2. The Player

Playing a video. Notice how the thumbnail scales up and starts playing while the video panel slides in from the bottom.

There’s a lot to say about the new video panel as many of the core features have been tuned to stay coherent with the new orientation.

Like and Dislike buttons

The new video controls.

In this concept, the Like and Dislike buttons sit on top of the video player. And it actually changes so much about their usage.

The problem with their current position is that they’re not accessible in fullscreen mode, while fullscreen mode is how I personally prefer to watch most of my videos on (and I guess a lot of people do). The worst part is that it is very easy and even encouraged by the current UI to jump to another video directly from the player. Sometimes, there’s even a counter before the next video starts playing.

What you currently see when you’re done watching a video in fullscreen. No like or dislike button in sight, and a strong suggestion to go to the next video instead.

As a consequence, most of the time, I end up leaving the video without having liked (or disliked) it. It’s something that should be avoided because then the youtubers are not rewarded for their work, and also because I missed a chance as a user to tell Youtube what my preferences were, and it can end up in less relevant recommendations. Sometimes, I also hit the Like button before even watching the video but that can prove misleading for the algorithms as well, and it’s not how the Like/Dislike buttons were supposed to work after all.

By simply putting the Like/Dislike buttons directly on the player, we ensure that they are made easily accessible throughout the whole video and especially at its end, thus providing a better and more coherent to the user.

The Right Column

The right column: where the user discovers what to watch next.

On the right side of the panel, the UI suggests to the user potentially relevant videos. These suggestions are divided into 3 categories:

  • My Playlist: which displays the videos in the currently active playlist. With the push of Instant Playlists (we’ll come back to it later), this part is bound to be very prominent and at the heart of the new Youtube experience. Think of it as the waiting queue that can be found in music apps like Spotify or Apple Music for instance. Videos from the categories below can be dragged onto this part and easily reordered. The user can also activate autoplay just by clicking the play button, and edit the playlist thanks to the three white dots. When the playlist has a name, “My Playlist” is replaced with it.
  • My Recommendations: quite explicit as it is. Recommendations are based on the user’s habits and do not directly depend on what the user is currently watching. With the new experience, I wanted to make them easily accessible to the user wherever they are in the platform. This category is one that the user could launch and watch from the beginning til the end (once the relationship of trust is built); that’s why there’s a play button next to the title. When the user clicks the play button, recommended videos are transferred to “My Playlist”. “My Recommendations” is not editable as it is the results of ML algorithms, but videos can be dragged and put on “My Playlist”.
  • More Like This One: this category is where videos that are similar to the one the user is watching are displayed. It would not be so relevant to put a play button there, as it is hardly possible for the user to be interested in each of these videos.

If we look at what’s currently being done on Youtube, there is no clear categorization or explanation about why a video is put there.

Suggestions on the right column on today’s Youtube.

The user does not know whether the video is there because it is part of a playlist in which he happened to jump in, or because it’s from the same channel, or because it is similar to the one they are watching. Sometimes, there’s a small mention “Recommended for you” but it appears to be too random to make a rule out of it. Moreover, if the video is from a channel the user is subscribed to, the right column is cluttered with videos from the same channel, and does not help in widening their horizon and making them discover new kinds of videos they could also like.

In the new experience, the three categories (My Playlist, My Recommendations, and More Like This One) are consistent and displayed everytime a video is played, even when “My Playlist” is empty. I tried to use a wording that is as clear as possible, and explain in a few words the distinctions between the categories so the user understands precisely their purpose (“Based on your habits” versus “Based on your current video” for instance).

By using clear categories, we teach the user where to look for videos, and we remove the ambiguity from the suggestions which may leave them unnecessarily wondering.

Digital wellbeing and responsibility

This is a topic that I hold close to my heart, and it’s the notion of responsibility that tech companies have towards their customer base.

It’s good to build a platform with a huge amount of entertaining content, but with it comes the risk of addiction, and tech companies have to protect their users against it.

UI-UX designers have the responsibility to design systems that are empathetic towards their customers, and that give them enough space to do something else if they want to.

The new Youtube experience has been designed with this sense of responsibility in mind. And it shows in several areas.

For instance, autoplay (ie. playing automatically the next video) can be activated only within the playlists the user has created and never within computed recommendations where they didn’t have their say.

There is also a viewing limit that is set by default around 30 minutes. Once this limit is reached, the UI triggers a warning, inviting the user to do something else, and stops the current playback. This warning is also visible in advance so that the user knows beforehand where they should approximately stop watching videos.

When the time limit is reached, everything is darkened to make the bright warning stand out. The use of the blue color is reassuring.

Tools like this one are extremely important in content oriented platforms like Youtube or Netflix, as these are by nature tremendously addictive. The user absolutely needs to be aware of the time they spend on these platforms, so they can easily monitor their usage.

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