Netflix was founded on August 29th, 1997 by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph. The first documentation of its website on the wayback machine is dated January 17th, 1999. Back when they were founded, Netflix was marketed as a DVD rental service. In the last couple of decades, though, they have adapted to the changing world of media consumption by shifting to a video streaming service. As one of the first companies to successfully create a streaming service, they went through a period in which the majority of consumers did not understand video streaming or the reasons they should make the switch from physical rentals. The changes made to Netflix’s website as they introduced streaming in the late 2000’s reflected their attempts to simplify the experience for users and convince customers that streaming was the way of the future.
One way in which Netflix has changed their image with the times is their logo, arguably the most important part of gaining brand recognition. A good logo makes a brand stick out in the customer’s head while remaining simple enough to be used in any number of circumstances. Netflix’s original logo did not fit any of the above criteria; it was boring, complex, and unlikely to stick out to consumers. An interesting detail about the original logo is that it broke up Netflix into two words, Net Flix. This reflects the time in which it was created because the internet was commonly referred to as the “net” in the 1990’s. Nowadays, consumers would be confused by that title since “net” has largely been replaced by “internet.” Another interesting feature that was changed with the second logo in 2000 was that the main color in the old logo, as well as the website, was purple, while the main color now is red. This change may seem arbitrary, but studies show that warmer colors like red evoke excitement and energy, while cooler colors like purple evoke peace and calm. Netflix made a calculated decision when changing their logo to red to make their service feel more new and exciting. Their second logo was far simpler and more eye-catching, helping the company spread rapidly in the late 2000’s. The logo was changed once again in 2014 to be even simpler, going along with the minimalist trend in logo design of the last decade, but the second logo will always be my personal favorite.
When comparing the designs of the 1999 and 2010 Netflix websites, something that immediately jumps out is the simplicity of the newer design, similar to the evolution of the logo. The 1999 home page bombards the viewer with words and links. There is nothing that catches your eye right off the bat, but instead lots of blocks of text that don’t seem to have much organization. The text includes movie recommendations, new additions, and instructions for signing up for DVD rentals. There is also a search bar at the top, a relatively new feature at the time. The webpage makes heavy use of hyperlinks, with over 20 present. Another aspect of the 1999 website that sticks out is the mundaneness. There is very little color, most of the site having a plain white background. There is a lot of text, as mentioned earlier, and the few images present are very small. There is very little about the design that lets the user know that this is a new, exciting way to rent movies. Another feature that I found interesting was the mention in bold text of “Over 2600 DVD’s to rent!” This number must have been huge at the time, but now with streaming, it doesn’t seem like much at all. According to Fox Business, Netflix now has around 3800 movies and 2000 TV shows, more than double the total from 1999.
Looking now at the 2010 homepage for Netflix, a lot has changed in the last decade. The biggest difference is the new addition of their streaming service, introduced in 2007. The streaming service was revolutionary when introduced, unrivaled and highly attractive to customers. It was beginning to gain traction by 2010, but not yet enough for them to ditch the DVD rentals. Instead, you got both included in a $8.99 monthly plan, a much more appealing offer than the old pay per DVD system. A monthly plan is a great marketing strategy to keep customers coming back because they do not have to think about paying every time they rent a movie. In terms of the aesthetics of the website, there was a lot of improvement between 1999 and 2010. First, it was far simpler and less crowded than the old homepage. The blocks of text have been replaced with key words and pictures, allowing users to instantly know where to click for whatever they intended to do. The “create an account” portion is front and center, with information about the payment plan close by. The website has also been split into subsections to reduce the clutter; Welcome, How it Works, and Browse Selection. The background of the site is now solid red, as opposed to the plain white from before. The different areas of the homepage are clearly bordered, eliminating the need to read closely to know where to look. In conclusion, the 2010 website design is cleaner, more practical, and more aesthetically pleasing than it was in 1999.
Netflix has been a highly innovative company since its founding. It has adapted to the changing world of media consumption better than most of their competitors. An interesting comparison to make is Blockbuster, who also got their start through DVD rentals. Blockbuster’s downfall, detailed in this video, came from the company not willing to risk making the jump to streaming. They created an on-demand service with Enron, but would not commit due to the uncertainty in the new market. Netflix, on the other hand, has always been looking to innovate and embrace the changing industry. This drive for improvement is demonstrated through their website, which was altered significantly between 1999 and 2010 to improve the user experience and keep customers coming back.