Here's how Netflix knows what you'll click on before you do

Netflix homepage

We all know how hard it is to choose what to watch on Netflix. We scroll and scroll until something captures our eye. While you were looking for something to watch, Netflix was watching what art grabbed your attention.

Data released by Netflix revealed that the thumbnail artwork was the biggest influence of driving people to watch a movie or show on the streaming service. Netflix created a system to test which images got users to watch, and here's what they learned.

Humans are hardwired to look for faces, and that's no different on Netflix. Users were more likely to click on thumbnails with emotional faces over a simple logo. It's interesting that a neutral expression under-performed compared to more animated faces.

Netflix's data also revealed that we liked looking at bad guys. Using villainous characters "significantly outperformed" all other thumbnails, including those depicting heroes. This was true for both kids and adults alike, especially for action and kid genres.

Netflix Dragons test

Perhaps the most interesting thing Netflix found out was different regions and cultures have different tastes. While a show or movie's story may be universal, its thumbnail should be tailored for different regions.

Sense 8 Netflix thumbnail test

Last but not least, Netflix found that three's company but four's a crowd. Thumbnails for shows featuring more than three people showed a steep decline over thumbnails that had just one or two people. This makes sense as thumbnails are so small it's hard to see individual characters' faces.

All of this data is helping Netlfix make sure you find something interesting to watch as soon as possible. If you don't find a show or movie you like within 90 seconds, you're more likely to close Netflix and do something else.

Lewis Leong
Lewis Leong is a freelance writer for TechRadar. He has an unhealthy obsession with headphones and can identify cars simply by listening to their exhaust notes.