Derek P. Collins
Product Designer & Developer

Smart Downloads

While working on the base experience for enabling the ability for our members to download TV shows and movies and watch them offline, we started to learn a lot about what it was like for our members to actually use this feature on a regular basis – especially in regions where viewing offline was pretty much the only way to enjoy streaming video entertainment.

Throughout our research, we learned that many members exhibited a pattern of behavior where they would download a few episodes of a TV show at one time, watch them, delete them, and then download a few more. We also learned that one of the more frustrating aspects of having to download shows to watch offline was remembering to actually download new shows in the first place (often the night before or the morning of heading off on a long commute to work).

What if, we surmised, we could ensure that customers would always have the latest episodes of their favorite series ready to watch and we could make sure that their device had the space necessary to download those new shows?


Our hypothesis was that deleting completed episodes and auto-downloading subsequent episodes would reduce the friction of watching downloaded content and ultimately result in our members watching more.

We designed and researched many different ways to surface this feature and help our members understand how it worked.

Ultimately, we discovered that it was incredibly difficult to explain the concept of what we were calling “Smart Downloads” and that this was a case where the best interface was actually no interface at all. This lead us to test the idea of having the Smart Downloads feature enabled by default. We felt comfortable making this decision because first, if someone never used downloads, then it didn’t actually do anything and, second, Smart Downloads would only ever take up as much space as a member had already allocated to downloaded content since it would only replace an episode that was already taking up space (of course we also had rules in place to make sure that we wouldn’t inadvertently take up too much space on someone’s device).

Prototype Development

The prototypes we developed served the purpose of trying to expose the feature to our members and determine their understanding of the feature and, secondarily ,it allowed us to see any interactions with the feature once discovered. As I said above, however, over time we found that it was incredibly difficult to explain how the feature worked and that the best way to understand it was to just experience it.


This feature resulted in an increase in some of our streaming metrics as well as how often people visited and engaged with the app and downloaded content.