About a month ago, Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, announced the company’s plans to split its DVD mailing service from its streaming video service, with the former being rebranded “Qwikster.” With this split, users would have to reconfigure their accounts on the new platform, incurring two separately billed charges. Netflix customers were outraged, prompting Hastings to write an apologetic letter explaining the change. Netflix stock took the brunt of the beating, losing some 40% in value almost immediately.
The decision was reversed earlier this week, with Netflix announcing that it will indeed keep the service as is. The customer spoke and Netflix listened; however, Netflix’s stock didn’t rebound as much as one might expect from this seemingly good news. Pundits argue this is due to newfound doubt as to Hastings’ ability to understand his markets’needs.
Personally, Netflix knows the DVD is dying and prematurely tried to dump it. The fact of the matter, however, is that the DVD service is a necessary supplement to Netflix’s success in the streaming market. With increasing competition from Amazon, iTunes and Hulu, Netflix distinguishes itself by offering the widest variety of media possible. Getting rid of this is like shooting yourself in the leg so you can run away to save your arm — it doesn’t make much sense right now.
So what can we learn from this as mobile app developers? If you remember my post last week, we discussed the need for having expert User Experience designers working on your project. Regardless of how good your design and the overall experience are for the user, it can always be better and the wise app creator will implement changes slowly over time rather than all at once.
Thus, changing your app is like buying a new fish. Customers, like fish, need time to acclimate to their new environment (design or other major changes). You don’t just throw the fish in. Rather, you float it for a while to get the temperature right, and then slowly
replace the water in the bag (its previous environment) with water from you tank (its new environment) giving the fish plenty of time to get used to the changes. If you throw the fish right into the tank, you risk shocking the fish and potentially killing it (losing customers) by forcing it to adapt to too many things all at once.
When versioning your app, you may be anxious to unroll all these great new features for your app all at once and understandably so. Change is exciting. However, avoid the temptation to make this potentially fatal mistake and remember that virtue we all too commonly overlook: patience.