Netflix is Designing with Community Input

The Netflix team has a blog: Netflix Community Blog (via Sarah)

NetflixThe blog is interesting for several reasons, most notably the candidness of the posts. In this post on Movie Privacy, for example, the team talks about a new feature whereby you can mark movies private, so as to not show them to your friends. Michael writes:

“So, in a rather unNetflix-like way, we’re just going to release it to Friends users in the next week or so. Let’s see if this finally allows you to connect to folks you know slightly less well (or maybe too well), and for whom you absolutely needed the ability to hide some titles. We’ve all read your comments and suggestions for how best to implement this. Trust me: this isn’t that. It’s not that we’re not hearing your suggestions, it’s just i was interested in getting this in front of you quickly.”

This is really cool! Michael is obviously taking on a community manager type role here, announcing new features and asking for feedback. Saying that their new feature isn’t even the one that users were asking for is pretty interesting, too…how many design teams would do that?

The Netflix team has a blog: Netflix Community Blog (via Sarah)

NetflixThe blog is interesting for several reasons, most notably the candidness of the posts. In this post on Movie Privacy, for example, the team talks about a new feature whereby you can mark movies private, so as to not show them to your friends. Michael writes:

“So, in a rather unNetflix-like way, we’re just going to release it to Friends users in the next week or so. Let’s see if this finally allows you to connect to folks you know slightly less well (or maybe too well), and for whom you absolutely needed the ability to hide some titles. We’ve all read your comments and suggestions for how best to implement this. Trust me: this isn’t that. It’s not that we’re not hearing your suggestions, it’s just i was interested in getting this in front of you quickly.”

This is really cool! Michael is obviously taking on a community manager type role here, announcing new features and asking for feedback. Saying that their new feature isn’t even the one that users were asking for is pretty interesting, too…how many design teams would do that?

Now, some of you might ask: “why would Netflix be so open about what they’re doing, even so far as to say how they don’t have it all figured out yet”.

All I can say is: welcome to a new age of design. An age where you work with your users to find out the best solution, and in doing so you not only solicit their feedback, but you show them you’re human and you care by actually having a conversation with them. While some people don’t deign to have conversations and only want to be seen as an expert, others are more humble and realize that it’s OK to actually have a conversation instead. Let people know you’re not perfect. In fact…you’ll notice that it’s quite endearing to be honest instead.

Now, if I had to guess who is going to create a better design, a design team that doesn’t have a public conversation and one that does…well the one that does is going to get a lot more feedback to go on while seeding their features and getting a LOT more attention in the process. It’s a riskier strategy, to be sure, but one with bigger potential payoff.

A fast rollout and quick iteration strategy is better than a slow rollout and slow iteration strategy. I wrote about this in:

The Freedom of Fast Iterations: How Netflix Designs a Winning Web Site.

After meeting some of the members of the design team and seeing them have this sort of conversation on their blog, I’m still very impressed with the way they work. They really seem to know that having a conversation with users is what great business is all about.

Published: July 9th, 2007

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