Film “Type” Icon on Cover Art
Before you even get to select the movie, Netflix have added a specific icon overlay on the preview icon that we can assume means an “interactive film”. There’s only one film at the moment that uses it, but they’ve already taken one step ahead to make it easy to distinguish between regular films and one that has interactivity embedded into it.
Sure, they could have added something like this further down the line should they decide to pursue more interactive films but I appreciate the consistency being given from the get-go. Consistency is in fact the first principle of Shneiderman’s 8 Golden Rules for Interface Design, indicating how important it is. I’m sure you can think of a few times you reorganised your things, and accidentally kept checking the old spots for those things out of muscle memory.
A standard yet effective tool to introduce new concepts to people at a comfortable pace are tutorials. When you first use apps, video games and even common tools like Facebook, we’re given an overview of features and how to use them. Here, the audience was kept on an infinite loop until they got comfortable making a choice. Naturally, I chose the “No, I don’t understand” response just to see what would happen. As I expected, that choice puts you through a (presumably) infinite loop until you’re ready to get involved in the story.
This was a conscious decision, I’m sure of it. Let’s take the scenario where a decision was made to not give a time limit to the choices you make as part of the audience. In this scenario, you could be browsing your phone or take an extended amount of time to weigh up the options given to you. A by-product of this is giving you the option to disengage and fall out of the story– there’s a reason we enjoy binging on Netflix without commercial interruptions.
By understanding the alternative, I’m sure that the decision to give you a default choice and an imposed time limit helps keep you engaged into the story. You have to pay attention to what’s happening in order to make a choice that drives the story forward in a way that you want. The immediacy keeps you involved in the story and join Stefan’s journey to try and help make some sensible choices.
Availability to Exit to Credits
Upon hitting one of the story’s endings, you get the option to exit to the credits. I pressed on and went back through a few choices, but the mere display of the “exit to credits” option gives the user some sense of where they are. One of the golden heuristics is to ensure users always have a sense of where they are in a system. Before watching it you get a sense of how long you should be spending (listed at 1h 31m), but how do you know when you’re done? This is that subtle clue.
Yes, or FUCK YEAH?
This will only make sense if you’ve watched the film, but let’s see if we can unpick the design of this choice without spoiling it too much.
At one point in the film there’s a choice you can make, when asked if you would like to er… continue. I chose the “FUCK YEAH” option (because of course!) but I’m intrigued to know what would have happened if I chose the more tame “Yes”. I’m reasonably certain that both options lead to the same following scene, but the illusion of choice is powerful in storytelling.
Fast Forwarding, and When to Choose
There are a number of ways to indicate going over what you’ve already seen, indicating when you’re back to the “present”, and how to indicate you need to make a choice. A key consideration in order to avoid confusing deja vu. They did this through resizing the picture. It was subtle, yet made it obvious what you had already seen and what you hadn’t. The picture shrunk down to the middle of the screen, and panned back to full when you had to pay attention.
When making a choice, the bottom of the screen scrolled up, effectively cropping the bottom of the picture, leaving a big black space for the minimalistic timer and choices you could make. This simplicity and subtlety gave us the options we needed without distracting us and disengaging us from the story.
What I’m not sure about after one run through is the difference between the 21:9 aspect ratio (the reason movies usually have “black bars” above and below the picture on your screen) and a full-sized 16:9 aspect ratio. The only theory I have is for cinematic effect, but instead of rewatching I’d like to see what other people think. Do you know? Leave me a comment if so!
Overall, I think Netflix did a fantastic job at helping their audience get used to this new concept. There were 6 different prominent design features that helped deliver the experience of an interactive film on Netflix that I could spot and unpick. I’m sure if more films get made with this type of interactive style, they’ve already set themselves up for success. There are undoubtedly going to be some modifications moving forward as we learn more.
Have the answer to a question I had? Disagree? Leave a comment below 👇 or follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/chuckwired 🐦.