Netflix’s nice UI changes

I watch video on Netflix very often. The company has recently updated the playback UI of its browser-based player and iPhone/iPad app. The change is a big improvement in both cases. Here’s a look at what’s new.

In The Browser

Full playback controls are finally available when viewing a video full-screen. Previously, you had to exit full screen mode to access the control bar (below). Now, simply jiggle the mouse to produce the controls (above). Here’s what we’ve got:

  • Back to browsing button. The arrow in the upper left-hand corner exits playback mode.
  • Pause button.
  • Volume slider. Click it to produce the volume slider.
  • Title. If it’s a TV show with multiple seasons/episodes, the series title, season number and episode title will appear.
  • HD options. Click to reveal an option to enable/disable HD playback. Netflix will stream your video in SD until HD is buffered.
  • Next episode. Mouse over the next episode button for a poster image and brief synopsis. Click to jump directly to that episode.
  • Season Browser. My favorite new feature. Mouse over to reveal a season browser window. Scroll to view the title of every episode in the season. Click any episode for a synopsis and poster image. Finally, click any poster image to jump directly to that episode. All while the current selection still plays, even while full screen.
  •  Subtitles. Click for subtitle options.
  • Full screen. Click to enter/exit full screen.
Old version controls

As your video plays, mouse over the timeline for a thumbnail preview and time stamp. Once paused in a browser, your video partially fades to black and a text overlay provides information on what you’re watching, as well as a “Paused” status indicator. It’s very good-looking.

Finally, the controls and video itself scale to the size of your browser. That way, if you want to watch in a small corner of your screen, you can.

On the iPhone/iPad

On Netflix for iPhone and iPad, it’s immediately obvious that the controls are much larger than in previous versions. My aging eyes appreciate that, especially on the iPhone’s tiny screen. Here’s an overview of what’s available.

  • The Done button. Exit playback and return to browsing.
  • Audio options. Language and subtitles.
  • Volume slider.
  • Rewind button. This is pretty handy. Jump back 10 seconds to catch something you’ve missed.
  • Play/pause button.
  • Scrubber. Drag for a thumbnail preview. That’s new to the iOS app.

Finally, a new setting lets you restrict streaming to Wi-Fi. No more data-devouring movies!

These are great changes and I look forward to what’s next. Good job, Netflix.