The Bad IA of Streaming Services

These are solved problems. Why are streaming services so hard to use in 2020?

Alan Sepinwall writing in Rolling Stone:

The part of the streaming shell game that I’ve never been able to fully understand — and that has somehow gotten worse with each passing year and each new service debut — is just how bad the user experience is on all of them.

The article lists several aspects of today’s streaming services that offer a subpar experience to viewers. Among them, it includes bad information architecture:

With the exception of Disney+, which has several clearly delineated brands and genres that are easy to explore(*), the streamers seem to go out of their way to encourage endless browsing, as if time spent on the service is valuable to them even if you never get around to actually watching anything. Browsing is difficult, direct searching is somehow worse, and the whole thing seems to have been made by one of those men Alfred tried to warn Bruce Wayne about, who just want to watch the world burn.

(*) And even they’re not perfect — all the Marvel movies are arrayed pretty randomly, which makes it more difficult to attempt to, say, rewatch the MCU in order.

I’m a customer of several of these services, and have experienced all of the issues listed in the article. I get the impression these systems have been designed “screen-first”: lots of investment on the front end and little on the underlying UX architecture.

Problems such as searching and browsing large catalogs have been solved in other domains. Why are streaming services so hard to use in 2020? I suspect the answer is a mix of business models that aren’t aligned with customer needs/wants and a lack of awareness of IA best practices. The latter is relatively easy to fix.

As a way of experiencing video content, streaming is better than the old broadcast model. But all of these services could be so much better with some mindful IA and conceptual modeling. Do you know someone who works in one of these companies, or work there yourself? If so, I’d love to talk — please get in touch.

Who Loses Big in the Great Streaming Wars? The User

2 replies on “The Bad IA of Streaming Services”

Lovely short read, I resonate with you 100%. Oh and don’t get me started on the moments I type in the name of a movie using the search bar, see the predicted keywords, only to find that Netflix doesn’t have it and recommends other similar ones. *face palm*

According to Intricately, Netflix’s monthly cloud spend is around $19M. See:
So, my hunch is that it’s a business decision to slow people down and have them get lost in searching/browsing hell. Every moment they can prevent someone from finding what they’re looking for, is money saved for streaming services.

They want us to watch stuff, but they don’t *really* want us to watch stuff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *