As with all changes, not everyone is happy with the results. Be that as it may, the recent changes to YouTube are here to stay (probably) and so we’ve put together a guide to help you figure out your way around.
What are the Changes?
The most noticeable difference on the new YouTube layout is the streamlined design. YouTube has opted for a more minimal, less cluttered approach: there’s a lot more white space, almost everything has been shifted down the page to make way for the actual videos, which now take centre stage, and – for some reason we can’t quite fathom – the whole site is now aligned to the left (although we suspect this will change, considering the uproar).
The downshifting of all content but the videos hasn’t left the videos’ titles unscathed. The titles can now be found underneath the videos, rather than above them, leading to a smoother connection between the search bar and the videos. This arguably means that a lot more attention needs to be paid to video thumbnails, as they’re the first thing a viewer will see, but this consideration is negligible when it comes to search results, as titles are still displayed alongside thumbnails.
The biggest change is that the channel guide is now sticky. It can be found throughout the whole site except the channel pages, which remain the same. The guide features a “What to Watch” element, as well as your subscriptions, a social page, and your viewing history and videos you want to save for later. It can also be minimised (except on the home page) when you want it out of the way.
What to Watch
YouTube is evidently trying to bring recommendations to the forefront of its utilities, as you land on the What to Watch section as soon as you hit the home page. The What to Watch feed incorporates everything from your subscriptions alongside various recommendations based on your viewing history, and items that have been liked and commented on by people you follow.
The new sleeker YouTube layout and portable guide are designed with mobile browsing in mind, making the YouTube experience more accessible on the move. Playlists have also been shifted, now slotting in nicely on the right hand side of videos. Sharing is clearly being pushed to the forefront of YouTube’s ambitions, with a dedicated “social” page featured on the guide. Oh, and avatars are now a thing.
This video from YouTuber Phillip DeFranco highlights some of the benefits and drawbacks of YouTube’s new features:
How Do YouTube’s Changes Affect Viewers?
The left alignment could pose a problem for those using wide screens, leading to potential neck strain and annoyance, although anyone browsing via a netbook or mobile device won’t notice much difference. On the bright side (er, literally) there’s a lot more white space, which means simpler navigation. But also possibly a lot more eye strain.
The What to Watch feature will lead to a much more personalised viewing experience, with recommendations becoming a regular part of your YouTube sessions, rather than aimless wandering between Spice Girls videos, blender demonstrations and whatever else pops into your mind. (Er, not that we watch Spice Girls videos over here, you understand.)
The dynamic new guide means it’s easier to get back on track if you get lost among the video debris that is the world of YouTube, although it’s now a slightly lengthier process to find the feed that features only the latest videos uploaded by the channels you’re subscribed to. You can get to this feed by clicking “My subscriptions,” followed by “Uploads only.”
How Do YouTube’s Changes Affect Creators?
YouTube is definitely moving away from video-based browsing and towards channels-based browsing, with a view to getting people to stick around for longer. The move towards personalised content and easy subscription options are intended to lead to higher engagement levels, resulting in better viewer retention rates and more subscriptions.
If you continue to upload good, shareable content, you’ll find your videos being brought in front of more eyes, leading to more subscribers and your videos popping up in more recommendations, and so resulting in a lovely virtuous circle of viewer engagement.
On the downside, the latest changes mean you now have to go searching for comments on your videos, which no longer appear on the home page. And, of course, your eyes might hurt if you stare at the new YouTube for too long – especially if you have one of those gigantic monitors. Which, as a video creator, you probably do. Ouch.
To help you get the most out of the latest changes, Google has put together a handy guide to help you tweak your YouTube account in your favour, covering things such as maximising your channel page and utilising the playlist function efficiently.
What Does it All Mean?
There’s a definite lean towards social media functionality, with YouTube trying to jump firmly on the bandwagon. We can see what they are trying to do, although we suspect the “social” page may lay dormant for some time, as people continue to share videos externally. This new social direction is evident on the home page too, with the default feed now incorporating social elements such as liking, commenting and other user interactions.
Subscriptions seem to be YouTube’s biggest push with the latest updates, as it tries to get users to spend longer on the site. At the moment users have a tendency to hop on the site for ten minutes, watch a couple of amusing cat videos, and hop off again when they get distracted by the latest palaver on Twitter. By encouraging users to subscribe to more channels, they’ll have more videos in their feeds, in the form of both the subscription content and the recommendations based on those subscriptions, meaning they’ll spend longer on the site. We see what you did there, YouTube.
As with all things, the changes will take a while to get used to, but once the hubbub has died down hardcore users will grow accustomed to clicking twice to get to that beloved, pure subscriptions feed, while the casual browser will stumble upon more cat videos than they ever could have hoped for, and may even discover the delights of their very own subscription feed.