YouTube’s Redesign Focuses on Social Features & Ease-of-Use

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.

youtube_like_dislike

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.

youtube_new_features

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.

youtube_autoplay

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?

7 Comments

Adam

This article is interesting in that it reads more like a Youtube press release, than an actual piece of analytical journalism. I would expect more from an independent tech blog than simply regurgitating the benefits as sold by Youtube.

The redesign has come in for widespread and furious criticism from an overwheleming majority of users on Youtube’s own blog, for its ‘cluttered and unintuitive’ design, particuarly the redeigned Comments section which has been roundly panned for lack of functionality or aesthetic. Whether right or wrong, these criticisms deserve a mention in any article on the subject.

The conspicuous absence of any such mention here causes this article to come off rather unfortunately looking like a re-worded Youtube press release.

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diora

This is the stupidest article about YouTube changes. If you actually bother to read almost 2000 comments on YouTube official blog, you’d notice that more than 8 out of 10 users HATE these changes. How dare you write that the changes are welcome when most users have been complained about them as soon as some of them were forcibly switched to this IDIOTIC design. Your article is a complete fluff.

Most users PREFER the 5-star system to simple like/dislike. I can listen to a song and think it’s good but not great, so I cannot give it thumbs up or down. The world is not black and white, it’s full of shades of gray but YouTube designers and people like you who DON’T CARE about what real users think. Maybe for some videos most users rate it as 5 stars, but this isn’t the case for many music videos where awful/mediocre/good/great are possible. What if it’s a duet and one singer is excellent and another is bad?

Also, the comments area in this new design is an AWFUL MESS! It’s no longer possible to see comments IN CONTEXT – something you clearly don’t understand. There is no threading, no indentation of multiple replies to the same post. There is simply no way at all to have a discussion because even if you use @person (and most people don’t), it’s still one person that may have had multiple posts (which one is being replied to?) maybe on a different page. What if in the meantime somebody else answered the first person’s question, but the reply was not correct. There is no grouping of relevant posts as there used to be, no indentation to show a thread, no way to view multiple related posts together. A 5-year old would come up with better design.

Are you getting paid by YouTube? Because all your post does is repeat their official line with no answer to numerous complaints.

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David

“the welcomed changes”

Apparently you are not listening to the blogs, forums and vids that people are posting. People hate the new changes. On one forum thread it was page three before anyone had anything good to say about the changes.
Are you being paid by Google to write this one sided article or are you just that out of touch?

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Hurricoaster

I really, really hate it. Here are the reasons I used for my feedback –

1. There are no channel icons visible while you’re watching the video.
2. Channel comments are too small and are too close together.
3. You have to scroll over the comments just to see when they were made.
4. Add some color!
5. It’s extremely hard to tell who someone is replying to in the comments, because they’re not tied together. For example, in my comments page, some guy answered someone else, but I had no idea who he was talking to and what he was talking about. He just said “tourettes guy.” I couldn’t figure out why he said that.
6. Video responses – It’s really annoying how, in order to see all of the responses, we have to go onto another page, instead of staying on the same one and viewing them via scrollbar.
7- the most important of all – The rating system. There should be a middle ground. Here’s why. What if there’s a video that you think is just average? You can’t dislike or like it, because it’s just mediocre. There should be a middle button, one that you can click on if you think it’s so/so. You know, like a thumbs – sideways button. Or, just bring back the original star system, which everyone seems to like.

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Jamie Dimmel

If Youtube’s goal is to keep people on it’s site longer it has absolutely failed with me. After it’s redesign of user “channels” last year I stopped going to them. Now with it’s redesign of the video pages I’m going to Dailymotion instead. The new design is crap, totally useless by anyone except a 13 year old, and totally lacking in the ‘courtesy’ the old design offered, where I could choose what I wanted to do. Bybye Youtube, Hello !

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Tara

No, I was not paid by Google to write this article. The opinion is mine and mine alone. I do appreciate the criticism, and believe that everyone is allowed his or her own opinion. After playing around on YouTube and getting used to the the new design, I have found some flaws. But when something is redesigned like this, nothing will be perfect, and not everyone will like it.

What I was trying to do with this post was highlight some of the ways YouTube is responding to want and need for social media interaction on its interface. Though YouTube has always been a social media site, I believe with these new features, it is even moreso.

Diora and Hurricoaster, you point out that the like/dislike system and comments are a mess. Though the star ratings did allow for more that just a yea/nay response, YouTube’s research showed that it was ineffective, as I pointed out in this post. From my observations, they are trying to find a way to make this rating system more usable. I know that I rarely rated videos before, but am now more apt to like or dislike something to see how everyone else “voted.” With this, I also see how they’re pulling in aspects of other social networks not to be like them, but to create a more common interface throughout. Perhaps someday the “likes” on YouTube will connect with Likes on Facebook, or something to that effect. This takes that one step closer.

I’m sure YouTube has heard everyone’s complaints, and will respond with more effective changes in the coming months. Google is good about that, and I believe YouTube will be no different.

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David Capece David

Interesting comments from everyone.

One thing I’ve noticed through the years is that redesigns and change can be difficult. Many online publishers spend a lot of time trying to improve their display of content. They have good intentions (nobody wants to alienate their users). Generally, it is better to take a successful site and make incremental adjustments as opposed to drastic changes. Or to stage the changes in small steps. Perhaps YouTube and Google stretched the redesign too far and didn’t keep enough of the core user experience. It’s a good lesson for anyone thinking about a redesign, that even a company like Google can garner significant negative feedback when straying too far from the current offering.

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