Netflix and Hulu: A Master Class on Bad UX

Like most people, I find it horribly, offensively annoying that Netflix starts auto-playing a preview of every show if you hover on it for 3 seconds. I’m not sure what they are trying to achieve in a specific sense (of course, money, in a broader sense), but when I am browsing their content, there are a lot of shows I don’t give half a chance because I don’t have time to read a summary of the show before my screen gets taken over by some loud, in-your-face preview that I did not ask for.

I’ve seen this kind of thing from the business end also. I’ve seen a company use a super-annoying sticky banner that follows you down the screen as you scroll. Even internally we all thought it was annoying. Once in a conference I suggested to our product manager that we could probably make the banner follow the mouse around if he wanted. But we kept that horrible sticky banner because of the numbers and A-B testing. The numbers said that sticky banner made us more money.

And what can I say? I still subscribe to Netflix. I may review that pretty soon though. All the shows I used to watch on Netflix have moved over to Hulu, which has a much better offering of shows and one the worst user interface I have ever seen come from a major company. Hulu’s sin is that their app interface locks while it’s trying to download something in the background (or at least it seems to lock very often from my experience as a user). In my experience, you can just scroll down a list of TV titles and if you scroll back up, it downloads them again or does some kind of processing and locks the screen until it has finished. You hit the up button twice, and 5 seconds later the screen responds and you see titles that were already downloaded and should be cached and ready to go. Asynchronous fetching and non-blocking interface, please! This ain’t 2005.

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