Despite their status as the world’s two largest streaming platforms, and both being well versed in the need for content to be easily discoverable, both Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are inflicting some shockingly poor user experiences on customers which hamper the ability to find new things to watch.
Visually the worst culprit is Amazon.
Streaming services come pre-installed on ever greater numbers of Smart TVs, Blu-ray players and media boxes, but many people still want to browse a website – either because they want to see what content’s available before signing-up or because they want to view while on the move – and the current UK Prime Video web experience sucks. Big time.
Whereas the app and Smart TV version of the service offers a modern, image rich experience – though one where viewers have to navigate a sometimes confusing mix of bundled and Pay-Per-View and digital download content – web users in one of Amazon’s biggest markets are forced to use a site which was designed for buying things, not watching things.
A layout which works when your visitor wants to buy some dog food doesn’t necessarily provide the optimum experience for browsing and watching films and TV shows. Even the fairly recent arrival of a Prime Video home page hasn’t really improved things because once you click through you’re back to the repurposed shopping layout.
Presumably this is to increase the chances of you buying something before or after your video session but the only effect it has on me is to send me off to watch something on Netflix or Now TV instead.
Why can’t Amazon just offer UK customers a dedicated Prime Video site – like the one it recently launched for international users – with a nice link back to the shopping site?
Surely its rich user data gives it enough confidence that those paying £79 a year for Amazon Prime are still going to visit the shopping site when they want to buy something in order to benefit from the free delivery perk?
But as irksome as Amazon’s poor website is, Netflix’s recommendation engine manages to trump it in the ‘truly terrible user experience’ stakes.
Time and again I’ve had a title recommended to me which I’ve already watched on the very same Netflix account.
There’s no point recommending that I watch The Talented Mr Ripley because I watched Good Will Hunting when I watched The Talented Mr Ripley just a fortnight ago.
Equally when I’ve watched a film based on a book there’s little use in showing me a list of films based on books which includes In The Heat The Night because I already watched it and Netflix knows I did because it mines my viewing history in order to find new things I might like and uses that same data to populate the ‘watch it again’ list.
And yes, Dylan O’Brien is in both Teen Wolf and The Maze Runner but I already watched both of them so again, there’s no point including either title in the suggested ‘Top Picks’ that have supposedly been curated just for me.
What Netflix ought to be doing is filtering out things it knows I already watched from its initial list of suggestions and offering me different things I might actually like rather than it absolutely knows I already watched.
In recent years both services have invested heavily in original and first-run shows but each is making it unnecessarily hard for users to find and enjoy them.