Improving search accessibility

10 minutes read — Hundreds of million of users are watching video-on-demand movies. Yet it is not accessible to a particular group of humans.

Context

Netflix is an internet entertainment service for more than 125 million subscribers worldwide. You can watch series and movies across all devices with an app. But one function is not working properly. On Apple Tv. This may be because of the Human Interface Design Guidelines.

Problem

Every time I want to watch with my friends a certain movie on Netflix, there is always a painstaking search function. The same problem also arises if we want to add the movie to the list. We always have to input the search field manually and it takes very long to finish. And the dictation mode doesn’t work properly because of our accents.

Challenge

I asked myself why the search field is long-winded to enter the words and how we can reduce the problem. There are many users who can’t use the dictation function because of their restricted abilities. I am talking about deaf people, foreigners and humans with speech disabilities.

Improving search accessibility

10 minutes read — Hundreds of million of users are watching video-on-demand movies. Yet it is not accessible to a particular group of humans.

Context

Netflix is an internet entertainment service for more than 125 million subscribers worldwide. You can watch series and movies across all devices with an app. But one function is not working properly. On Apple Tv. This may be because of the Human Interface Design Guidelines.

Problem

Every time I want to watch with my friends a certain movie on Netflix, there is always a painstaking search function. The same problem also arises if we want to add the movie to the list. We always have to input the search field manually and it takes very long to finish. And the dictation mode doesn’t work properly because of our accents.

Challenge

I asked myself why the search field is long-winded to enter the words and how we can reduce the problem. There are many users who can’t use the dictation function because of their restricted abilities. I am talking about deaf people, foreigners and humans with speech disabilities.

Netflix's search field accessibility

The current layout takes up too much time to enter a simple search (without the dictation mode). An average user needs dozens of seconds to complete a simple word.

The current layout takes up too much time to enter a simple search (without the dictation mode). An average user needs dozens of seconds to complete a simple word.

Process

Firstly I interviewed a couple of my friends how they would improve the accessibility. Some of them told me that they would connect the keyboard via bluetooth to Apple TV and nobody does it, because it is too much hassle. There is also a possibility to use the game controller with Apple TV to select the letters seamlessly. Playstation, Wii and Xbox users are already doing it. Some Apple TV users are wishing to have a QUERTZ layout because it is more straightforward for them. 

Then I looked at Netflix search function again and I compared it with Apple TV’s one as well as with other platforms Youtube and Vimeo. I found out that they have the similar problem because almost every app meets the Apple’s design guidelines. Although there are many problems available to other platforms which I also could solve, I sticked to Netflix because it is the only one which offers 100% subtitles for Deaf people. The German TV programs doesn’t even meet this standard. That is why almost every Deaf user in Germany has a Netflix account. Nevertheless I want to improve Netflix accessibility a step further.

Before I continue with the results, I want to remind you that you shouldn’t only observe the digital problems but also the environmental ones. 

Everyone who wants to watch Netflix needs a device like Smart TV’s, streaming players such as Apple TV, Fire TV (Amazon) and chromecast (Google), game consoles and many others. Additionally the user needs a remote which allows him/her to control the settings. That means I included the observation of the interaction between the user, the display, the Apple TV device and the remote. 

I am going to describe two main thoughts about the remote and the lettering. 

Remote

The user needs the remote to control the TV to watch movies. I asked myself a couple of questions. 

  • Why is the remote important for the user? 
  • How does the remote works?
  • How can the user use the remote to input the words in a simpler way?

I observed that a regular Apple TV remote has 6 buttons and a touch field. Almost everybody controls the remote with the thumb to press or to feel the buttons and the touch field. With these function the user can select every single letter with the thumb on the touch field and press on it to select. It takes dozens of seconds until the user has finished to spell out the movie’s name. Inexperienced users needs minutes because they often mistype the letters. That means every time a user mistypes a letter, he or she has to go all the way to the right side to delete a single letter, then go back again to continue.

I know that the remote has an accelerometer and gyroscope function which means that certain apps allows the users to use remote in a three-dimensional way to control the functions. That means the user can call the shots by lifting the remote or steering left and right. So I thought about the idea of drawing the letters in the air as a faster way than typing with the touch field. 

Process

Firstly I interviewed a couple of my friends how they would improve the accessibility. Some of them told me that they would connect the keyboard via bluetooth to Apple TV and nobody does it, because it is too much hassle. There is also a possibility to use the game controller with Apple TV to select the letters seamlessly. Playstation, Wii and Xbox users are already doing it. Some Apple TV users are wishing to have a QUERTZ layout because it is more straightforward for them. 

Then I looked at Netflix search function again and I compared it with Apple TV’s one as well as with other platforms Youtube and Vimeo. I found out that they have the similar problem because almost every app meets the Apple’s design guidelines. Although there are many problems available to other platforms which I also could solve, I sticked to Netflix because it is the only one which offers 100% subtitles for Deaf people. The German TV programs doesn’t even meet this standard. That is why almost every Deaf user in Germany has a Netflix account. Nevertheless I want to improve Netflix accessibility a step further.

Before I continue with the results, I want to remind you that you shouldn’t only observe the digital problems but also the environmental ones. 

Everyone who wants to watch Netflix needs a device like Smart TV’s, streaming players such as Apple TV, Fire TV (Amazon) and chromecast (Google), game consoles and many others. Additionally the user needs a remote which allows him/her to control the settings. That means I included the observation of the interaction between the user, the display, the Apple TV device and the remote. 

I am going to describe two main thoughts about the remote and the lettering. 

Remote

The user needs the remote to control the TV to watch movies. I asked myself a couple of questions. 

  • Why is the remote important for the user? 
  • How does the remote works?
  • How can the user use the remote to input the words in a simpler way?

I observed that a regular Apple TV remote has 6 buttons and a touch field. Almost everybody controls the remote with the thumb to press or to feel the buttons and the touch field. With these function the user can select every single letter with the thumb on the touch field and press on it to select. It takes dozens of seconds until the user has finished to spell out the movie’s name. Inexperienced users needs minutes because they often mistype the letters. That means every time a user mistypes a letter, he or she has to go all the way to the right side to delete a single letter, then go back again to continue.

I know that the remote has an accelerometer and gyroscope function which means that certain apps allows the users to use remote in a three-dimensional way to control the functions. That means the user can call the shots by lifting the remote or steering left and right. So I thought about the idea of drawing the letters in the air as a faster way than typing with the touch field. 

designernils-netflix-apple-tv-remote-search

The use of Apple TV remote to write letters in the air. It is not an intuitve way for the users.

The use of Apple TV remote to write letters in the air. It is not an intuitve way for the users.

There is also another way to write the letters by writing on the touch field. The user can draw the letters with the thumb or with the finger tip on the touch field. 

There is also another way to write the letters by writing on the touch field. The user can draw the letters with the thumb or with the finger tip on the touch field. 

designernils-netflix-apple-tv-remote-accessibility

Writing letters on the touchfield of the Apple TV remote is also not intuitive. It also can be difficult for users with large hands. 

Writing letters on the touchfield of the Apple TV remote is also not intuitive. It also can be difficult for users with large hands. 

Both writing functions could be activated by pressing the touch field and to finish by pressing the button again. 

The user also has the possibility to buy a game controller or a keyboard to control the Apple TV. It is probably the most easiest and the fastest way but also an expensive one because of the acquisition cost. So it is not quite feasible.

In general these ideas are hard to implement because the letter drawing is not intuitive for the users and it could be too complicated to use. The additional devices are probably the best way to go if the user is ready to invest the money. But there is also a question of installation.

Letters

The standard input style on Netflix goes from space button over A to Z and in the end the backspace button. Below the letters are the additional functions. Apart from the standard layout I quickly drafted various lettering structures. There are letter layouts in QUERTZ style, the typical navigation lettering in 5 parts. I also tried splitting the alphabet in two or three parts. 

Both writing functions could be activated by pressing the touch field and to finish by pressing the button again. 

The user also has the possibility to buy a game controller or a keyboard to control the Apple TV. It is probably the most easiest and the fastest way but also an expensive one because of the acquisition cost. So it is not quite feasible.

In general these ideas are hard to implement because the letter drawing is not intuitive for the users and it could be too complicated to use. The additional devices are probably the best way to go if the user is ready to invest the money. But there is also a question of installation.

Letters

The standard input style on Netflix goes from space button over A to Z and in the end the backspace button. Below the letters are the additional functions. Apart from the standard layout I quickly drafted various lettering structures. There are letter layouts in QUERTZ style, the typical navigation lettering in 5 parts. I also tried splitting the alphabet in two or three parts. 

designernils-netflix-notes
designernils-netflix-scribbles

Various lettering layouts to find out the most logic approach for the users. I tried by splitting the alphabet in two or three parts to reduce the overview complexity. 

Various lettering layouts to find out the most logic approach for the users. I tried by splitting the alphabet in two or three parts to reduce the overview complexity. 

It was a challenging process because I always had to keep the foreign languages in mind. English alphabet only consists of 24 letters while the German one has 27. Because it contains special characters Ä, Ö, Ü and ß (the double s’ ). During the movie evenings I noticed that most users doesn’t care about the correct upper and lowercase letters. They mostly use lowercase style because the search function understands it without any difficulties.

Later I created a high-fidelity mockup to get a feeling which of the layout is the most efficient, effective and enjoyable to use. The letters layouts in QUERTZ style is quite difficult for users to use with the remote instead of the keyboard and it also takes longer than the single line order. The navigation lettering takes up too much space and it intersects with the contents.

It was a challenging process because I always had to keep the foreign languages in mind. English alphabet only consists of 24 letters while the German one has 27. Because it contains special characters Ä, Ö, Ü and ß (the double s’ ). During the movie evenings I noticed that most users doesn’t care about the correct upper and lowercase letters. They mostly use lowercase style because the search function understands it without any difficulties.

Later I created a high-fidelity mockup to get a feeling which of the layout is the most efficient, effective and enjoyable to use. The letters layouts in QUERTZ style is quite difficult for users to use with the remote instead of the keyboard and it also takes longer than the single line order. The navigation lettering takes up too much space and it intersects with the contents.

A gallery of 7 high-fidelity mockups showing which one is the simplest to use and meets the Human Interface Guidelines.

A gallery of 7 high-fidelity mockups showing which one is the simplest to use and meets the Human Interface Guidelines.

There is a layout that affects the user the least. The two line structure one. 

It has the following advantages:

  • it has a nice overview 
  • it is easier to handle
  • the user can delete the letters faster than usual
  • it does not affect the content

There is a layout that affects the user the least. The two line structure one. 

It has the following advantages:

  • it has a nice overview 
  • it is easier to handle
  • the user can delete the letters faster than usual
  • it does not affect the content
designernils-netflix-search-tv-accessibility

An animation showing the ideal search function for all users. 

An animation showing the ideal search function for all users. 

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