If you’ve logged onto YouTube in the past 24 hours, you’ve probably noticed the welcomed changes throughout the Google-owned site. In its largest redesign yet, YouTube has streamlined the viewing experience. They are focusing on user-retention and social networking with a user-friendly interface and socially-focused features. With a big picture goal of keeping users on the site as long as possible, YouTube is creating a greater sense of community and is on track to secure a spot as a top social network.
One of the biggest changes viewers should notice is the absence of the “Stars” rating feature, where users rated videos one to five stars (five being the best). YouTube’s findings showed that nearly 90 percent of viewers rated five stars no matter the content, essentially making the feature useless for users who truly relied on the ratings feature for analytic purposes.
The stars have been replaced with simple “Like this” or “Dislike this” buttons, illustrated with a thumbs up or down, similar to Reddit. Once a button is clicked, users can see how other viewers voted. Comments can also be “Liked” or “Disliked” – with the highest rated comments appearing first – encouraging further conversation among users. Avid social media users will notice this feature as a blend between key components of Facebook and Digg. The new system encourages participation in order to view results, while making it simple and easy so users of every level can join in on the fun.
1 – Video owner’s info in one easy-to-spot location.
2 – Video count displayed prominently, with the option to view statistics in an easy drop-down menu.
3 – Video description has been moved to a more prominent location.
Like/Dislike buttons and social sharing options are close by.
“Users watch an average of 15 minutes of videos on the site per day,” Google’s Senior Product Manager Shiva Rajaraman told PC World’s Mark Hachman. “That’s small potatoes compared to generic television, where users watch several hours. The solution? Simplify the page.” For a site like YouTube, getting users to come to the site isn’t hard – but keeping them there can be. Though YouTube has always featured related videos in the sidebar, viewers needed to manually click through to each video in order to keep the experience going — a major area where customers became bored and clicked off of the site.
Now, an auto-play feature at the top of the page allows users to view an endless stream of videos related to what they’re watching – and what they’ve watched in the past. YouTube’s goal is to keep users on the site until they’ve run out of videos to watch. Even if they can’t keep users around forever, they can extend the amount of time spent on the site – the main outcome for all of these changes. More subtle new features include the ability to make the video larger (but not full screen), easier navigation, less text for faster loading time, and key buttons, links, and stats in prominent places on the screen.
Google’s efforts to dominate social media are well-documented, but the search giant has yet to develop something that comes close to networking giants like Facebook and Myspace. With YouTube, Google has a golden opportunity to really turn it into a social space, without infringing on the site’s original purpose — entertainment. These new features are a great start for a smooth transition into even more social networking opportunities, perhaps a social network that combines elements of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and more onto one easy-to-use page. Who knows, maybe Conan’s prediction of YouTwitFace is closer to reality than we realize?