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Netflix Tweaks Streaming Interface, Users Howl

9 Jun, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Less than 24 hours after Netflix quietly updated sections of its streaming website, an avalanche of users bombarded the online disc rental pioneer's blog site in protest.

Specifically, Netflix enhanced title images, added more of them to a page and now displays its vaunted star ratings, information and other functions (previously posted on the page) only when hovering a mouse over a select title image, according to a June 8 post by Michael Spiegelman, director of product management at Netflix.

While 51 users “liked” the changes, according to Facebook, more than 1,100 comments on Blog.Netflix.com took a decidedly different view — with some dissent notably hostile.

Respondents appeared most upset Netflix had fiddled with a streaming website they believed worked just fine before. Most lamented that scrolling for titles now took longer (“You've managed to make your layout look sleeker and operate far clunkier,” wrote one user) since title information disappears when moving the mouse.

Many respondents thought the changes were initially due to technical glitches on the site, not a design switch. Some threatened to cancel; most just wanted to vent.

“Thanks, now I can instantly determine that Netflix has nothing interesting to watch,” wrote Anonymous, who then added dozens of additional posts of anger.

“It's quite dazzling how much I hate the new look and feel of the Netflix site,” wrote Umgawa. “It might be a great idea for people on tablets or PS3's or dealing with remote controls for input, but for those of us who have keyboards … you've just made navigating the site considerably slower. Netflix was supposed to be an improvement over going to a place like Blockbuster. But at least at Blockbuster, the movies are in alphabetical order.”

Others said Netflix should have beta-tested the changes before going forward in real-time.

“The new layout is ‘god awfully’ hideous,” wrote Cliffbender. “Seriously, what the hell were your designers thinking? Let's see how many users we can lose in one day?”

Another user said the changes denied him the ability to rapidly avoid movies and TV shows Netflix’s recommendation software had already determined he wouldn’t like.

“That you would hamper my paid-for ability to do this is a real slap in the wallet,” wrote Sorkinfan.

Then, there was this: “I like the new interface,” wrote Punctuation, without elaboration. “Big improvement.”

Netflix spokesperson Steve Swasey said the changes to the streaming site will overcome naysayers eventually.

"Change can be unsettling for some, but not the vast majority," Swasey said.


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