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What you can learn from Netflix concerning Gestalt Principles


4 December, 2018

Annemarie Bufe

Content Manager

mobile app study

Sitting on the sofa or laying in the bed? Chips or chocolate? Desktop, Smartphone or TV? What do you prefer while watching a series on Netflix?Netflix beats its competitors in usability on all devices.

Have you ever wondered why the usage of Netflix is this intuitive and easy? Possibly because your mind understands the big picture before you recognize every single element which is implemented in the app. This phenomenon is called Gestalt Principles.

This app study is dedicated to the analysis of the Netflix mobile app in consideration of the Gestalt principles. You can give your users the same experience with your app.

Review of the Gestalt Principles

  1. Law of Proximity: Elements which near together seem to be related.

  2. Law of Closure: The human mind tries to fill unfinished information.

  3. Law of Similarity: Similar looking elements are understood as a group.

  4. Law of Common Region: Elements which are are together in a close region will be understood as a group.

  5. Law of Continuity: Elements that are aligned linear seem to be more related then randomly ordered elements.

  6. Law of Figure and Ground: People instinctively recognize if elements are in the foreground or background.

  7. Law of Symmetry: Symmetric elements give the user the feeling that everything is ordered.

  8. Law of Common Fate: Elements which move in the same direction are considered to belong to each other

If you haven’t heard about Gestalt Principles yet, you should read this article.

A closer look at the Netflix mobile app

You have to know one important thing before we start: Don’t just focus on one of the Principles! You’ll find a combination of Gestalt Principles on every screen and in every other app. This combination makes the app intuitive and loved by users.

Now we can have a closer look at the screens you find in the Netflix app:

combination of Gestalt Principles example

You’ll see this screen when you open the app for the first time.

How many illustrations can you see here?

The dots on the bottom show you that you will find three more pictures when you scroll to the left. You understand the four dots on the bottom of the page as belonging together and similar in functionality. This is because of the law of continuity and similarity!

Let’s log in and search for some cool series – and Gestalt Principles 😉

Gestalt Principles example law of continuity and similarity

At the moment ATYPICAL seems to be the new series Netflix wants to promote. Have you seen it yet?

Have a closer look at the design of the promotion. It looks organized, you can go with your eyes over the page quick and smooth. Nothing special to find. Really? No, just perfectly planned and describable with the Gestalt Principles. The Netflix logo, the title, and the play button are vertically centered, other information like the check and the “i” are ordered symmetrically next to the Play button. The symmetric design and with this the Law of Symmetry gives you the feeling that everything is normal and ordered.

Are you more interested in action series, comedy or romances? No problem! You can scroll down to find some more series.

The previews of the next series are not completely shown. Described with the Law of Closure your mind understand that you can scroll down before you have to think about where you’ll find the next series. But why? Because it tries to fill the missing information (the cut part of the preview).

Gestalt Principles, law of proximity example

The same goes for the page you’ll see when you scroll down. Here you’ll find more previews summarized in different categories, the genre written directly over the pictures. The Law of Proximity describes that you understand that elements which are close together seem to belong together.

Do you want to watch a specific genre? Scroll to the right in all the genres you want to and you will see more series. The Law of Common Fate describes that elements which move in the same direction seem to belong together. Well sure, it would be difficult to let the elements in one genre move in different directions.

Haven’t found your genre yet? Scroll down. You know that you can do it, we have already talked about this law 😉

This series looks interesting! If you don’t like it, no problem, the pages look the same for every series

Gestalt Principles examples: the Law of closure
Gestalt Principles: the Law of proximity in mobile app
Gestalt Principles: the Law of closure examples
Gestalt Principles: the Law of closure example

Let’s have a closer look at the series – and the more or less hidden Gestalt Principles.

When you scroll down you’ll find an overview of all episodes per season. The Law of Proximity works the same as on the page before. Title, video, and description are close together and seems to belong together. Between two episodes there is a gap to show which description belongs to which title and video. The half cut video, and with this, the Law of Closure shows you that there must be more information or episodes when you scroll down.

Gestalt Principles: the Law of Figure and Ground example
Gestalt Principles: the Law of Figure and Ground examples
Gestalt Principles example: the Law of Figure and Ground

This series was really great, right? Or really boring? Show everybody what you think about it. Click on the rating button and you’ll find one more Gestalt Principles: the Law of Figure and Ground. I’m sure you’ll look at the two thumbs now and not on the background anymore – this is what this law describes.

During all the screens, have you recognized, that the navigation bar on the bottom of the screen was in a black box? Maybe not, but you knew that these four icons don’t belong to the title pictures, episode descriptions or rating buttons. The Law of Common Region describes this phenomenon. Netflix has designed this very nondescript and in the same color as the background.

Related Articles:


Annemarie Bufe

Content Manager

Passionate hobby dancer. Working at UXCam.

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