Here’s some real estate speculation for you. In the last post I focused changes to YouTube’s toolbar over two years. In this one, I want to talk more broadly about the whole page and how it has changed since August 2005. This is less about particular vocabulary, white space, and other details, and more about the audience and the content.
What was removed?
- New user hand holding - before, a big box in the most valuable part of the page introduced the site, with one sentence dedicated to each of Watch, Upload, and Share. This box is entirely gone. Today, watching is self-explanatory, especially thanks to the big video that automatically loads in the top right corner. Upload has moved to a prominent button in the top right (with an arrow graphic), and Share is just intuitively obvious in the “Broadcast Yourself” tagline and in the content itself.
- The tag cloud - early YouTube had a cloud of recent video tags. Tags were hot back then. I could go on about tag clouds and their failures, but I’m guessing it came down to three things: 1) they tell without showing — and on a video sharing site, why not just show? 2) they are rarely clicked, and 3) they are visually cluttered. Beyond the tag cloud, YouTube also removed the list of tags from the Featured Videos metadata. Good riddance — a category, title, and humane description work better.
- Excessive tabs and links - See my previous post
- Recent users online - This is when YouTube thought they were a social network. We see a list of 8 recent users, along with counts of videos, favorites, and friends for each of them. This was removed for obvious scaling reasons: after a community grows beyond, say, 500 users, this just isn’t interesting information for anyone.
- Sign up promotion - a bold yellow box, in a very valuable spot, beckons you to sign up. It’s not very convincing, though. Chances are, you’re going to sign up only when you’re trying to do something else. You’re not signing up for the sake of signing up. So why push the issue? Instead, the new YouTube has a login box in the right column, and a small “sign up” link on the top right in case you really can’t wait.
- Video of the month contest - This has been replaced by all kinds of slicker cross-promoted contents and ads.
What was added?
- Videos being watched right now - Certainly more interesting than list of recent users. This is a dynamic Flash piece that flips through recent videos until you roll over something.
- Promoted Videos and Ads - The revenue has to come from somewhere, right? And now that Diddy is out there with his camcorder, now that the networks have gotten hip to this, the cross promotions are flying all over the place. August 2007’s YouTube features the presidential debates (YouChoose), a huge promo video for UFC on Pay Per View, and a series of promoted videos across the top of the home page (how much do these cost?).
- Video ratings - the five star system. People love their stars. As if being featured or having a high view count is not enough. Most videos on the front page of YouTube have four or five stars. But some of the most watched videos have poor ratings because they’re controversial. So effectively, stars are more a measure of controversy than quality.
- Tabbed video listing - It isn’t just about featured videos anymore. You can choose to see Most Viewed, Most Discussed, and Top Favorites as well. These other three categories tend to have a lot of overlap, so it’s good that YouTube doesn’t waste time showing more than one of them at a time. On the other hand, what’s the difference between Most Viewed and Most Discussed, from the user’s perspective? Does anyone care?
- “What’s New” box - something for the returning users? A post from the YouTube corporate blog. A promotion for mobile videos (iPhone!)
- Popular Videos for Mobile Devices box - YouTube is very proud of their iPhone partnership, and they should be.
Overall, they’ve made huge improvements, if that wasn’t obvious from the page grabs. The data/ink ratio is so much higher, and the information hierarchy is more clear (the old YouTube had too many elements with similar priorities). Even the promotions are mostly pure content, so you hardly notice you’re being promoted on!