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For over a week now I’ve had something called Cosmic Panda enabled when I visit YouTube. Despite its catchy but pointless name, it is essentially a ‘theme’ to enhance the way the YouTube website is displayed. The Grey/White/Black colours with a large helping gradients make it fit in with current website design trends, but let’s look at some of the changes to its usability.
The Video Player is now given its own row (looking a lot like BBC iPlayer, SeeSaw, Hulu, etc) which makes it stand out more and in my opinion encourages watching the whole video as there are no ‘above the video’ distractions. In the standard YouTube, you will see a list of other suggested videos down the right hand side of the page which I used to use a lot, but I found myself scanning those before I’d actually watched the video I currently had open. The suggested videos are now hidden under a tab button that switches the lower body of the page between comments and video suggestions.
With the video having more space, there is now a welcome video display size option that increases the dimensions of the video, which is great for users with a larger screen as the previous two options were just the standard size video and full screen. It’s worth noting the video quality (240p, 360p, 480, 720p) must still be changed in the play bar of the video, so having two options may confuse some users. Either side of the video player is a Next and Previous shortcuts to view the videos in the channel or playlist you are watching, very handy.
One major point within the theme is the promotion of a user’s channel via the very prominent ‘Videos from **’ thumbnail list right below the page’s video. This could dramatically increase the number of views and interactions with your content in my opinion. Previously your other videos would appear mixed up with others in the suggested video column on the right hand side column or accessed via a drop down at the top of a page. If you are watching a playlist, this sliding list will give you easy access to the queued up videos.
The larger more stylish thumbnails, bigger chunky buttons and a more minimal interface all up to enhance the design, but with the addition of focussing more on a user’s other videos or playlists, Cosmic Panda seems to be all about making YouTube more like a Social Network and giving your videos a more central role on the view video page. One change that may not increase your subscriber numbers is the repositioning of the Subscribe button to below the video player.
Cosmic Panda is available to all signed up users. To enable it simply go to http://www.youtube.com/cosmicpanda and click Try it out! Let me know what you think in the comments below. Don’t forget you can always switch back to the old YouTube layout.