Monday, June 3, 2013

Why Netflix autoplay is broken by design

Netflix has a cool feature where after you are finished watching one episode of a TV show, it will forward you on to the next one.  It's a neat idea but it's implemented so badly as to be border-line user hostile.

It starts before the previous show ends


When the show your watching gets to the credits, it is crunched into a mini-box where in the credits play out in miniature.  This is the same thing that happens with broadcast television except that Netflix isn't showing ads for anything except for other shows you might want to watch.

Hey, I was watching that.

Some people view this as disrespectful to the creators of the show, which is an interesting argument but not one we're going to bring up here.  A much better argument is that many shows don't just show credits at the end, they add in an extra scenes or follow-ups.  This is most famous from Arrested Development where the producers added a false 'Next Time on Arrested Development'.  So the system is actually removing value from me.

It fails at actually auto-playing


Netflix will actually start playing the next episode of the show you were watching.  Which is nice, if that's what you want.  The trouble is that's implemented so badly that no one would possibly want it to work that way.  What it does is play for a few minutes into the show and then stops playback to ask if you want to actually continue watching the show.

Seriously, I was watching that.

So now, I have stop what I'm doing and go instruct Netflix to actually auto-play.  This is UX equivalent of stepping on a Lego.  It's just bad and needs to go away.

You can't turn it off 


The final sin is that I can't configure it one way or the other.  Maybe you like it this way and that's fine, but what I want is the ability to configure it operate differently.  I understand that more config options will increase testing, but there has to be a reasonable middle ground.

A simple option to turn off 'auto-play' would have hugely improved usability.  You can leave this feature on by default, but I know would turn it off given the choice.