Thursday, April 1, 2010

YouTube redesigns website to keep viewers captivated

Updated on : Thursday, April 01, 2010

SAN BRUNO: Google-owned YouTube rolled out a major redesign aimed at clearing out visual noise and capturing the attention of viewers at the superstar video-sharing website.

"We really felt like we needed to step back and remove the clutter," Google product manager Shiva Rajaraman said as he provided an in-depth look at the revamped YouTube home page to be fully rolled out by late Wednesday.

"Changes are based on how people actually use YouTube."

YouTube engineers said they studied the way people behave at the website and modified the home page accordingly. The number of links on the page have been cut by more than half.

Information about videos is grouped in one place and one side of the page is devoted to viewing recommendations personalized to what visitors are evidently seeking.

There is a cleaned up "actions bar" for sharing, flagging or embedding videos.

Modified playlist tools make it easier to queue up videos for viewing or skip from one to another.

YouTube eliminated a five-star ranking system and replaced it with a simple "likes/dislikes" choice for viewers.

It turned out that the vast bulk of ratings entered are five-stars while a meager percentage of one-star ratings get logged and almost nobody rates videos in between, according to YouTube interface designer Julian Fumar.

Makers of videos will get spotlights in YouTube comment forums and be able to add brand names to titles of their works.

YouTube has been testing the new page design with some users for about two months but the changes will spread across the entire video-sharing service by the end of Wednesday.

The basic objective is to get people spending more time at YouTube, according to Rajaraman. Americans typically spend 15 minutes a day on YouTube compared to about five hours watching television.

"We wanted to refocus on the playback experience and optimize sessions," Rajaraman said while discussing the overhaul with bloggers at YouTube's headquarters in the Northern California city of San Bruno.

"We asked ourselves, 'How do we turn 15 minutes into an hour on YouTube?'"

While the changes don't include direct revenue-generating features, the more time people spend at YouTube the more they will invariably see or click on ads that pull in money for Google.

YouTube boasts being the second most searched website on the Internet, so engineers streamlined and improved ways people can find videos at the website.

"We'd like to make it so we don't force users to hunt for things all the time," Rajaraman said. "We would just like to bring it to them."

YouTube will set up a "war room" of sorts to field feedback from users and orchestrate warranted modifications in the coming weeks.

"Essentially we want to figure out how we get people to find their first video, search for their next video and never get to their last video," said YouTube spokesman Chris Dale.

Earlier this month YouTube said that 24 hours worth of video are being uploaded to the site every minute.

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