Watchlist is Hulu’s personalized, AI-powered feature that simplifies how a user saves, watches, and stays caught up with their shows and movies.
My role: Lead Designer
The original goal of the project was to simplify three confusing features for following shows and movies – Queue, Favorites, and Shows You Watch. However, as we dug deeper into users’ needs and behaviors, Watchlist evolved into a sophisticated system that adapts to a user’s behavior and saves them significant time and clicks when trying to find and watch their stuff.
The scope of Watchlist was massive, with touchpoints on nearly every screen in every one of our desktop, mobile, and living room experiences. The design process was led by myself and the lead Product Manager, and a number of other designers, PMs, and members from literally every department within Hulu had a hand in bringing it to launch. We introduced a number of firsts for Hulu during this project – an open beta release, extensive user feedback-driven iteration, a simultaneous cross-platform rollout, and a design patent.
Watchlist accomplished what we set out to do and has improved the Hulu experience for tens of millions of users. It has significantly increased key metrics like minutes watched and is the top origin of playback across our entire service. It has also laid important groundwork for many personalization features that have since launched or are in the works.
The Watchlist tray has prime real estate in our experience. A user’s saved shows and movies are above the fold and directly under the masthead for easy discovery.
Personalized badges let users know know how many episodes remain before catching up, when their shows have new episodes, and when unwatched content is expiring soon.
Smart Start System
“Smart Start” chooses the right episode of a show for a user to watch. It determines this based on which episodes a user has already watched, whether the show is serialized or non-serial, and current episode and season availability. The choice is always presented with context (e.g. “Watch Latest Episode”) for transparency and to build trust with users.
Watchlist Sort Logic
A machine learning algorithm is used to order the shows and movies for a user. It considers many inputs from their current context and past watch behavior to place the content most likely to be watched towards at the front. It continues to learn from how a user watches to improve its accuracy over time.
Adding and Removing
Adding or removing any show, movie, or episode from your Watchlist is one click or tap away on every platform. We made sure these actions are easy to discover and use on just about every screen in our experience.
The Watchlist page is a more global view of the Watchlist, presenting each section in a quicker to scan and manage way.
The launch of Watchlist introduced new concepts and deprecated three existing features. While I strived to make sure the design of Watchlist was inherently intuitive, I also helped craft our pre-release marketing messages, desigining the product marketing page and working with our Video Production team on the launch video, to minimize user confusion and build trust in the product.