Wednesday, March 31, 2010

YouTube’s New Streamlined ‘Watch’ Page Boosts Engagement By 7%

This morning, broke the news that YouTube would be rolling out its new, streamlined Watch page to all users. The aptly named page is the all-important portion of the site where you actually watch videos (it also features comments, ratings, and related videos). At an event at YouTube headquarters this morning, three of the key people involved with the launch — Senior Product Manager Shiva Rajaraman, UI designer Julian Fumar, and engineer Igor Kofman — walked us through some of the changes in the new design, the logic behind them, and some of the early results they’ve seen.

We first saw the new Watch page in January, when the site started allowing users to opt-in to it. To test the new design, YouTube also rolled it out to around 10% of its users. Among those users, YouTube says that it has see a rise in engagement (which includes actions like ratings and leaving comments) by 7%, and an increase in the number of videos watched by 6%. Those may not sound like huge numbers, but given that this is the world’s most popular video site, that translates into a lot of extra views.

So what changed? In short, everything is much cleaner. The YouTube team said that in 2009 the site added more features than they had in the two previous years combined, and things were getting cluttered. So they’ve decided to prune the hedges.

As we detailed when the redesign first become available, the new site has streamlined the page header to place a much greater emphasis on search. It has also abandoned YouTube’s long-standing five star rating system in favor of a binary thumbs up/thumbs down system (a change that YouTube has discussed for months).

Less obvious changes: the ‘more info’ button, which used to be a bizarrely small link nestled under the video description, is now positioned directly under the video, with a much larger clickable area. The video uploader’s screenname is now more prominently featured above the video, as is the ‘Subscribe’ button (there will be an opportunity for YouTube partners to brand this area). The related videos listing, which makes up the page’s right column, will now be more consistently positioned. And you can now access the site’s detailed viewing statistics simply by clicking on the viewcount (these used to be tucked under a ’stats’ menu).

Google Launches Labs For Ads

When Google wants to try out a new consumer-facing product, it usually puts it in Google Labs. That is where experimental products can be found. There are separate Labs for Gmail, Calendar, Maps, Search, and YouTube (although sometimes they are called “experiments” or “TestTube”). Now Google Ads has its own Labs, which it is calling Ad Innovations. It is a central place where advertisers can “explore new marketing technologies.”

Some of the highlighted technologies include Google’s new remarketing option, which shows ads to people who have visited the advertiser’s Website as they visit other sites that serve up Google ads. Another feature highlighted on the Ad Innovations page is Google’s new Search Funnels analytics tool, which shows advertisers the history of interactions with their ads leading up to a click. The online advertising industry is trying to prove to advertisers that even ads that don’t get clicked on can lead to conversions. Search Funnels is Google’s way of making that argument. The page also highlights product listing ads, special YouTube ads, and mobile click-to-call ads.

It’s about time Google’s advertising products got their own Labs. But hopefully ad products that don’t work won’t be allowed to linger around as long as some of the consumer stuff in Google Labs proper. We’re talking about products designed to make money here, after all.