By Peter Ramsey

1 Apr 20

Disney+ takes on Netflix Company Logo
Disney7 min read

Disney+ takes on Netflix

Disney+ takes on Netflix Featured Image

Toy Story, Star Wars, The Simpsons and The Lion King—nobody can deny that Disney+ has one of the best back catalogues of content available anywhere.

But, if Disney want to experience anything like the success of Netflix, they won’t only need world-class titles, but also a world-class user experience.

So let’s explore what they do right, and what they do wrong.

Key takeaways

  • 😩

    (Most) people hate maths.

  • 👀

    How to get ‘free’ onboarding.

  • 🧪

    How to do better testing.

3 UX takeaways

1. Built for ma..ths

Without thinking about it too much—or reaching for a calculator—which of the options below do you think is larger?


18% of £342.40


70% of £88.04

The answer is that they’re exactly the same, but that’s not the point. Rather, it’s that for most of us doing mental arithmetic is pretty hard and boring, right?

In fact, you probably didn’t even bother to try and work out which was bigger, instead just opting to carry on reading the article, hoping that it wasn’t important for the rest of the narrative.

You’re lucky—it’s not. But it does help me make my point.

People will do all sorts of things to avoid mental arithmetic. This includes just guessing what the answer would be.

Which is why Disney have made a mistake promoting their annual discount as a percentage.

null image

Once you accept the premise that most people won’t bother to work out exactly how much that 16% equates to, it begs the question; will people guess that the value of this discount is more or less than it actually is?

But there’s a better way, now consider the following two options:


16% off (new price of £59.99)


2 months free Disney+

Remember that the user has already expressed an interest in owning Disney+ membership. So, it’s likely that they actually value the utility of the 2 months membership even more than the monetary value of paying for those 2 months.

In other words, not only does the second option entirely remove the need to do mental arithmetic, but it reframes the discount as a benefit (owning Disney+), rather than purely a financial discount.

2. Copy Netflix

I’ve said it before on Built for Mars; when designing software, you score no points for originality.

What I mean by that, is that it’s better to execute something that people have seen before—but do it really well—than poorly execute a new design.

And kudos to Disney, that’s exactly what they have done.





The truth is, almost all the streaming services have done this. If you know how to use Netflix, then you’ll already know how to use Disney+, Amazon Prime and Hulu.

The benefit of this is broad; if you taught your grandma how to use Netflix, she’ll also be able to use Disney+ when the grandchildren are visiting. That’s the power of familiarity.

Users have been inadvertently learning to use Disney+ for years. Their onboarding is called Netflix.

3. The controls

Look at the image below, how would you get to the next few episodes?

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Although your initial response might be to ‘swipe’, the answer really depends on what type of device you’re using.


Touch and swipe

Mobile devices and touchscreens.


Gesture controls

Touchpad on a laptop.


Click and drag

An external mouse.


Scroll wheel

Also an external mouse.

When designing software you need to consider the entire range of possible input controls, and more importantly, ensure that they all work.

Unfortunately, it feels like nobody at Disney thought of this, and what’s left is a horizontal scroll that doesn’t work with basic MacBook gesture controls.

I hate to say it, but they work on Netflix.

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All of the UX analysis on Built for Mars is original, and was researched and written by me, Peter Ramsey.

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