Netflix vs Amazon Prime Video: User Experience (Part 4)
This fourth and final article in the series compares the user experience of watching a title on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Part 1 and Part 2 where I examine the differences between Search and Discovery on Netflix and Amazon Prime can be found here and here. Part 3 is about personalization on Homepage by Netflix.
Helping users discover content is one of the two pieces of the user experience puzzle, the second piece is about providing a great watching experience.
Netflix starts playing a video as soon as you click on it. Prime Video though, many times, uses the opportunity to promote original titles by showing clips/trailers before it starts playing the intended title.
While I like the fact that Prime Video is helping users discover content, but, to me, this looks like plastering of an old paradigm of Discovery over a new paradigm of Watching experience.
I enjoy trailers before the start of a movie — but only in movie theatres when I’m settling in the seat with popcorns in one hand and soda in other and getting ready to be immersed in the experience. At that time, trailers are icing on the cake and feel like a build-up to my expectations for the movie. I don’t control what to play or skip. I fully submit to the experience, ungrudgingly. The whole experience feels native.
But, I don’t like being forced to watch a trailer first (there is an option to skip) when I have a strong itch/desire to watch a video that I clicked on. I immediately want to immerse myself in the video and not the promotional trailers. I can’t remember watching even a single trailer that way on Prime Video.
Netflix also recently started testing promotional videos in-between episodes within a season and received backlash from users.
I, myself, haven’t seen these promotional videos in-between the episodes, but, I know, I’d hate the experience. As soon as I click on play, I’m looking for instant gratification and not some kind of recommendation system blocking me from it.
I don’t have the technical expertise to compare the performance of both the video players while I watch a video. Though, on a good internet connection, I’m able to consume content on both the services without noticing any visual difference in the performance.
The layout of UI Controls
Prime Video has laid out UI controls on the corners and in the middle of the screen real estate — play/pause and forward/backward by 10 seconds are in the middle, and the rest of the controls use all the four corners of the screen.
Whereas, Netflix displays all UI controls (except for the back button on the top left) at the bottom of the screen.
I like the layout of Prime Video better primarily because it prioritizes most-used controls at the center which are much more prominent in size too. I don’t know the reason why Netflix chose that layout, but it introduces some level of Motor Load while using the controls.
Additional UI Controls
Most of the controls on Playback UI are same for both the services (play & pause, skip or go back 10 seconds, volume control, full-screen, next episode, subtitles, and audio), except for a few that are unique to each.
Prime Video has the X-Ray control on the top left of the screen which scans the videos and provides information about casting and music played and gives the ability to jump to a specific scene. I like this feature a lot as it comes in handy at times when I want to know the name of the character that I find interesting.
Netflix, on the other hand, allows me to switch between seasons and episodes of the title within the Playback UI. I can’t do that on Prime Video and have come out of Playback UI and go to the title page to switch between seasons/episodes — unwarranted friction.
Netflix also gives the ability to the user to provide feedback if something was wrong with the video, making it easy to investigate and improve the service. I can’t give any kind of such feedback on Prime Video.
Binging on Netflix
Netflix has a few more features in the Playback UI that delight me.
I’m a binge watcher. No shame in admitting that. I’d start an episode with my wife at night, watch a few more after she goes to sleep, and apologize in the morning. And some of the features on Netflix ensure that I keep apologizing to my wife, very often.
Ability to skip intro/credits at the start of each video is a huge time-saver and makes the virtuous (or unvirtuous) loop of engagement loop even stronger. The next episode starts playing automatically after 5 seconds. There isn’t even time to think whether I should watch the next episode or go to sleep. Any friction, good or bad, shouldn’t come in between the binge watcher and the Netflix.
If I’ve been binge watching for a few hours and don’t use any controls, I get a prompt on the screen asking “Are you still watching?” Hell, Yes, I’m.
Recently, Netflix started showing Recaps — a godsend for my poor wife who tries hard to remember what happened in the last episode she watched a week back. Netflix hopes that she will remain hooked to Netflix and maybe, maybe will become a binge watcher some day.
Translation and Audio in Multiple Languages
Prime Video needs some heavy lifting here to compete with Netflix. Most of the content has only English subtitles and audio is only in the native language. Whereas Netflix has both subtitles and audio in multiple languages for most of their content library.
After you’re done watching a movie or the last episode of the last season on Prime Video, a small thumbnail video recommendation appears in the bottom right. It’s difficult to know what the title is about and why that video was recommended to me in the first place.
In comparison, credits take only a small part of the screen with controls to like or dislike the video. Rest of the screen is used to suggest the next title to watch along with description and some evidence of why I should watch it. I like the post play experience on Netflix way better than on Prime Video, as it prioritizes the most important information for the user and helps with engagement.
With that comes to an end the four-part series comparing the user experience on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Rest can be read here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.