Reflection point: Patterns, IA, and Flows

A look at YouTube

This assignment required me to choose a site that I love and use often and reflect upon its flow, information architecture and the common patterns it uses.

I had trouble thinking of a site I love, but although my feelings for YouTube are complicated, I do use it a lot and it is a highly successful site and so worth reflecting upon.

Homepage

The homepage of YouTube has a huge amount of information. When you are signed in, from here you can access your subscriptions, your history, videos you have saved to watch later, reconnect with past liked videos or explore new trending videos. It caters to each user’s tastes based on their past views, and the user has a lot of control over what sort of content will show up through the subscribing and liking function. This makes the homepage a user’s dream and procrastinator’s nightmare.

Linger here too long and you could get sucked into the infamous YouTube vortex.

Each video is formatted with the title of the video followed by the channel name, the views and how long ago this video was posted. This formula is followed throughout the website such as in the search results, recommended videos and the videos themselves albeit with more information.

Links are always in a clickable shade of blue so you automatically know which wording is an action point. It is used for clickable video titles and, in the comments section, for user names and “view more replies”.

The other actionable colour set up from the homepage is the dark orange. This orange is used for elements relating to your personal youtube experience. Within the site it is used for the subscribe button on videos. These videos will later be easily accessible via the homepage. It is also the colour of the headings in the ever present sidebar which contains your library and subscriptions.

Its other use is as a navigation colour. It shows which videos you have watched, and how far through you watched it via an orange bar at the bottom of the video and it shows where you are in the website by highlighting the page you are on in the navigation bar.

Search

Because of the huge amount of content on YouTube, the main access/starting point into this endless well of cats in costumes and embarrassing american idol auditions is through the search bar.

Due to its importance, the search bar is consistently easily found at the top centre of the page throughout the site.

Youtube has an autosuggest feature so you can see the full range of potential cat videos you could watch as you type.

The search results page defaults to showing the most relevant results first and the videos are laid out in the expected format making it easy to understand. No matter where you are in the site, you can always easily access your history, subscriptions and liked videos via a sidebar and other content via the search bar at the top.

You have the option to filter and order your search results in a variety of ways. This shows that the content has been enriched with metadata which allows the user to access it via search in a variety of ways. This is important for a website which has so much content and relies heavily on search to enable users to narrow down the options and locate the content they want.

Youtube defaults to autoplay related videos to what you have just watched, giving it the reputation as a time sucker. You can uncheck this option if you have responsibilities like a family and a job you shouldn’t be neglecting.

Options to share the video are highlighted with the various expected icons placed in the expected spot after the video. This makes the content easy to share, a feature which is often important to users.

Perhaps the section of the youtube website with the worst reputation is the comments section, although I have managed to find a video with quite positive responses. Only 264 people aren’t supportive of a thankful octopus.

You can order the comments by top comments or, if you’re brave, newest first. The thumbs up, thumbs down icons are a simple, easily understood way to respond to either the video or the comments.

Youtube is a successful site due to the way it is easy to navigate and understand, using a simple colour scheme and recognisable icons and providing easy ways for users to interact with the site, personalise it and share its content with their friends.

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