Over the next few weeks Netflix will be rolling out a completely redesigned website. This is the first time in four years that the TV and movie streaming site has made a big update to its homepage.
But this doesn’t mean Netflix hasn’t been thinking about redesigning.
In fact, it’s had a team of data scientists working diligently to figure out how best to present the content it has to attract the right kind of viewer. This included sending Netflix users fake TV shows to elicit survey answers from its subscribers, according to The Verge.
Netflix’s VP of product innovation Todd Yellin told the publication that it has been testing certain features to consumers for quite a while now. Some got to try out a new way to scroll through movie selections, others were even interviewed in their house by Netflix researchers to better understand just how they used the service.
And quite a few Netflix users were emailed fake content too see if they would click on it. The Verge writes:
[Netflix] also sent out 15 million email surveys, sometimes with fake shows and star ratings to determine which is more effective in getting someone to watch. The exercise has the potential to tell Netflix any number of things, like if people really care about half star differences in ratings, down to if they're still checking their email.
Yellin explained that analyzing what Netflix customers actually do on the website gives the company useful information about how to improve the experience.
Netflix's director of communications and technology Cliff Edwards explained more about this program to Business Insider. The intent, said Edwards, wasn't to mislead customers, but to get a better handle on the effect of star ratings. The fake shows were a way to "see if people were inclined to watch something with higher ratings."
While the customers were shown fake shows, the emphasis wasn't on the shows themselves but on how the star rating changed user perception. And, according to Edwards, it turns out that although users may add a movie to their queue that has a higher star rating, it doesn't mean they are going to watch it. In fact, these ratings may have a much smaller impact on Netflix users than we think.
The changes to Netflix's homepage are slated to be rolled out over the next month.