YouTube (s GOOG) announced that it’s looking to improve its user experience with a new design for video pages that cleans up a lot of the clutter that had plagued the previous design, and puts the videos front and center. To do so, the online video site has updated its video player and changed the way that it displays recommendations and other information about the videos.
To make video the center of the user experience, the new design has moved description and stats information to a less prominent position below the video, and has also simplified sharing, embedding, and rating information. Since YouTube says that no one ever used ratings other than “one star” or “five stars” on the previous design, the company has narrowed the rating system down to a “like or dislike” model, which users can designate by clicking a “heart” or “thumbs down” symbol.
Also changed is the way related videos work. A “next up” list still appears to the right of the video a user is watching, but now YouTube says it will try to be smarter about the way it lines those videos up. For example, if you find a video through a search, YouTube will now carry those search results with you, allowing you to jump in between videos that might be of interest. Recommendations work in the same way: that is, if a user finds a particular video in a playlist or through recommendations, those results will also line up alongside the video.
The video player itself also has lots of new functionality, with the ability to switch between multiple quality levels. While before YouTube only enabled videos to be viewed in standard definition or “high quality” (HQ), videos will now have different quality levels that move from SD to HD, and even up to 1080p. The video controls also allow users to expand the video to the match the width of the browser, which slides the “next up” list below it, or expand to full screen as before.
YouTube has also updated the search functionality so that a search no longer ends a video playback. In the previous design, doing a search for a new video resulted in the browser jumping to a brand new page. Now, search results appear next to a minimized version of the video that’s being played back.
For now, the new design is only available if you opt-in to use it (and you can switch back at any time). To check out the new design for yourself, you can do so by clicking this link.