Netflix Cowatch

Crafting shared viewer experiences for Netflix

Product Design


Passion Project

Timeline: 2 months

Design Role: Design Lead, Product Research, Product Design

Design Team: Hannah Kim

Project Description: Establishing shared media experiences for Netflix customers that allows users to connect through emotionally bonding experiences regardless of distance.


Started because of someone special

I wanted a better way to watch her favorite movies with her while we were hours away from each other. A way that didn’t risk either of our computers with sketchy malicious software.


Streaming services excel at offering content, but there's a gap in features that allow friends and families far apart to enjoy movies or shows together virtually. This limits the ability to create shared viewing experiences that can strengthen connections.


Integrating a platform that allows users to create and utilize watch parties to foster shared media experiences and bonding moments regardless of distance.


Method: Survey

Learning about people's watching preferences. People generally prefer small-group experiences with friends on a larger screen.


of users preferred to watch on their televisions


preferred to watch content in small personal groups


of users watching content with friends decided based on collective mood

Method: Interview

Learning what makes users comfortable.

Something that allows you to toggle between a DND mode and a party mode. In DND mode, it could put you into uninterrupted viewing, while in social mode, it could have chat features going or emotes popping up for reactions.

- C.H. student at Texas State University

“I’m pretty comfortable using video chat while watching a show on Netflix. I think if I could have a feature where I could turn my camera on or off or mute my mic like zoom i’d feel safer.”

- J.C. student at Texas State University

Key findings:

Users naturally desire control over their experiences, especially when viewed with other people.

Creating a ‘do not disturb mode’ that allows users to take away the social distractions allowing them to maximize their own viewing.

Method: How Might We’s

Directional solutions

I felt as though we need to start boiling down some of the pain points we were seeing in our survey as well as interviews and start thinking of ways we can solve most issues for users.

Competitive Analysis

To identify potential opportunities, we conducted an analysis of the existing market landscape. This analysis focused on identifying unmet user needs and pain points within the competitive space.

Of course since this project began with long distance communication in mind, I needed to find out what digital methods allow users to better connect virtually.

I found this research article, that argued that emoji’s allow users to better emotionally connect

Here’s my TLDR:

Emojis, especially positive ones, can improve communication in messaging by:

Expressing feelings: Emojis help convey emotions that might be difficult to express with words alone.

Creating a positive atmosphere: They can make conversations feel more friendly and welcoming.

Enhancing communication: Emojis can clarify the tone of a message and avoid misunderstandings.

Defining our priorities

Within a tight deadline and both Hannah and I having so many ideas as to where this service could go, we sat down to make a prioritization matrix and narrow down our service to focus on the most applicable painpoints.

With this being an integrated feature to the Netflix platform we based our prioritization on a multitude of factors, for example just because something would be easy to design does not mean it would easy to implement. Or if a feature idea would require a lot of development or change within Netflix's existing model we considered it to not be feasible.

Crafting the User flow

With our newly focused features we wanted to make sure our user flow was solid, especially as a feature integrated within Netflix it needed to seamlessly fit in with the rest of the platform.

Designing the wireframes

It was now that we got to working out how wireframes, and there was a key point of contention we needed to sort out, TV controls are janky, difficult, and slow. Not only that but many lack cameras or microphones that foster better connections. How can we create a system that allows TV users the same flexibility as browser users?

To combat this issue, I proposed a solution that allowed users to
link the Netflix account on their smart tv, or media console to the Netflix app on their phone. This would allows users to use their mobile device as a webcam, microphone, and handle chat functionality, all while watching on the big screen.

User testing


Users liked the expressive and animated reactions.

To be improved

Users struggled to understand how the mobile application interacts with the television screen, while this
could just be prototype limitations, it needed to be explored.

Users felt that a disappearing chat while non-intrusive posed issues for those focused on the content, and impacted their ability to stay in the conversation.

Iterative design decisions

Redesigning aspects of the experience to clarify the service for users.

Linking the mobile and TV experiences

Linking the mobile and TV experiences

When users were met with only the chat reactions and live chat, users felt like the connection between the tv and mobile experiences was not apparent. Introducing a section that showcases where content is being played clarified the interaction immensely.

When users were met with only the chat reactions and live chat, users felt like the connection between the tv and mobile experiences was not apparent. Introducing a section that showcases where content is being played clarified the interaction immensely.

Unifying watch party controls

In order to create a more succinct user experience, we moved the browser controls into the chat window, helping clarify their importance, and making what they do more apparent.

Making party’s lively

We thought it important for every part of the watch party process to be interactive, allowing users to voice their preference, actively make suggestions, and have a presence in the room. Inspired by collaboration tools like Miro and Figjam, we opted to add live cursors when selecting movies, and content voting for everyone to get their say.

Shh, use your whisper mode

While friend groups are fun when everyone is talking and enjoying the movie or show together, sometimes you just want to send a message exclusively to one person. For me this would have been the girl at the start of this case study. In order to achieve these we introduced a whisper mode with the trigger /w, ensuring only your intended audience gets the message.

Final Designs


What I learned

In this project I learned about working within an existing design system, but I was also challenged to think about creating coherent designs across devices, especially when using them to interact with each other. Every new idea was challenged by “How would it work with and on another device?” and this questions shaped every aspect of the process.

In the future

I would like to stretch how we view shared interactive experiences with media, Netflix has released their own games and I believe that would be another great way to engage groups over long distances, as well as adding conversation features within the watch parties, like trivia questions for groups to engage in.

Thank You!

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