Jake Cohn

@LeftEarpod

Hey Movie Recommenders, We Need To Focus On The User’s Experience.

“There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it?” The movie recommenders haven’t just yet. Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney

*Also published on uxmag.com*

We’re not seeing movie recommendations really catch on with the world. Sites like Jinni and Foundd didn’t make it. What’s the hold up?

Putting aside movie recommendation ‘accuracy’, the missing key is making recommendations a great experience.

A record setting company’s app on a record setting company’s watch

Just about every tech company is making experience a priority and acting on it. Apple recently had the most profitable quarter in history. Uber is currently the most valuable venture-backed private company in the world. And entire economies have been born out of the experience of having more convenience. But recommendations are behind.

“I think subconsciously people are remarkably discerning. I think that they can sense care.” — Jony Ive

Here are some characteristics with movie recommendations today along with the negative feelings you have associated with them:

Endlessness (& Overload)

Most movie recommendation sites give you the option to rate movies on a one to five star scale. I know, I know; the promise here is that the more you rate, the better your movie picks will be.

Soon after you start rating, you’ll notice that the list of movies to rate never ends. It’s a marathon that you can’t finish. But they tell you to keep going. As Janel Torkington insightfully puts it, an endless list “robs the user of a sense of finality.” Fatigue sets in and you quickly find rating more movies to be mundane.

Think about the sense of accomplishment when you finish a hard task. Now think about one that you can never get done. It’s not a delightful feeling.

Immaterial Content (& Tedium)

Inside the list of movies that they tell you to rate, you’re being presented with a lot of movies that you’ve never even seen.

Obscure or niche flicks appear at the top, making you skip them before getting to something relevant to you. I was presented with Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Hitman Heart: Wrestling with Shadows upon logging on to Foundd for the first time.

Taken a step further, when you find movies that you’ve seen before they’re often ones that you saw years ago. Unless those movies really, really connected with you, you’re going to have trouble remembering what you thought of it. Your rating becomes a guess.

Obvious Incongruity (& Dissonance)

Then come your recommendations. The results that you put in effort to receive. Some sites will recommend even before you say a word about your movie preferences. Almost as striking, they’ll give you a big list of recommendations after just one or two ratings.

The problem here is that not enough is known about you to give you some picks that make sense. In this example, Donnie Darko was the only movie I rated (I gave it a 95).

OK, Mulholland Drive is a fit here. We can see the similarities. Impressive.

Next: Suspiria. Well…it sort of makes sense. There are some parallels, possibly.

Finally: Wedding Crashers and Iron Man 2. How do these movies relate to Donnie Darko? It feels incongruent. We expect good results but we get something that looks like it was picked from a hat. It’s a contradictory and dissonant feeling.

Feature Creep (& Inconvenience)

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/highwaysagency/6281302040/

A solution may be to let you search by every movie trait imaginable— your own personal God Mode.

That’s not the answer either because it results in inconvenience. It requires too much work from you.

Our technology is pushing our expectations. We can get a bag of groceries at the push of a button. The ideals of The Convenience Generation are spreading like wildfire outside of their Gen Y origins. We now expect this level of convenience outside of the lexicon of ‘Apps’, including recommendations.

An example is Jinni. Before the shutdown, there were 67+ features, filters, options, specializations, and more available for users to play with. Some examples: ‘Now on TV for me’, ‘Entertainment Personality’, ‘Preferences’, ‘Story Tuners’, ‘Why close to you’, ‘My Guide’, ‘The Watch Wall’.

Getting a user inside a movie they enjoy became overshadowed by the process of finding one.

“Our goal is to try to bring a calm and simplicity to what are incredibly complex problems so that you’re not aware really of the solution.” — Ive

The Surface Level (& Detachment/Disappointment)

Tags attribute traits to a movie. They’re extra useful because they’re standard enough for a computer to be able to understand, so a website can use algorithms that play with them.

Tags have the potential to be powerful, but the problem is that they’re usually very general. ‘Sci-Fi’, ‘Action’, ‘Space’, ‘Good vs. Evil’. We as humans don’t respond to a movie just because it has any of these traits.

Instead, how do individuals respond and react to those traits? What does that action entail? How is Good and Evil portrayed? And once you have those answers, what about when we blend these specifics together?

In some cases though that blend doesn’t make enough of a difference. Take Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

The tag-based formula was there. It’s Sci-Fi. It has a character named Anakin Skywalker in it. On the surface level, it’s Star Wars being Star Wars. But people hate the movie.

What makes Star Wars ‘Star Wars’ is how we feel when we watch and listen its characters and their stories. If Star Wars is getting it right, it means that the characters are giving us enough to invest in them. To feel along with them. To care so much that we desperately want to see the continuation of their stories after 32 years. This transcends moving pictures on the screen and 1s and 0s inside a computer.

We need to begin to make the tags identify and recognize the shades of this kind of human to human connectedness. We need to improve on uncovering the true things that make people like movies. And we need to honor users’ expectations and provide a seamless, easy experience for them. I think And Chill is starting to do just that.

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Learn more about And Chill or share your insight by emailing me at jake@andchill.io

P.P.S. “Is there something I can use to give me an unbelievable movie recommendation experience?”

Yes, there is!

Message And Chill at m.me/textandchill whenever you want to watch something. We think you’ll feel the attention to detail and care that we put in our product.

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