How to not change the design (YouTube) with a few commonsensical rules for the change

17 Oct 2007 - 4:33pm
1346 reads
Oleh Kovalchuke

A quip.

YouTube has changed their design recently. One thing they did right about
the change initially - they didn't force the change: an unobtrusive message
had invited you to "try" the new layout before you switch. I have tried it a
month ago, didn't like it, returned to the old layout.

That 'right thing' has changed to the 'bad thing': I have tried the new
design once more ("curiosity killed the cat"), still didn't like it, tried
to go back to the old design and there was no way to get back.

I wouldn't have minded that: after all, I could have been one of the last
remaining holdovers. However 1) the link deceptively said: "try" - my
expectations of safely "trying" the new design were betrayed; and 2) the new
design is still lacking.

And thus I come to my main quip. The new design is missing one important
feature: browsing other people's playlists, which include the video I am
currently viewing. The side bar in the old design had three tabs - all meant
to support related browsing exploration: 1) Related videos (computed from
the video description, poor "relatedness"), 2) More videos from the user
(better "relatedness"), and 3) Playlists (related videos selected by
viewers, the best "relatedness"). This 'Playlists' tab was the most useful -
actual people have already selected similar, related videos for me to
explore and tagged them with playlists names. Now this feature is gone. Not
replaced by something better, alternative, more exciting, sparkling and
useful. Gone and, on top of that, there is no way to return it.

So..., to the good folks at YouTube I would like to offer five simple,
*commonsensical* rules from 'The Universal Guidelines On The Design Change':

Rule #1) The change should increase value: when you make the change do not
remove the most valuable features. It turns out, people like value.
corollary: Ask users what the most valuable features are (see Rule
Rule #2) Be considerate: Do not remove the features entirely, provide
alternative ways to access them in the new design.
Rule #3) Be polite: if you have to remove the features, do not force the
user to change to the new design: let them explore the new design and return
to the old one, if they wish to do so.
Rule #4) Develop listening skills: when users do return to the old design,
ask them why (politely, and without forcing them to jump hoops to answer).
For instance, YouTube could have given me simple *unobtrusive* feedback
field (dismissible iFrame or the text field built into the header of the old
layout), once I have pressed "Return to the old layout" link.
Rule #5 Guard your reputation: do not be deceitful in your messages
- credibility is finite.

General rule for the design of social media (bonus prerequisite to the Rule
#1 as it applies to YouTube): Harness and nurture the power of social
tagging - everyone will be richer, including yourself.

Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is the Design of Time

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