The Creative Practitioner: Netflix

“What started as a DVD-by-mail rental service has now spawned a slew of award-winning original television series, made available over 100 million hours of content, and virtually redefined what it means to watch, and create, TV in 2015.” – Business Insider UK 

Netflix is a great example of Design Thinking, with each phase carefully constructed and continually re-examined to help give the best user experience out there. There is no denying they have revolutionised the entertainment industry.  

I remember growing up first hearing about Netflix. It started off with seeing my friends and their parents ordering DVDs online and having them sent in the mail to arrive in a few short days. In the age where patience for these kinds of things hadn’t worn thin like it has today, this was novel. Not having to have your parents drive you down to the local Blockbuster and, instead, being able to click and choose your DVDs online was a major game changer... especially from a kid's perspective.  

Netflix spawned out of direct empathy for movie-watchers and their quest to watch their favourite or latest films. The whole company is based on empathising with making movies more accessible and easy to rent/purchase with as little hassle or inconvenience as possible. Their DVD-by-mail revolutionised the game and quickly made them a strong competitor to the veteran company, Blockbuster. Since then, Netflix has not only knocked out the OG's like Blockbuster but has continued to remain one of the strongest competitors in the rapidly evolving online services, remaining top of its game even as new competitors, such as Hulu and Amazon, have surfaced and tried their hand to dethrone Netflix. When you take Netflix and compare it to Amazon, Hulu, Blockbuster, etc., there is one aspect that remains clear as to how Netflix has gained and maintained its success: user experience. The user experience of Netflix is superb. Their design thinking shines through in their regard for not only how individuals navigate their site but also their targeting of niche and broad spectrum watching options for any and all types of people. You like documentaries? Netflix has not only the classics (aka anything with David Attenborough in it) but has spent years creating their own content, like award-winning Chefs Table, that allow any documentary-buff the accessibility to further expand their interests and find new and exciting subjects to dive head first into (all without commercials!). This same algorithm is applied to all genres: action, romance, comedies, reality TV, anime... you name it and Netflix not only has the classic favourites BUT has also contributed their OWN spin and content to the genre.  


Since its founding in the mid 1990's, Netflix has gone through many iterations and Design Thinking processes.  From the very first prototype of Reed Hastings and Marc Randolf testing their packaging and delivery by posting themselves DVDs and seeing if the DVDs remained undamaged to present day updating their online platform so that each program you hover over automatically plays a quick trailer and upping the amount of Netflix originals they put out monthly so keep the viewers engaged and interested. They exemplify how the Design Thinking process is not over once you complete each phase and that, in fact, once you've tested and put your product out there it is back to square one figuring out how to improve and better emulate human centred design. As technology improves, as VR/AR and other technologies become better incorporated into the online scene, it wouldn't be surprising if Netflix is at the forefront of testing and prototyping these technologies into their website and expand their platform if it means improving and engaging with their audience in unique and cutting-edge ways.  

Even the simple buffering issue has been a major example of how Netflix uses Design Thinking to problem solve and keep the viewer as their top concern! Netflix has gone through many iterations in the last 5 years to keep their buffering as minimal as possible and figured out a a way to keep their shows running even while the system buffers in areas with shotty wifi—by lowering the quality of the show as it buffers the viewer is still able to continuously watch (read:binge) their favourite shows while their system works hard to keep up and load properly.