If you’re not an active YouTube user, you may want to start now. Complementing its $100 million original-content strategy, in December YouTube announced a series of design updates to its “Channels” environments. Changes coming to the site over the next six weeks are anticipated to massively shake-up and improve its user experience.
Brands and publishers have until March 1 to switch their channels over to the new design, at which point YouTube’s transformation will be complete. Here are five reasons we love the new changes, along with some guesses about how they will affect the web’s video ecosystem.
- It just looks better. Analysis doesn’t always have to be complex, and in this case, it’s certainly not. The new “Channels 3.5” design is a simple aesthetic upgrade, reflecting a sharper, more UX-driven YouTube. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said, “Accessible design is good design,” and – in this writer’s opinion – the new YouTube makes it easier and more pleasant to find relevant content.
- Channels are now “destinations.” Click here. Now click here. Which page would you rather re-visit and actually spend time with. (I’m assuming the latter.) As advertisers, it’s important for us to create branded environments that stimulate and genuinely pique curiosity. The design changes – including channel-wide branding areas like header and side banners, tabbed browsing environments and native links to connected channels – allow advertisers to break the mold of carelessly placed playlists and uploads, replacing it with thoughtfully conceived layouts and user flows.
- Analytics, Yay! Following in the footsteps of Google Analytics and Facebook Insights, YouTube realized that marketers would be less inclined to invest resources into a platform that could not be heavily monitored. Enter YouTube Analytics, a new and robust set of metrics that allow channel admins to measure everything from views, demographics, playback locations and traffic sources to Likes & Dislikes, comments and shares. Most of these numbers were previously accessible, but it wasn’t chronologically searchable (nor was it prepared as neatly). Less visible but also important, Friends and Subscriptions are now one and the same (who pays attention to that stuff anyway) and Channel Views are no longer publically visible.
- Tabbed Browsing. We mentioned it in No. 2 above, but it deserves its own discussion. The new design partitions YouTube channels into three (or more) tabbed browsing environments, including Featured, Feed, Videos and Custom. Perhaps most importantly, this change alleviates the “paralysis by analysis” problem many users face with YouTube. Without scaling back its platform, YouTube has simplified its interface, creating compartmentalized pages for featured/new content, activity streams, video archives and custom content (just like a website… hmmm, imagine that).
- Google+ Integration. While this doesn’t technically relate to the design changes coming to YouTube, it’s part of the site’s long-term content and search plan, which makes it relevant for this story. Along with the launch of Google+ and now Google Search Plus Your World, the YouTube (Google owns YouTube) platform has become infinitely more powerful as a search engine and content-finder. And since content on YouTube should now be more accessible and enjoyable to discover (for the reasons discussed above), Google’s stranglehold on organic and paid search just took a Barry Bonds-size dose of performance-enhancing drugs. If Google+ is able to stay alive and continue generating +1s across the web, Google will soon begin aggregating those +1s onto branded Google+ and YouTube Channels, creating a veritable shrine of user- and context-specific endorsements.
Ah, the future.