instantly.

    Another issue that needs to be addressed related to these ideas, but not clearly articulated, is the general queue management interface and it's constant knack for hanging up – literally for minutes at a time. It takes too damned long for the display to load and to update after queue changes. There needs to be a more bare-bones option for viewing that would allow more timely completion a of a few basic manipulations to the queue — it should be a more progressive interface, Netflix is too old to still be subjecting it's users to such sluggish software. I can't fathom that an iPhone app exists to allow users to do queue maintenance on the fly, but I need to endure a twenty minute session most visits to make a few simple tweaks to my desired titles or the order in which they are listed.

    Netflix has been around for YEARS and seem to make very little effort to address such a basic issue that realistically must impact the majority if its users. That the problem is universal from one computer to the next, without regard to the browser I use on any given day tells me that the blame rests entirely in Netflix's lap. Users shouldn't be punished in this way simply for wanting to maintain large “wish-lists” – which is what our queues ultimately represent. We should instead be encouraged to add many more titles to our queues: job-security for these folks, after all, is our continued interest in what they have to offer, no?

  • mark

    for physical discs, this feature already exists in the form of profiles … along with the solution, you simply define shipping preferences within the profile particulars.

    All that needs to happen to address the cumbersome queue length (which I'm merely re-iterating from comments I've seen elsewhere online) is to allow each profile tied to an account a Watch Instantly folder on the Roku and other interfaces for Watch Instantly.

    Another issue that needs to be addressed related to these ideas, but not clearly articulated, is the general queue management interface and it's constant knack for hanging up – literally for minutes at a time. It takes too damned long for the display to load and to update after queue changes. There needs to be a more bare-bones option for viewing that would allow more timely completion a of a few basic manipulations to the queue — it should be a more progressive interface, Netflix is too old to still be subjecting it's users to such sluggish software. I can't fathom that an iPhone app exists to allow users to do queue maintenance on the fly, but I need to endure a twenty minute session most visits to make a few simple tweaks to my desired titles or the order in which they are listed.

    Netflix has been around for YEARS and seem to make very little effort to address such a basic issue that realistically must impact the majority if its users. That the problem is universal from one computer to the next, without regard to the browser I use on any given day tells me that the blame rests entirely in Netflix's lap. Users shouldn't be punished in this way simply for wanting to maintain large “wish-lists” – which is what our queues ultimately represent. We should instead be encouraged to add many more titles to our queues: job-security for these folks, after all, is our continued interest in what they have to offer, no?

  • namehere5678

    This article is a bit too whiny. It's a good service, just deal with it. You make it sound like life or death if Netflix doesn't email you something from your queue will expire. They have the warnings up there whenever you check, you need an email too? And folders? Makes no sense to me; just put the movies in the order you want it to be. There's a Move to top of list options. You can rearrange it all you want. You really need your hand held in making a decision on what movie to rent?

  • Stuartashcraft

    HOWE DO YOU SEND THE MOVIE OVER WEE.

  • Walter

    Folders would be nice, but tags would be nicer. Imagine if you could tag a specific film with your own categories and then sort by any tag (or multiple tags). For example, you could show all movies that were tagged Dad, Sci-Fi, and Never Seen.

    Also, for the expirations, they should just make it more evident on the site (and optionally an e-mail). If I could click a button to arrange my queue by expiration date, that would be good enough. But if they integrated expiration dates with the tag solution I mentioned before, then you could sort your list to show you things that were expiring in the next 7 days, next 14 days, and so on.

  • Leif Eriksen

    How about a change where one can receive a DVD quicker.
    instead of waiting days (48 hoiurs), how about the next day after sending a DVD back? You would let them know you are mailing it back today and they would mail another one today. All that needs to be worked out is a level of trust and accountability from the user. I don’t know what would work so Netflix can count on that DVD being returned.

  • Justin H.

    My overall #1 complaint is that when I go to watch a movie I like to stumble upon hidden gems or old movies that I may have forgotten about, case in point, I watched Tremors the other day with my girlfriend and I said to her hey I miss this movie I want to watch part 2. Onto Netflix I went, couldnt find it under horror in any category or scifi so Im like oh they dont have it. So I did a search and they have all 4 of the movies to be streamed instantly. Why does Netflix have so many hidden instant streaming items that I wont ever know they have if I dont specifically search for it? How many movies do they have that I dont remember watching from when I was a kid or that I have yet to see? I should have access to browse the entire instant library with an intuitive filter feature by century and rating so forth like they do for setting up your suggestions.

  • Ryan ligotti

    Why is there not an auto play feature? If I am watching a tv series on streaming It should automatically play the next show in the series. I hate having to press play as soon as an episode is over.

  • didcrywolf

    USER EXPERIENCE
    There are so many devices out there now that Netflix obviously needs to work with manufacturers to build dumbed down interfaces. In that light, they have made choices on how their data is made available to their clientele.
    I think that is the wrong approach. If you take the ULTIMATE user experience end game of delivering content in the most enjoyable to the end user you will win more consumers.
    I see many jobs openings at Netflix but not one for MASTER consumer experience GURU… THAT HAS TO BE BETTER BRANDED! Which inevitably will create opportunity!

    FILM SELECTION
    if I could IMDB (A REAL DATABASE!)My selections and not have to use Netflix system to see if they have a movie…
    I find it such a turnoff. Alas IMDB belongs to Amazon, the mother of all competitors, since 1999… smart move there… Netflix needs to work out a better database quick!

    MORAL RESPONSIBILITIES
    With 25 Million users, Netflix owes it to its fans to set up a non-profit arm to acquire, encourage the restoration and ultimately offer old forgotten gems stuck in VHS, PAL or even older formats. There are only so many Three stooges episodes I care for to see, but an entire Howard Hawks or Rita Hayworth collection would be so cool to discover with multiple generations of viewers. Right now it`s a pathetic hodgepodge found in a garage sale
    INTERACTING WITH VIEWERS
    Netflix should issue a couple of Youtube videos showing how they operate and put faces to their tirelessly working employees. Running a one way blog and sharing your new product rollouts is quite insulting in this day and age and running a proper forum with all the good and warts showing makes for more innovation.
    RECENT HAPPY EVENT
    In the meantime I just saw two amazing french movies and I would like to congratulate the NETFLIX acquirers for a job well done: The Names of Love (2010) and Romantics Anonymous (2010). Light, airy romantic comedies who don`t take audiences for total morons, WOW that`s an IDEA!.

    As A true movie lover and a renwed Netflix subscriber I could go on on ways to improve Netflix for their whole ecosystem but I guess you only have so much time to spend reading these line in wishful thinking land!

    Cheers

    DCW

  • Audra

    I would like to be able to link my IMDB account to Netflix, as it is easier to rate movies and shows on IMDB, and it has the Watchlist feature, which could be a folder, as well, instead of only being able to add to the instant queue.

  • shaquita

    I would like to have all the seasons of the Martin Lawrence show on netflix and Movies like “The Temptations” and “The five heartbeats” old shows and classic movies that shouldn’t be hard to lease

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