YouTube's trying out a new desktop design, and while the changes might not stand out or significantly alter the way you use it, they are implementing some major shifts which will enable future development.
As explained by YouTube:
"We're applying Material Design to YouTube to deliver a beautiful, delightful and intuitive user experience."
The core areas of focus for the new layout are:
- Simplicity - According to YouTube, "the new design is clean and fresh, thanks to the removal of visuals that can distract from your browsing or watching experience." You can see this in the below screenshot comparing the old and new home pages - in the new version, the gray areas have been removed and the content listing more spread out, while the side bar navigation options are also more clearly defined.
- Consistency - The new design is also more aligned with YouTube's mobile experience, providing more consistency in user experience.
- Beauty - This is YouTube's description, not mine: "We strive to combine beauty and purpose to create an effortless experience". Sounds like they could be overplaying it a bit, but again, you can see in the screenshot that the visual experience has been improved.
But the bigger changes, as noted, are in the back-end. The new design is built on a faster framework called Polymer, which, as noted by TechCrunch, Google introduced at their I/O developer conference a few years back. Polymer is a more flexible system, which will enable them to implement future changes faster, and they've highlighted this with the addition of a new 'dark theme', offering a better viewing experience in low-light situations.
YouTube says that this is only the beginning, and that users can expect more new features in future.
The new layout hasn't been rolled out to all users as yet, but if you want to give it a try, you can opt-in to preview the new design at youtube.com/new. You're also able to return to the current design by selecting "Restore classic YouTube" from the Account Menu.
As noted, the change is not huge, it's not likely to transform user behavior - though one other significant aspect is that the 'Subscribe' button has been given more prominence, which is worth noting for marketers.
But again, the larger shift may be in the back end architecture, which will enable YouTube to better focus on improving speed and site performance, which could deliver more significant benefits moving forward.