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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Does Netflix think we are Stupid or just Nearsighted?

When I first started using Netflix years ago, I got a nice list of programs with the title written as in text.  There was a link so that if I clicked on it, I could receive more details about the show.  Perhaps I could read more summary or see various episodes.

But as with all things the site was updated.  Now, instead of easy searchable text, all videos are in a graphic logo with the name written into the logo.  The change meant that we could see fewer titles on the screen without having to scroll.  It also meant we could not easily do a word search for the title we want.

More annoying is the fact that clicking on the graphic simply starts playing an episode.  Which episode plays depends on what Netflix remembers you having watched.  Often, is is a convenience as you can start up where you left off.  But say you want a different episode.  Perhaps you watched a few episodes years ago, but now want to start over at the beginning.  Or perhaps you watched a couple of episodes on another account and want to skip ahead.  That becomes a much more complicated process now.

Even more annoying is when I accidentally let my cursor drift over some point of the screen, which causes it to enlarge and cover over other things.  Do website designers really think I am too lazy to push the click button on whatever I am hovering over?  There is no reason to change the screen unless I click on something.

Today, when I first bring up the Netflix screen, I don't get to see my list of selected movies.  Almost the entire screen is filled with a picture of some suggested movie that Neflix thinks may interest me.  It rarely does, but if something does catch my attention and I begin reading it, the screen spontaneously decides to move on to another video after a few seconds, so that I have to go an flip back to what I was reading before being interrupted.

Below that are rows of pictures of videos.  Sometimes my list appears near the top.  Sometimes a "continue watching" list is at the top, showing me series that I have begun watching,.  Some are series that I have completed watching but which continue to linger there filling up my screen with shows that I have already seen.  Some are series where I watched one episode, hated, and have no desire to see again.  Yet it is still there bothering me to continue watching.  I can dig deep into the settings to remove items from the "continue watching" list, but I find having to do that annoying.  Why can't I just see the list I created and edit to show me what I want?  Then there are many more rows of suggested topics that Netlix thinks I might enjoy.  Most of them are shows I have already watched on TV and have no desire to see again.  Most others are really not anything I ever wanted to see.

Even when I go through the trouble to click on "my list" and get back to a good old text list of shows I have selected, there is still so much junk added to the page.  I usually have about 40 shows on my list at once.  Yet, Neflix cannot seem to squeeze the name of more than about 15 titles on a single page without having to scroll. First, only one title can appear per line, with a good deal of space between lines.  I don't need to see the ratings for shows I have already selected. I don't need to see the category of "TV Shows" for every show on my list.  There is also a column for "notes" which is always blank. I'm not sure if I can add my own notes there or something, but it certainly is not obvious how one would do so.

The other big problem is using "artificial intelligence" or "AI" to choose for me what you think I might like based on prior viewing.  Yes, you may occasionally have a good suggestion, but mostly you are just advertising shows to me that I never want to see.  You are filling the screen with crap rather than allowing me to design my own page of things I may want to see at some point.  In other words, you think you know better than I do what I want to see.  There is no way I can find to click on a movie and tell it to "stop showing me this, I never want to see it."  If you want to show me a small list of suggestions, or better yet have a link to suggestions on another page aside from the home page, that would be fine.  Shoving shows at me that I have no interest in seeing only clutters my page.

I pick on Netflix, but this is really part of a larger trend by many web site makers.  Text has been deemed too difficult for viewers and must be replaced by larger pictures.  One big reason for this is to make the page easier to view on smaller screens, such as a tablet or phone.  But in reality, if you are using a tablet or phone, you are likely not accessing the page through a web browser.  You are using an app that is designed for your device.  So there really is no good excuse for the changes.  You don't need to show me an image that is the size of about 10 Windows icons, filling up my page.

I also appreciate the use of AI to direct me toward information I may find useful.  But the reality is that while the site is making educated guesses about what I want, it is still just guessing.  Give me the option of showing me suggestions, but also make it easy to set up things the way I want them to be.

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