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Because algorithms can’t do everything, Netflix discovers the humble sidebar

Because algorithms can’t do everything, Netflix discovers the humble sidebar
[Video: courtesy of Netflix]

The next time you open Netflix on your TV, it might look different.

A major interface update, rolling out to TV devices now, adds a sidebar for reaching different sections of the app. Netflix’s blog post says you’ll be able to access search, movies, TV shows, your watchlist, and new releases this way. (The sections are currently different on the Roku and Fire TV devices I’ve tested, with only links to categories, search, and kids mode.)

The new interface is perhaps an acknowledgment that sorting everything by algorithms isn’t always the best approach. Sometimes users just want to jump to a specific program they’re watching, a specific genre, or just movies instead of TV shows. Getting to those options required a lot of scrolling around, which was a hassle on remote-controlled devices. Still, Netflix says it took a lot of work to arrive at the sidebar as the solution.

“While this may feel like an obvious update to some, validating that this TV experience was better for our members took extensive research, testing, and technology improvements,” Netflix’s Stephen Garcia writes.

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