2: Apps, Emphasis, and Audience, Oh My: The YouTube App

An earlier post discussed YouTube’s home page and the way it displays video content in order to draw users in and keep them there as long as possible. As an avid consumer of YouTube videos, I found myself wondering how the YouTube website differed from the app, and how the design choices of each altered the user experience. 

Opening the YouTube app brings me to a home page with a series of icons displayed across the top, indicating “Home,” “Trending,” “Subscriptions,” “Shared,” and “Account.” The images used to signify these options are similar to those used on other social media and content-sharing apps, relying on the user’s presumed familiarity with those apps in order to be understood. YouTube’s intended audience is at least reasonably familiar with similar apps and would likely know intuitively how to navigate this platform. 

Visually, the app makes a greater use of color, with the entire icon bar at the top of the page being in YouTube’s signature red, rather than just the logo in the top corner, as in the browser version. This heightens the amount of contrast on the page and serves as a way to more clearly differentiate between the navigation options and the videos themselves.  

The YouTube app presents a more streamlined experience than the website, allowing users to scroll downward without also having to look back and forth across the page and making it easier to access their subscriptions feeds. It also allows users to quickly upload videos from their camera or their device storage, with a video camera icon, emphasized through the further use of red, in the lower corner of the screen. However, the simplicity of the landing page’s layout means that more steps are required to access other, less-frequently used features of YouTube, such as a channel’s community page or analytics. 

Comparing the YouTube website to the app demonstrates the different factors that the creators took into account when designing each, highlighting the particularities of each one’s audience. The YouTube app is clearly designed to make the most frequently used features of YouTube as accessible as possible, recognizing that the smaller displays and touch screens of cell phones make extensive clicking tiresome. Having the app is also indicative of a user who is at least somewhat dedicated to YouTube as a platform and spends a significant amount of their time there, and therefore the app is more catered to users who have a YouTube account: subscription feeds are more accessible and it is easy to quickly upload content. The app and website offer users basically the same features, but the emphasis and organization varies between the two platforms, recognizing the differing priorities of users who spend more time on one or the other. 

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