For the past few years, I’ve been a very happy user of Netflix, the innovative web site which let you receive DVDs via the post for a flat fee per month, for US residents. When I got back to Dublin, I was very happy to see that there was a local equivalent, in the form of ScreenClick — so I signed up.
However, I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with their service, for the same reasons as Adrian Weckler writes about here…
Turnaround time: this varies wildly, and can take nearly a week to turn around a DVD from dropping it in the postbox to receiving the next one. Netflix was reliably two days for me, out in suburban Orange County, California; Even this Kansas blogger noted that the longest they’d waited was 4 days.
This may seem to be an externality for Screenclick — but really, it shouldn’t be. Their business is built on the postal service, and they have to have decent results for it to work.
The ‘wishlist’ model: Netflix uses a queue, operating on a first-in, first-out model, while Screenclick uses something they call a ‘wishlist’, where the DVDs are delivered based both on position in the list and availability — in other words, you can find you’ve been delivered the DVD at number 10 in your list, instead of whatever’s at the top.
Again, superficially a minor point. However, one important factor is that these services are bought by households, not by individuals. Chez jm, that means that we operated a pretty strict alternating system in our Netflix queue — one movie for me, one movie for the lovely C, repeat. This is now thoroughly scuppered with a random ‘lucky dip’ system. On top of that, forget about watching a serial in order. The end result is a mess.
The website: it’s atrocious, a hodge-podge of ads for third-party sites, press coverage of Screenclick, more ads for Screenclick (hey, I’m already a customer!), and news clippings I couldn’t care less about — with finally a few tiny sidebar boxes containing the things I want (login, search box and wishlist). My impression: it’s designed to sell the company to investors and advertisers, not for customer use.
On top of that, it’s all squished into a tiny window — Irish web designers need to buy bigger screens! That late-’90’s Jakob Nielsen thing about users not knowing how to scroll? They’ve learned by now.
Anyway, on this count, I sent in a mail containing a batch of bug reports and unsolicited opinions, and got no reply. ;)
Less bang-for-buck: pretty simple. Netflix: 3 movies at a time, more movies in the collection, $17.99 per month; Screenclick, 2 movies at a time, EUR 19.99 ($25.56, $10 more expensive than the equivalent Netflix service) per month. Surprisingly, this is actually a minor issue compared to the others, though, since it’s made plain from the outset.
These may seem to be minor points, but when selling a disposable-income service to consumers, the difference between an essential leisure-time service and a waste of pocket money is a very fine line. Looks like Adrian eventually cancelled. I’m not at that point yet, but it’s heading that way…