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YouTube – making my No. 1 app EVEN better!

I often fear make-overs, but so far, this one is looking good!

image courtesy of author

It often goes so wrong!

YouTube is almost certainly the app I open first every day.

Are you like me, I wonder? When you have become accustomed, and familiar with an app, or website over a number of months or years, the words re-design can cause fear to course through my bones.

I don’t know how long this re-brand has been in the planning, but my best guess is that it was quite sometime. And, unlike most new designs on websites and apps, YouTube’s efforts on their new launch, however, have been unanimously well received by both creators and users.

Why now

YouTube, this year, celebrated its 17th birthday, and they decided to give their mobile and desktop apps a fresh, new look. They gathered feedback from thousands of viewers, asking them how their viewing experience could be enhanced and improved.

Last week we saw the results, which were cleaner, fresher and more lively. The overall experience is more modern and immersive. It has improved how users watch videos, but still managed to retain the core, familiar traits of the YouTube platform.

Here are some of the highlights of the new YouTube layout, and their first mission, was colour.

Jazzing things up

We all seem obsessed with Dark Mode, be it desktop, or mobile, and YouTube have taken advantage of that trend to great effect.

Ambient Mode was the result, and it garnered a great response during beta testing this year. With such strong, early, positive feedback, YouTube knew they were on to something. Inspired first, by the light that is cast from screens in a dark environment, the aim was to recreate that vibe, thereby drawing viewers in to the content they are consuming. The site uses dynamic colour sampling from the video you are watching, which subtly changes the background colours, to compliment the video. Subtle, but really easy on the eye.

You will need to be in Dark Mode to experience the new Ambient Mode from YouTube, but it is worth it – the colours have been updated to be even darker so, the colours truly pop on your screen. Not only is this viewable on tablets, smartphones and desktop, but also on smart TV’s too. And, if you were wondering, yes, Ambient Mode can also be used on your playlists as well.

Hit subscribe

That is a line all of us on YouTube have said at one time or another.

Now, those call-to-actions will be easier for viewers to find and use. Obviously, the main reason we all visit YouTube is to watch videos, so, improving that was always going to be front & centre in this redesign. The focus, very much, seems to have been on the video player itself. It just, somehow, seems easier on the eye.

Links in video descriptions will change to buttons. The most regularly used actions, such as like, share and download, are now formatted, with the aim being to create less distraction when viewing content.

Over the years, the all important Subscribe button has had some makeovers. Showing my age here, but do you recall when it was a yellow button? Then, we got used to the red button. Well, it’s time for change again. It’s no longer red, but is high contrast, based on whether you are in Dark Mode or not. It’s now easier to find, on both watch pages and channel pages alike, and is a different shape.

Pinch me

Another popular request from YouTube users, questioned, was to be able to pinch to zoom.

Assuming you are in full-screen mode, that is now a thing! Simply pinch, and even when you let go, the video will remain zoomed in. Not only that, but you can adjust where on the video you want to watch. You can drag and re-size the frame to exactly where you want. And there is more yet…

Follow me

Have you ever been watching a tutorial, and continually missed that all important part – that one bit you really hope to master? Well, good news, YouTube have just made that easier for us.

The feature is called Precise Seeking. Once you know how to use it, it’s addictive. Find the rough part of the video you know you want to re-watch. Pause it, then tap the screen to make the progress bar appear on-screen. Then, simply drag the red dot up, and you’ll reveal thumbnails in a frame, by frame nature, helping you then find exactly the part you want to view.

Just generally easier

Apart from the headline changes that I have gone through, there have been some little tweaks here and there have seen some general ‘housekeeping’ changes that have improved using YouTube.

Before, the sidebar, and main heading, seemed to have their own boundaries. Now, though, the whole page just feels cleaner, more open and more appealing. Everything just blends better.

Even small touches have added to the site feeling more inviting, such as the thumbnails now having rounded corners. It just seems that all these small nuanced points have been thought of, to make YouTube that much better of an experience.

4K – do you?

This is just me being nosey, but do you choose to consume your content in 4K?

Oddly, watching in 4K is not as popular as I had imagined. I guess, thinking about it, you need a good enough connection, ample bandwidth and a 4K monitor to watch in hi-res. Nearly all mobile users cannot watch in 4K as it stands, something that must surely change in time.

But, something I read only recently, highlighted to me, that YouTube are certainly keeping an eye on how many want to watch in 4K.

Generally, the main benefit of becoming a Premium user on YouTube, is seen as watching ad free. Well, for a while at least, it seemed as if you’d have to hand over the $11.99 a month to watch in 4K as well. The move has now been dumped, but for a while at least, it seemed likely to happen.

MacRumors wrote about viewers, noting that the option to watch in 4K was greyed out, unless you were a Premium subscriber.

Although YouTube is huge, with a claimed 2 billion logged-in users every month, and around one billion hours of video consumed daily, from a subscriber standpoint, they are not yet in the major league. In September, YouTube had around 50 million Premium and Music subscribers. Compared to other paid media suppliers, though, those figures do not stack up all that well. Spotify Premium remains way out in front, with 188 million paid users, and even the ailing Netflix has around that number sub’d up members.

The move, to walk away from putting 4K behind a paywall, was probably a smart one. Although you could argue that it would create revenue, it would also break one of the rules of the internet. Needlessly making a popular feature a paid only option, when it has clearly been something that the business model has been able to sustain for free, never goes down well.

It is not clear why YouTube decided to pull out of the trial, but via Twitter last week, they said “we’ve fully turned off this experiment. Viewers should now be able to access 4K quality resolutions without Premium membership. We’re here if you have other q’s”.

YouTube, equally, didn’t say whether it’s permanently shelving the idea of locking 4K videos behind a Premium subscription. In another tweet (written in Japanese), YouTube invited users to leave feedback about the experiment.

Overall…

Apart from the thorny issue of 4K resolution, the feedback has been nothing but positive for the new look to the site.

Cleverly, they have managed to freshen everything up, without alienating existing users. As much as a spring-clean is always a good thing, much like a new OS for your phone, you still want and need to feel at home with it.

With this current version of YouTube, all the bits and bobs are where you’d expect to find them, work just the same, and retain familiarity, but just all feel more zingy, and user-friendly.

A job well done, I’d say.

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Get in the vibe and listen along to today’s chosen soundtrack. I wrote this whilst listening to get in the vibe and listen along to today’s chosen soundtrack. I wrote this whilst listening tohttps://music.apple.com/gb/album/gate-of-dreams/357944521

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