YouTube is one of my favorite sites. I look at videos almost daily. It’s the place I go to when I need to learn how to fix something. YouTube is filled with great content in all sorts of subject areas.
But I’m frustrated with Subscriptions. If I was in charge of YouTube, I would make sure that the experience in this area was absolutely perfect, because it has the potential to drive the sort of traffic that advertisers get excited about. As it is, it feels like an afterthought at best.
Here is a list of my frustrations and how I would fix them:
1. Identifying Unwatched Videos – YouTube conveniently gives you a count of unwatched videos. This is great until you try to figure out which video is unwatched. The browser has a “What to Watch Next” pane. Presumably unwatched videos are the first ones listed, but I can’t tell for sure. On a mobile device, there is absolutely no way to tell. A simple icon on the thumbnail for each video would do the trick here.
2. Marking Videos as Watched – Every other system I use for video delivery has a simple method for marking videos as watched. I would cite Plex and iTunes as primary examples. For touch devices, a simple swipe to the left should be all it takes. On the browser, a pop-up button, just like Watch Later would be my preference.
3. Suggesting Unplayable Videos – I understand the difficulties in making good suggestions for videos based on viewing history. I have had an unplayable video as part of “What to Watch” for a month. If it’s unplayable, don’t suggest it!
4. Duplicate Suggestions. Videos are frequently repeated in “What to Watch,” sometimes right next to each other. I would expect to see each video only once in that stream.
5. Previously Viewed – I don’t think a video that I have already viewed should show up in “What to Watch.” But they do. Perhaps as much as a quarter of the videos shown in this section are ones I have watched already (sometimes even as a result of them being in the list).
What makes these failures all the more frustrating is the apparent simplicity of the solutions. I won’t pretend to understand web video better than the folks at YouTube, but it feels kind of like getting a new car with a missing back wheel. Sure you can get around, but wouldn’t it be a lot easier to drive on four wheels?
If I’m missing a better solution for these problems, or if there are other feature omissions, leave me a note in the comments.