Patterns and flows in Product Design

Analyzing YouTube …

I am one of those weirdoes who needs background sound (songs, chatter, chants) while doing household chores. And YouTube is always on, on my phone. It is also because I involve in the video content better than the audio and text.

Recipies, DIYs, self-help, comedy shows-standups-videos, and animal videos are favorites. YouTube is also a source of my news updates, home decore, and style tips.

Recommended videos of Jen Aniston for my profile on YouTube

Video cards include title, channel, view count, and approximate upload date below a screenshot of the video. The duration is shown above the screenshot. Hovering above a video reveals a snippet of the video as well as the option to save in your Watch later playlist.

On the page of the video, you can see the title of the video, its description, view count and rating, and the number of subscribers on the channel. You can easily rate, comment, subscribe, share, add to a playlist, or flag as spam or inappropriate content.

A clean interface and open community promote conversation. Comments are traceable. Users help each other to filter out trolls and spam.

There is a collapsible sidebar on the left that shows the main pages on the site including Home, Subscriptions, and Trending, and gives access to other playlists and channels you’re subscribed to.

Main sections on the Homepage included Recommended, Recently Uploaded, different channels you follow, your Watch later playlist, as well as other YouTube-curated playlists for categories you watch often such as Fashion and Beauty. YouTube may also recommend channels and videos based on your view history and subscriptions.

Carousels help you to explore more of a certain section. You can also close out sections whenever you want to clean up your screen and tune your recommendations.

Regular YouTube users will go directly to their subscription page to see new uploads from their favorite YouTubers. Uploads are organized by day. After showing videos from the past two days, YouTube curates by This Week and This Month.

Not showing all the days helps to not overwhelm the user, highlights recent uploads, and gives just enough reminders to the user of other channels he/she may want to revisit.

When you know exactly what you’re looking for, you would go into the search. The search bar appears on the top of every page.

Auto-fill gives you the most searched terms. This is useful as YouTube closely follows news and trends.

Filters include Upload date, Type (Video/Channel/Playlist/Movie/Show), Duration, and Special Features (Subtitles, Creative Commons, etc.). You can sort results by Relevance, View Count, and Rating.

The last page is the Trending page tells you what videos everyone’s talking about online. It can be news and humor videos, trailers, viral prank videos, videos about the YouTube community, etc. You never know what to expect.

Lastly, I would like to point out YouTube’s Up Next feature. When a video finishes, YouTube will automatically play you another.

The Up Next feature appears on the sidebar next to the video you are currently watching. It is unclear the algorithms YouTube uses to choose videos. Sometimes, you will dive deeper into the channel you’re watching. Sometimes, you will find yourself in a web of related channels. However, the longer you watch, the more likely you will find yourself in the middle of nowhere.

With Autoplay on, this feature helps users mindlessly consume content, discover new channels, expand their circles, and maybe learn something new and valuable in the process.

It gives views to content creators and money to advertisers.

However, it’s also a big part of the reason YouTube has gotten in trouble lately. The streaming video service removed more than 50 user channels and stopped running ads on over 3.5 million videos since June for inappropriate child-related content.

The patterns and flows are impressive. You can easily find yourself into a black hole of content even if you had only intended to watch one specific video you’d found through the search bar. But recent news reminds us that ease is not everything. We need to be more mindful of our consumption and moderation habits. No hashtag or algorithm can yet replace the need for a human touch.

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