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User Research at Netflix

Explore how Netflix uses user surveys to drive strategic improvements across its platform, offering valuable lessons for product leaders.

March 13, 2024
Team Blitzllama

Netflix has redefined the entertainment landscape, creating a user experience so intuitive and engaging that it keeps millions of viewers around the globe glued to their screens. From the moment you're recommended a series that becomes your next binge-watch obsession, to when you see your personal preferences reflected in the Netflix interface, or even when you discover a hidden gem of a movie that feels like it was handpicked for you, these "wow" moments are no happy accidents. They are the result of meticulous design, powered by deep insights into customer behavior and preferences.

Behind the sleek interface and the seemingly psychic content recommendations lies a robust framework of data analytics and customer feedback mechanisms, with user surveys playing a pivotal role. Netflix's ability to consistently deliver these delightfully personalized experiences is grounded in their relentless pursuit of understanding what their users truly desire, sometimes even before the users themselves are aware of it.

In this blog, we'll peel back the curtain to reveal how Netflix uses surveys as a critical tool across its product development lifecycle. From shaping content strategies and refining user interface designs to enhancing overall service quality, we'll delve into the methodologies and insights that help Netflix stay at the forefront of the streaming wars. Whether it's exploring customer desires for new release DVDs, challenging assumptions about content preferences, or even dissecting the "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" phenomenon, Netflix's strategic use of surveys offers valuable lessons for product leaders and managers everywhere.

Here is a sneek peek of what’s coming up.

  1. Content recommendations: Surveys have refined Netflix’s algorithms, tailoring recommendations to match viewer preferences more accurately.
  1. User interface design: Feedback on layout and usability has led to a more intuitive and engaging interface, enhancing user navigation and satisfaction.
  1. New feature introduction: Surveys have guided the development and rollout of new features, ensuring they meet user needs and improve the viewing experience.
  1. Personalization enhancements: Surveys have informed personalization strategies, making the platform more adept at predicting and meeting individual user tastes.
  1. Download feature optimization: User input has refined the download feature, allowing for better offline viewing experiences.
  1. Parental controls and kids’ profiles: Feedback from families has enhanced parental control features and the curation of kids’ profiles, making the platform safer and more enjoyable for younger audiences.

1. Content recommendations

Content recommendations are the cornerstone of Netflix's user experience. By accurately suggesting shows and movies that viewers are likely to enjoy, Netflix increases engagement, viewer satisfaction, and retention rates. This personalized approach differentiates Netflix in the competitive streaming landscape, ensuring users find value in their subscription through a curated viewing experience.

How surveys helped

By gathering direct feedback on viewer preferences, satisfaction with suggested content, and discovery experiences, Netflix has fine-tuned its algorithms. This feedback loop helps Netflix understand nuanced viewer needs, such as the desire for more diverse genres or underrepresented stories, leading to a broader and more inclusive recommendation system.

Example questions:

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how relevant did you find the show/movie recommendations presented to you?
  1. How often do you watch shows or movies recommended by Netflix? (Always, Often, Sometimes, Rarely, Never)

These questions are designed to assess the accuracy of the recommendation engine from the user's perspective and gauge the effectiveness of these suggestions in influencing viewer choices.

By continuously leveraging user feedback through surveys, Netflix ensures that its content recommendations remain a powerful tool for enhancing user experience, driving engagement, and maintaining its position as a leader in the streaming service industry.

2. UI design

Netflix's UI is the portal to its vast library of content. A well-designed UI enhances discoverability, ease of use, and overall user satisfaction, crucial for retaining subscribers in a competitive streaming landscape.

How surveys helped

Real-time feedback from in-product surveys allows Netflix to identify pain points, such as difficulties in finding content or navigating the platform. By analyzing responses, Netflix has iterated on its design to make the interface more intuitive, increasing user engagement and reducing churn.

Example questions:

  1. How easy was it to find your preferred content on Netflix today? (Rate on a scale of 1-5)
  1. What changes would make the Netflix interface more user-friendly for you? Please select all that apply.some text
    1. Simplify the navigation menu
    2. Improve search functionality
    3. Personalize the homepage layout
    4. Increase the visibility of new releases
    5. Other (Please specify)

These questions are designed to elicit actionable feedback, allowing Netflix to continually refine its UI in ways that directly address user needs and preferences.

3. New features

Netflix frequently introduces new features to enhance user satisfaction and engagement. These continuous updates help keep the platform competitive and ensure that it meets the evolving needs of a diverse, global audience. Introducing new features helps Netflix to improve user experience, encourage longer viewing sessions, and increase subscription retention rates.

How surveys helped

Surveys have been instrumental in gathering user feedback pre and post-launch of new features. By asking targeted questions, Netflix can gauge user interest, usability, and satisfaction with these features, identifying areas for improvement or even retraction if they do not meet user expectations. This direct line of feedback allows Netflix to make data-driven decisions that align product development with user needs.

Example questions:

  1. How did you find the usability of [new feature]? (Very Easy, Easy, Neutral, Difficult, Very Difficult)
  1. How likely are you to use [new feature] in your future viewing sessions? (Very Likely, Somewhat Likely, Neutral, Somewhat Unlikely, Very Unlikely)

These questions are designed to assess user acceptance and the perceived value of the new feature, providing Netflix with actionable feedback to guide further development and refinement.

4. Personalization enhancements

Personalization is the core part of the Netflix experience, ensuring that each user's interface, content recommendations, and overall viewing journey feel uniquely tailored to their preferences. This approach keeps users engaged and significantly enhances content discoverability, a critical factor in Netflix's ability to retain subscribers in a competitive streaming market.

How surveys helped

By gathering direct feedback on users' viewing habits, preferences, and satisfaction with recommended content, Netflix can continuously tweak its recommendation engine. This feedback loop allows Netflix to understand nuances in viewer preferences, identify areas where the recommendation system may falter, and introduce improvements that make the personalization even more accurate and satisfying for the user.

Example questions:

  1. Content Satisfaction: "On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your satisfaction with the shows and movies recommended to you by Netflix?" 

This question aims to quantify user satisfaction, providing a clear metric that can guide improvements in the recommendation algorithm.

  1. Relevance of Recommendations: "How relevant do you find the recommended content on your homepage? (Very Relevant, Somewhat Relevant, Not Relevant at All)." 

This question helps Netflix gauge the accuracy of its personalized recommendations, identifying whether users feel the content suggested to them aligns with their interests and preferences.

Through targeted questions like these, Netflix can gather actionable insights that drive continuous improvement in its personalization efforts, ensuring that each user's experience becomes more tailored and engaging over time.

5. Download feature optimization

The download feature enables users to watch their favorite shows and movies offline, without an internet connection. This feature is particularly important for travelers, individuals with limited data plans, and those living in areas with unstable internet connectivity. By allowing viewers to download content, Netflix ensures its service is accessible and convenient, enhancing user satisfaction and engagement.

How surveys helped

Surveys have helped in identifying areas for improvement within the download feature. Through collecting user feedback, Netflix has gained insights into user preferences regarding download limits, video quality options, and the ease of finding downloadable content. This led to iterative enhancements, such as increasing the number of titles available for download, optimizing the download process for faster speeds and lower data usage, and improving the user interface to make it easier for users to manage their downloaded content.

Example questions:

  1. How satisfied are you with the selection of titles available for download on Netflix?

This question aims to gauge user satisfaction with the range of content offered for offline viewing, identifying potential gaps in the downloadable content library.

  1. How easy is it to find and manage your downloaded content on Netflix?

This question seeks to understand user experiences with the interface and functionality for managing downloads, pinpointing areas for usability enhancements.

By leveraging such targeted survey questions, Netflix can continue to refine and expand the download feature, ensuring it meets user needs and supports the overall product experience.

6. Parental controls and kids’ profiles

Parental controls and kids' profiles ensure that content is appropriately filtered for younger viewers, giving parents peace of mind and making the platform more accessible and enjoyable for families. This functionality supports Netflix's goal of providing a personalized viewing experience for all user demographics, cementing its place as a versatile streaming service for viewers of all ages.

How surveys helped

By gathering feedback from parents, Netflix identified areas for improvement and new features that could make the platform safer and more appealing to families. This direct user input led to the development of more granular control settings, better content curation for kids, and an easier interface for children to navigate, ensuring that the viewing experience remains enjoyable and safe for every family member.

Example questions:

  1. How satisfied are you with the current parental control options provided by Netflix?

This question aims to gauge user satisfaction and identify areas where the parental controls may fall short of parents' expectations.

  1. What additional features would you like to see in Netflix's parental controls or kids' profiles to make your family's viewing experience better?

This open-ended question solicits specific feedback on potential improvements or new features that parents believe would enhance the safety and enjoyment of their children's viewing experience.

By carefully analyzing responses to these and similar questions, Netflix can continue to refine and expand its parental control and kids' profile features, ensuring the platform remains a top choice for family entertainment.


Netflix's strategic application of user surveys across its product ecosystem exemplifies a forward-thinking approach to product management. By actively soliciting and incorporating user feedback, Netflix has continually optimized its features, such as the download functionality, to meet evolving user needs and preferences. This user-centered philosophy ensures that every product decision, from content recommendations to interface design, is informed by real-world usage and satisfaction data.

Key takeaways for product teams

  1. Feedback is foundational: Netflix’s use of surveys underscores the importance of building products and features grounded in user feedback. Understanding user preferences and pain points through direct communication allows for more targeted and effective product improvements.
  1. Iterative improvement drives success: The evolution of the download feature at Netflix demonstrates the value of an iterative approach to product development. Continuous feedback loops enable ongoing refinement, enhancing user satisfaction and engagement over time.
  1. Data informs decision-making: Netflix’s reliance on survey data for decision-making highlights the role of empirical evidence in shaping product strategies. Leveraging user insights allows product teams to prioritize features and improvements that have the most significant impact on the user experience.
  1. Personalization enhances engagement: The direct feedback gathered through surveys has also been critical in fine-tuning Netflix’s personalization algorithms, ensuring that users receive content recommendations that resonate with their individual preferences. This level of customization is key to maintaining user engagement and loyalty.

For product leaders and managers, Netflix’s application of user surveys presents a valuable lesson in the power of user feedback to drive product innovation and success. By prioritizing user insights, continuously iterating based on feedback, and leveraging data to inform strategic decisions, product teams can create more engaging, user-friendly, and successful products.