Credit: Author photo

Do you want to produce some ridiculously good designs? Just take a look the following five designs for great tips and inspiration:

This feature has hugely increased my inclination to rely on a Netflix preview to choose content. Previously, I was 90% guaranteed to not choose a new programme to watch unless I had seen good reviews (more on that later…).

What I like is the way the feature auto-plays a synopsis of moments from the film/show that help you get a feel for key aspects.

Hundreds of times I have spent time finding a review, seen good ratings, then hit the movie to play, and discovered it is in a style or format which isn’t to my liking.

An example — I love foreign language films, but my wife does not. So when I spend thirty minutes researching things for both of us to watch, find a great synopsis and reviews, then hit play and find it’s in Japanese with subtitles, this can prove very frustrating.

Now, the auto-play function reduces that likelihood to nil.

This has significantly increased the chances as a viewer I will rely on Netflix (lazily scanning categories and previews) to source a programme instead of reviews.

This is critical for Retention and Engagement, because if I use a review tool off Netflix, I am much more likely to use another streaming service — owing to simple programme availability.

If I go to Rotten Tomatoes, and find a Sci-Fi not on Netflix, boom! that’s me gone from their service. And if that happens repeatedly, I’d bet the trend on me as a Netflix customer is that I will cancel my subscription.

Learning for your product(s): numeric or text based reviews are great as a ‘signpost’ to the right thing, but don’t underestimate the importance of giving the user a deeper example of the experience that they are seeking before buying.

Credit: author photo of Amazon Prime

So the battle here between the big streamers, especially Prime Video, Netflix and Disney, is fascinating, but where I do feel Amazon has won out is the inclusion of IMDB ratings.

Clever to buy IMDB huh?

The battleground that wins is called trust.

Do I trust Amazon or Netflix to choose a programme suited to me, based on a couple of constraints I enter?

If I say I want a movie, not a TV show, and I want it to be Sci-Fi, will it suggest things I will like?

My experience — the answer for both platforms is no.

This isn’t constrained to Sci-Fi. The platforms serve up a variety of things that are wide of the mark.

I think this is a unique and interesting problem for streaming video, especially streaming films. If you compare to Spotify, the quality of recommendations is insanely good. That may well be because the shorter-form content needs a lower accuracy rate to feel useful. If I hit ten songs in Spotify, I only need one or two to feel good, for me to be happy with the recommendations system. It finds nuggets for me frequently, from what is an intimidatingly huge range of options. Spotify has got so good at this that I think they have a very difficult business to copy.

Longer-form content has different challenges. A 30-minute TV show is a commitment of more time, and I will assess more carefully the choice there than for a 3–5min song. A two-hour film (is it me, or is it hard to find 1.5hr films these days?) is something I will readily research before committing to watch. I don’t want to throw away 45mins on the wrong thing; something derivative, cliched or with poor acting, it’s too much to waste for me.

I’m sure I sit in a particular cohort with these behaviours, but I am certainly not alone.

So what do I do?

Where I will typically go first or after I have seen suggestions, is to a trusted review source. IMBD is top for me. Rotten Tomatoes second. Metacritic is a distant option.

All the streaming platforms seem to offer a variety of their own reviews and others. Finding a high IMDB rating significantly increases my confidence I’m going to hit something good. The other reviews I trust less.

So embedding this trust system, into a place where trust is by default low, is a clever move by Amazon.

Learning for your product(s): if you cannot quickly amass or build your own trusted source of information, borrow/buy/integrate to another which is already trusted. This is classic Buy vs Build territory; if the thing you’re looking at isn’t part of your core value purpose, then buy it if it has already been done well elsewhere – don’t build it.

Credit: the author

This capability is ancient, but bear with me. The reason I have it listed, because loads of websites and apps are still awful at this.

Amazon’s ability to make a purchase easy is mind-blowingly efficient. Which is why they drain my and everyone else’s wallet so comprehensively.

But the things they’ve been doing, like storing card details, allowing quick change to shipping address vs billing address, adding gift details, are very very old news, in fact, it’s so old, the patent on the trademarked “1-Click” expired FIVE YEARS AGO.

The kicker is, Amazon is still the outlier, and most online retailers still have high friction on purchases. How the heck is that possible? 20 years and they still can’t mirror the experience offered by the most obvious market leader?

Friction on purchases is appalling in many applications.

Yesterday I wanted to shop with Next. I chose Next specifically because I know they have outlets across Europe and so I don’t need to worry about shipping costs, I can buy and ship a gift to my family in Italy without any customs charge (Ah the joys of Brexit…. someone needs to build some products to fix this!…).

Here’s the complexity Amazon has dealt with brilliantly, which revolves around the buying experience after the decision to purchase has been made. It deviates from “1-click” into other aspects of the purchase workflow but demonstrates the same principles of low friction.

In this example, I am the buyer, but it’s a gift I’m buying, and the shipping address is different from the billing address. Not crazy complex right? Solvable, 100%, as Amazon has shown. Doing this is extremely simple in Amazon, you can set up lots of shipping addresses, you can set a different billing/card address, and you don’t have to enter them ever again once you enter them initially.

Next, is known to be one of the better online experiences, an outlier retail org that has done well on the UK high street and excellently online. Yet the ability to make a payment, set a shipping option, and adjust billing details, all are excruciatingly painful, especially in the mobile app, which was so bad I had to move from phone to desktop to complete the work.

Learning for your product(s): Consider the experience on the market for a comparable Job to Be Done to the one you are building for/redesigning, is it better, and why? Look carefully at the market leader and count the number of clicks and time taken to complete the JTBD.

Credit: the author

I love the Airpod design in many ways, but the interface to Apple’s devices presented on the iPhone is simply delightful. In fact, it is simple and delightful, which is the sweet spot Apple hits so many times, as if a system was made by the man who wrote the vital Design of Everyday Things.

Picking one example, the feedback given when I open the phone case, which confirms to me that the connection to the Airpods is working, is a wonderful thing.

I remember the sense of “oooooh” when I opened the case for the first time after setting up blue-tooth. Not quite technically a product “Aha” as I have already bought the things (on trust primarily that these are Apple products which I know will work well).

There are two visuals, one is the display if you open the case with the phone unlocked. The other is the popup/modal that briefly appears when you pick up or unlock your phone if it was already locked when you opened the case. This dynamically updates to reflect the connection status (“Connected”).

Why is this so satisfying?

I believe it’s because of a common pain point when using bluetooth devices. The feedback to the user, about which devices is connected where, is poor. Typically, you have to look for it manually by looking in the various receiving device interfaces, to find the bluetooth list and see which items are listed as paired + connected. If I am sitting at my laptop using bluetooth devices, I need to know if the bluetooth has connected, and if it has, to which device; both are not obvious without good feedback.

Again — pause for reflection here, Airpods were launched SIX YEARS AGO. Yet the same depressingly poor bluetooth connection issue is everywhere. Poor visual feedback when I connect, hard-to-reach list of connected devices. These things matter in this space because sound quality is a difficult ground to win on, there’s no ‘moat’ there, and others can better your quality with a little investment and research. Who can better the feedback you get in the Apple device interface though? that is not easy.

Learning for your product(s): Intuitive visual feedback matters. How do your products communicate to the user where they are, and what is happening, what they can do next, and what they should do next? Is it obvious, is it simple, or does it need someone standing by to explain it to them?

Credit: the author screengrab

A lot of people are getting ready to jump from Twitter, or already jumping, given the ownership change. But setting that circular debate aside, and back to the feature/capabilities of the site, the delightful aspect is the simplicity of what it does.

And what it does is incredibly intuitive: I post a message, it has to be short, I can add a tag to add to an existing debate/trend, or to start one off, or I can search for trends and click on tags to find them.

That is kind of, well….. it.

Take a look at the image above. There are about 7–8 distinct components. Not all of them are interactive.

This tool was launched in 2006, that’s sixteen years ago. The sheer discipline it must have taken to stick to its core purpose. I can barely begin to imagine the number of ideas they resisted, despite the lure.

So the thing which delights me about the platform is it has never gone into feature factory mode, despite all these years, it still retains a clean essence.

The app’s simplicity makes it very easy to use and remember how to use, there is zero reorientation when I hit the app.

If I compare it to other social media — look at how complex Facebook has become. In terms of pure usability, I’d argue it’s got worse, not better, as they have added the weight of more features.

When I go to an application I haven’t been on for a while, that’s the product chance to re-engage and retain me. If it cannot do that, then I am a lost user, likely permanently.

Learnings for your product: Less is more. The hardest designs are those that take complex tasks, and distill them into simple things. Harder still is to retain simplicity as the product ages and expands. Resist the temptation to build more with little thinking on the overall experience — is it additive? or is it reducing the overall quality?

What other products have you seen which have set the bar? what is it about them that you like?


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