Youtube Stage
Research, Motion, UX

Using data visualization as a starting point, Lily Kim, Faith Kaufman, and I created a motion piece that imagines a chat forum for user-curated video selections in Youtube in an attempt to foster better communication between members of the Youtube community.

The Research
With the goal of optimizing a functionality within one social media platform, we compared different platforms through hierarchy, typography, layout, sitemaps, functional analysis, and iconography. Through analyzing typography, we started to see a pattern in the way some functionalities were prioritized over others. While Pinterest keeps the type size small across the platform to highlight its pictures, Reddit is text-heavy and requires an extra step of "expand" before being able to see pictures in full size. The use of color in Youtube is also very intentional, with words like "Subscribe" or "Subscriptions" in red to highlight engagement with subscriptions and keeping most other details in a light gray. The layout also says a lot about priorities for each social media platform. While Instagram keeps all its images on one column whether on app or web, Youtube values a comprehensive showcase of its videos with the use of modular grids using up to six columns that is collapsible across platforms.

One important insight that came from this was that beyond showcasing hierarchy of information, hierarchy served to prioritize communicative features differently. While Instagram makes it easy to direct message other users from its mobile homepage, users can only message other users through their about page. However, on Youtube, there are more than six different ways to 'Subscribe,' all within reach of the Youtube homepage. There was clearly a difference in hierarchy between one-to-one communication features and one-to-many communication features on these platforms
The Poster
Intrigued with how Youtube and Instagram, two platforms that were champions of individual expression and home to many personalities, differed in accessibility of user-to-user communication methods, we visualized the paths that users take when trying to reach communication features on each platform. We categorized communication features as one-to-one or one-to-many. One-to-many communication features entail sharing content publicly, like uploading photos, subscribing, or following. One-to-one communication features entail messaging, channel discussions, and sharing photos. Through mapping out the path to accessing each communication method, we realized that while Instagram made one-to-one communication methods very accessible, Youtube made it far more difficult.

Beyond just looking at sitemaps, we also figured out how many different methods there were available to users for accessing the same communication methods. On Instagram, we found five different ways to direct message, while on Youtube there were only three.

This visualization of data helped us move forward with understanding what was lacking in Youtube and what needed to change for Youtube to become a more immersive community for users.

CMU TSA Logo Animation from Sharon Yu on Vimeo.

The Intervention
Realizing that there is a lack of user-to-user communication methods within Youtube, we wanted to introduce a feature that would foster better communication in Youtube's user community.

When Youtube started in 2005, it had a lot of functionalities that engaged the Youtube community, like 'Video Contests', 'Last Five Users Online,' 'Friends,' and 'Community.' We even reached out to a long-time creator and user of Youtube, Cyriak Harris, who wrote that "Youtube seems to have destroyed or buried most of its community tools over the years, and long ago I stopped reading my private messages on there (assuming they even still exist)." Youtube has become less of a community and now resembles a tv station, producing content for users that have become far removed from Youtube. Compared to Youtube, social media platforms like Instagram affords a lot more dialogue between users yet still allows for personalities and creators to share their work freely.

We strive to create this balance by proposing Youtube Stage, a page accessible from the homepage that generates daily topics for users to share videos of. These videos are then collected on to one page where users are free to live chat about these videos with other users, taking a page out of Twitch's book, creating a shared audience and a sense of belonging when watching these videos.

We used a motion piece to capture the sentiments of this intervention. Through visualizing the data in an abstracted manner (boxes flowing through space) we wanted to capture the essence of what Youtube Stage can do through story-telling. The motion piece also affords movement and concept development that most wireframes would not.

In this piece, we used boxes to represent Youtube's functions and through morphing and positioning we are showing the way Youtube has changed through the years. The movement of the boxes illustrates the way different pieces come together, as a community would.
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