How Netflix taught me why User Experience matters

Plex was acting rather sluggish so I naturally started to eliminate the bottleneck thus tried different setups and eventually media playing options at home. For example running Plex Media Server on my laptop connected to the NAS wirelessly, then same with running sample locally, then trying out Video Station which is a stock solution for the Synology product line—the works.

However, this post is not about figuring out how to play media files at home. This is about realizing how important User Experience is, and how features, a solution offers, are not.

Netflix has been my default choice when watching movies and shows. It boils down to a couple of things:

– no fiddling with media files
– launches fast
– accessible from everywhere without needing me to configure anything
– the time it takes to display video content on screen is crazy fast
– seeking time is crazy fast
– handles profiles within the family (and keeps seek positions for the profiles)
– has subtitles which always work and is easy to turn on and off

None of the other solutions I explored offers these at the fidelity Netflix is capable of. If an app fails to deliver me these, I just tend not to use it. Not by conscious choice, it just is. The media player visuals don’t matter that much when I need to wait 10 seconds just to see the movie start to play.

You see, all of the media player solutions provide all these features. But sometimes they choke on media files, but then VLC can play them just fine. Sometimes they don’t display certain subtitles, but that other player does, and sometimes they don’t remember seek times. Netflix, on the other hand, constantly delivers on these and never fails. You have complete trust in Netflix.

If I were to maintain a roadmap for a media player solution, the experience provided by Netflix would be my North Star metric. We wouldn’t take on new features, integrations, podcasts, whatever feature business is convinced we need to have to succeed, unless we’re excellent in launching and seeking time metrics, media handling etc. It would require a completely a radically different thinking about our product architecture.

What I realize is that even though Netflix has limited content options when compared to other offerings, I tend to fall back to it. I just don’t want to fiddle with settings, IP addresses, managing media files, thinking about transcoding problems, and all that jazz.

I’m inclined to say when the core User Experience is great, you’ll win users over. The same way Netflix wins me over even though 2% of all the media produced in the world is available on it. At the end of the day I just want to hit the play button and watch something before passing out.