YouTube this week revealed one of its latest experiments — a new interface for its videos, playlists and user channels dubbed “Cosmic Panda.” The blog post announcing the decision makes clear that Cosmic Panda (love that name, by the way) is very much in development, and that YouTube engineers are looking for feedback from its most active users — YouTube partners.
So what do those creators think? Based on comments gathered by phone, email and Google+ discussions, the response from partners is largely positive.
“Honestly, I’ve really only had a chance to explore the aesthetic revisions, which seem fine,” Douglas Sarine, the Ninja of Ask a Ninja said. “To that end, advertisements definitely seem to be given more premium placement in, what I will call, the clearly-defined video player band. Hopefully this will ultimately increase value for advertisers and CPMs for content creators who use YouTube as their main distribution channel.”
Rebecca Lando, host and producer of the cooking show Working Class Foodies, observed: “After looking more in-depth, I really love how simple it is, both from an audience standpoint (finding videos, creating playlists, going from one video to another) and from a creator’s standpoint. I love how easy it is now for a partner to update their page layout and design and I really love the idea of the widescreen/HD poster frames, although right now it seems to just be zooming in on pre-existing poster frames, which makes them all pixelated and doesn’t do them justice — an important problem when your content is a cooking show and beautiful poster frames have a big impact on whether or not someone clicks on your video!”
Benny and Rafi Fine (AKA The Fine Brothers) praised the new design’s emphasis on serialized content: “The new interface… makes it very seamless to go from episode to episode, and understand on your channel page that there are many different actual shows to watch. This actually is a more streamlined and better version of the old YouTube channel page, where series playlists had their own specific module.
“That, combined with the new feature of having the default on every video page be more videos from the specific channel that video is from, vs. random related videos that only some of the time are actually related, is a huge win for content creators to get more views and more subscribers. This is HUGE to hopefully curb some of the metadata spam that plagues the site, with people copying your tag, titles, description in order to show up in your related videos,” they added.
They did observe one problem — there’s currently no subscription button on video watch pages, which is a big deal considering how much subscriptions drive overall viewership. But overall, the Fines were extremely positive. “This feels like a real push to getting us closer to seeing differences between the random one offs or virals, and the more professionals who create actual series,” they said.
The first thing Black Box TV creator Tony Valenzuela mentioned liking about the new design was the black background for watching videos. “It makes the viewing experience much better. You wouldn’t watch a movie in a white brightly lit room, it’d be very distracting,” he said. He also mentioned liking the new layout for playlists, allowing viewers to see not just one representative thumbnail for a series, but multiple thumbnails and art.
He added, though, that he hoped that the ability to customize channel pages with background images, headers and color schemes would be re-enabled (currently, all channel pages are standardized). “Hopefully it won’t be Facebook for video — not that it should be Myspace for video! But fingers crossed branding options will remain possible,” he said. In addition, he was concerned about the fact that it’s not currently possible to watch videos on the channel pages — clicking the featured video on a channel page takes you to the viewing screen. “You want viewers to come in and instantly experience your content — there may be a way to do that, but I don’t see it yet.”
Chris McCaleb of Big Fantastic commented that “I like that it’s streamlined, and allows you to aggregate multiple different shows in a meaningful way on a single channel (which is exciting). The re-design will certainly take some getting used to — after all, we’ve been conditioned to the same look and feel for several years. But just like whenever Facebook makes radical design changes, we quickly get used to it — as long as the functionality is still there!”
Opting into Cosmic Panda is open to the public — and, as mentioned above, YouTube is actively seeking feedback. So give it a try yourselves, and tell us what you think in the comments!