Feature and redesign concepts for the film network
This is an old look at one of my first ever case studies. A newer (but still not very good/thoughtful) version of it lives on my site, at chia.dev
In 2019, I found myself increasingly drawn towards film, and was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who I could share this love with. One of my new favorite sites is definitely Letterboxd, a film-focused social networking service. First introduced to it from film Twitter circles by seeing joke reviews highlighted on Oscar-nominated masterpieces, the sense of community it offered finally drew me onto the platform knowing it wouldn’t solely be traditional film buffs.
Letterboxd has been an amazing tool that has moved me to be more introspective about the film I consume, but it took a while for me to fully get into it, and the more that I use it — the more I’ve been thinking about ways to improve some of its features.
The following is a survey of some of the main frustrations on the web version of Letterboxd that I’ve collected from regular engagement with film communities, and my proposed redesigns and feature introductions.
This study is a work-in-progress. Complain or chat film with me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Improving the Movie Logging Flow
As Letterboxd’s creators get right: the first thing we want to do after we see a film is talk about it. On the film social network, why is it difficult and unintuitive to access the film logging feature when many of its social features and engagement notifications rely on it?
Creating a smooth user flow to log recently watched films
At the moment, the only flow on the website to log recently watched movies is to search for the movie title, then be delivered to a results page, click on a “Review or log…” button, then click on a checklist to specify the date watched, then confirming to successfully log a movie.
One of the website’s key uses is that immediately after watching a movie, a user would want to talk about it. However, to log a movie down and write down thoughts or a review about their first view and interact with other users on it afterwards, the flow is a bit convoluted. Since the website only prompts social interactions for watched movies that are logged with recent dates, I feel like this core action could be condensed.
After observing this problem, I talked with over a dozen users to obtain a deeper sense of this key action. Here are the key insights I captured:
- Prominence of log action — It’s strange that the most prominent actions are the least important ones. The most confusing part about the action prompt is that “Watched” is used as a backlog tool without giving any prompt for when the film was watched. I address the iconography in itself later, but here I wanted to zero in on how the “Review or log…” action could be highlighted further.
- Homepage layout—One of my initial assumptions that was validated through these talks was that the homepage was heavily underutilized. There are no existing prompts for users to take action on their own logs, such as shifting through their watch list or logging a new movie. The sections on the homepage are all on outside engagements with lots of repetitions (e.g. the popular reviews section tends to be filled with reviews of the latest movies; and majority of Letterboxd users, users that don’t maintain an active “friends” list, will have the first section stagnant).
- Extended and unintuitive user journey — All search actions on Letterboxd take the user to a results page, and the search action is only accessible from the navigation prompt. (Clicking “Films” brings the user to a list of films in they’ve watch in reverse chronological order.)
- Missing features — On the web version, the log box has areas to input less frequently used features (tags), but excludes lists: one of the prominent user-generated discovery features on the website.
Proposal — New Homepage Section
As a starting point, I wanted to make better use of the Letterboxd home screen.
My proposed flow from the homepage involves a direct interaction from searching for a movie title (or director/actor) to opening up the review/log prompt to allow users to easily add movies.
On the homepage, I replaced the previous greeting/friend message with a new, large section prompting the user to write down what they’ve “seen” lately. Copy is very similar to the original page with the added “Seen anything lately?”
Watchlist cues — Visually, there’s a captivating header image (similar to the ones executed in film pages) in the background selected randomly from the user’s watchlist. User watchlists are one of the main sections on user profiles, and drawing attention to these backlogs would be an interesting way to nudge users to get through the list — and return to the website to mark it as done, of course.
Direct search — With the homepage search bar, I took on a prominent user assumption where they would have liked to be driven to the page immediately; as searches are frequently direct. I added an area for filters that replaces the search icon on type that could display primary filters: Film, Director, Genre, and the like.
This new interaction would bring the user to the film page with the review/log prompt available, and the current date selected as the watch date. Upon saving the entry to the user’s log, the user can then view the rest of the film’s details, top reviews, and interact with what other members of the community are saying about it.
- Inclusion of search results page — The Letterboxd search results page tracks film titles, directors, cast & crew, and review contents. In certain cases (reused movie titles, similarly-titled sequels), I worry about the interaction bringing the user directly to the film page — but from my studies, this is rarely the case. Plus, search queries are generally filled with film reviews (always showcasing 250+ results, the maximum number displayed) when no relevant titles are available; this is a huge waste of clicks in most instances. I would love to see data on search queries and what results are most selected from the homepage to refine this thinking process further.
Better discovery and engagements on film logging
After designing a revised flow for logging and presenting it to friends and peers in online film communities, I also set my eye on modifying the interactions available on the logging prompt itself.
- Limited interactions — The main actions available are writing reviews, specifying date watched and if the film is a rewatch, tagging, liking, and starring. Half of these interactions (tagging, liking) aren’t pushed into action for other users (there are no prompts to see that a friend recently “liked” a movie, tags serve more as keywords).
With this being a clear observable issue, I wanted to redesign the log to look more on other common actions: prompting more (usually, casual) users to utilize the list function, and also saw favorites as an opportunity area aside from likes.
For context, a user has 4 top films that they can display on their profile. This is only editable on user settings, which isn’t frequented.
Lists are one of the top features of Letterboxd; several sections on the homepage are dedicated to new interactions with lists by friends and people in the community. They’re also a prominent discovery tool.
Proposal — Revised Log Prompt
I took a look at the web prompt that displays when adding/reviewing a movie to a user’s collection, shifted some of the interface, and added new elements to it.
Rating a movie is one of the easiest ways for us to share an opinion about it. It’s what the user takes action on first, too. I moved the rating upwards right next to the movie title/date watched to follow more into the regular reading pattern and establish prominence.
Next, I revised the tags area. I thought saving space here would be safer since from research, most movies are never tagged — and if they are, 2–3 tags suffice and are very personalized.
With the new space, I added in the list dropdown where users can be prompted to start a new list or select an existing one. Lists are one of the main means where users tell stories, share insights, and group together recommendations for the masses: putting it on this log section is important to get more people engaged on building them.
Finally, along with the “Like” functionality, I added a favorite star. This would add the film (replacing the oldest selected one) to the user’s favorites on their profile. From sharing these hi-fidelity mockups of the new prompt, I validated these assumptions and found that users started wondering why some of the existing actions were so scarce.
One of the main reasons why people go to Letterboxd is because of its interface and community/discovery tools. By improving the logging process, I’d love to see how this gets users to continuously return to Letterboxd as a go-to website for sharing their own film discoveries and taking part in the network.