RealTime IT News

YouTube Gets a New, Less Cluttered Look

YouTube redesign
The redesigned YouTube. Click to enlarge. Source: Google
SAN BRUNO, Calif. -- Coming later today to a screen near you, Google's YouTube division is rolling out a major redesign of the popular video sharing site driven by a "less is more" strategy. The redesign is set to go live at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Pacific Time, although it's already been visible for about 10 percent of YouTube users as part of a test run.

Shiva Rajaraman, senior product manager at YouTube, said the company went overboard adding features last year.

"If you could find the pixels, you could launch a feature," he said at a media event here at the company's headquarters. "That led to a sea of blue links fighting to get noticed and the page was becoming too cluttered to see the videos you want. We needed to step back and frankly make sure (YouTube) is a place uploaders are proud to wrap their content around."

YouTube has already been making moves to give videos more prominence on the page such as increasing the default size and offering a widescreen view. The new design removes "clutter" by only showing the most-used features with more functions available at a click of a more standardized drop-down interface.

A key feature of the redesign is simpler discovery. The right-hand side of the YouTube page is now devoted to showing next videos to watch with "smarter" suggestions based on how the user found the video in the first place. YouTube has also now placed the channel name and subscribe button on top of the video to make them more accessible.

The Playlist has a new interface that lets users expand the list or skip ahead using a new "next" button. YouTube said it's also made saving to Playlists easier and made Favorites the default option.

The old five-star ratings have been replaced by a simpler "like/dislike" model with thumbs up and down icons. YouTube said its tests showed 90 percent of users picked five stars for their ratings, and it wanted to simplify the interface down to what most users appear to want -- a quick look at whether a video has a good or bad rating.

"The average rating is always near five, but some videos provoke a lot of ratings and others don't," said YouTube software engineer Igor Kofman, who added that the site has many other ways to measure popularity, such as time spent watching a video.

The right-hand recommendations column will also offer more choices. When a user is watching a music video, for example, YouTube can now recommend a kind of mix tape based on that genre or the user's preferences.

Rajaraman said YouTube sessions average about 15 minutes and the redesign is aimed at getting users to stay longer. "We want to get that next video (option) more prominence," he said.

Where the old YouTube design was stuffed with actions users could take to navigate or get to a myriad of features, he said the new design is simple and elegant.

"Our tests show users abandon the site when usability is compromised," he said.

YouTube is by far the most popular video sharing site in the world, boasting over a billion page views daily.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.