Why is everyone angry about YouTube’s new layout?

If you’re a fan of YouTube content, you may have opened the website in the past few months to find that things look a little…different.

The new YouTube layout has been in testing since late February, and it has been met with fervent criticism by fans of the platform. From accusations of prioritising revenue over user experience to worries about the livelihood of content creators, the redesign has stirred up a storm in the digital space and highlights some key points for marketers to consider when thinking about making any changes to the UI of a site. As an SEO-driven digital marketing agency, we know all too well how important it is to put the user first, and the YouTube layout change is a great example of what can happen when marketers get too bogged down on the stats.

In this post, we will take a look at all of the new YouTube layout changes, why everyone is so angry about them, and what we can learn from the calamity.

At Embryo, we are always working to keep on top of all of the most important changes in the digital landscape. If you would like to learn more about anything we discuss in this blog, or on anything else related to digital marketing, you can speak to a member of our team.

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How is the new YouTube layout different?

YouTube’s layout has remained pretty consistent since about 2013. Anyone who’s been somewhat active online has a good idea of the trademark design – the video being played sits just below the header, with the video description and comments below, and suggested videos in a smaller column to the right. Well, forget everything you know. The new design places the video description, subscribe button, and comments in a tiny column next to the YouTube video, and has replaced the below section with giant thumbnails tempting you to click on other videos.

To many users’ dismay, resizing the video being played makes no difference to the layout. Even in Theater mode, the widest possible size you can select without going full-screen, the column containing the description and comments section is only moved further down, with the cluster of suggested videos remaining just as invasive as before.

To make matters worse, opening up the video description triggers an additional, full-length pop-up that takes away the option to scroll down to the comments section. Since comments are now restricted to a smaller section of the screen, they also require more scrolling to read and are split into several short lines, which many users find too crowded.

Another significant change is that the right-hand column containing the comments and description has replaced the video’s main ad placement, which previously sat above a list of suggested videos.

Why is the Youtube layout change an issue?

The new YouTube layout has been criticised for a plethora of reasons. The most widely voiced issue being that the new, giant thumbnails are essentially a cash cow, designed to distract users from the video they’re currently viewing and tempt them to click on the next video, and the next…and the next. In a time when many people are seeing the negative impacts of excessive screen time, it’s clear to see why this is a problem.

This issue is escalated further by the fact that YouTube thumbnails are known for being a little over-the-top. Video creators design their thumbnails to be as eye-catching as possible, with bright colours and big, bold lettering, to maximise their chances of getting a click. While this is an effective strategy, when these thumbnails are enlarged and clustered together it has a very overwhelming effect. Many users have reported feeling ‘sensory overload’ when faced with the new layout, and this brings into question whether the redesign was made with consideration given to user experience. Taking this into account, we can even question if the redesign is even an effective way to promote higher engagement times, as the stress levels induced by the new YouTube layout may actually cause more users to click off the platform.

Another anxiety about the new YouTube layout comes straight from creators of the platform. In a video addressing the changes, titled “YouTube’s new layout is here…and it’s awful”, YouTube creator Sully expresses his fear that the removal of the right-hand advertisement on video pages would lead to drops in revenue for creators, a difficult thing to face when most of your paycheck relies on these advertisements. He theorises that this might be replaced with even more video ads playing before and during YouTube content, a feature that has already been widely discussed as frustrating for users.

In spite of all of this, YouTube has argued that the main goal of the redesign is to allow users to scroll through comments while watching videos at the same time, and some users have embraced this part of the new layout. For instance, take a look at this review from Twitter user CherriFireLive:

However, it seems like most of the internet isn’t buying it, and users are still convinced that the new Youtube layout is bad for user experience, puts engagement time over community interaction, and takes away the enjoyment of the platform.

What can we learn from the YouTube UI changes?

Based on reactions to the YouTube UI changes, it’s pretty clear that the layout of your content should always prioritise the experience of the people visiting your site. Our web designers can testify to the importance of effective UX/UI design, and stats show that good user experience is an essential part of the customer journey. The discussion around the changes also shows how important it is to listen to your audience. Effective user engagement is a key part of a good social media strategy, and by giving careful consideration to how people interact with your website or content, you can create digital marketing campaigns that truly resonate with your target audience.

Laying out the differences

Looking at YouTube’s new layout and how people have reacted to it gives us some really helpful insights about what users want, how important their voices are, and how to best tailor your marketing strategy to retain your audience.

We’ll be interested to see how all this drama will be resolved. With increasing numbers of creators critiquing the update, and turning to the popular extension Youtube Redux to revert the changes on the site, perhaps Youtube will reconsider their decision to release the new layout.

If you’re a business owner or digital marketer who is thinking about making some UI changes on your site, we’d be happy to help.

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