Youtube’s latest empathetic design evolution


In a deft demonstration of the qualitative resurgence, the tech giant reinstates powerful observational insight complementary to analytic data.

The result? A more impactful and immersive brand experience.


What’s changed?

  • Simpler, cleaner, and more accessible design
  • Enhanced visual presentation, vibrancy and user engagement
  • Boosted user control and viewer-to-video interaction
  • Reprioritisation of information hierarchy

The UX overhaul raises thoughts applicable across the design spectrum…


1 – Empathy

A shift in prioritisation now places emotional performance alongside function. Whilst the service seemingly performed well, deeper contact with users highlighted clear optimisation opportunities.

An empathy-first strategy inspires richer and more meaningful interactions.


2 – Design Thinking

Ultimately UX director Nate Koechley recognised the power of a truly iterative, user-centric approach; “Initially, we thought, ‘that looks fine, let’s check it out! We put it into testing, and we were wrong, so we went back to the drawing board and tried again, and again and again”. Across 30 separate user studies and 100 concepts born from design sprints, YouTube patiently constructed a winning solution.

Home runs are very rarely hit on the first pitch, iterative thinking builds success.


3 – Realigning of competitors

In the Darwinian ‘attention economy’, YouTube’s competitive context has shifted towards streaming services & TV (beyond social media platforms). Both the brand experience and product performance required realignment to reflect user engagement more accurately.

User-centric evolution is critical in a world of shifting landscapes, traditional competitor bases are changing and relevancy can change quickly.


4 – The wider brandworld

Through its “Material You” principles The Google Masterbrand is embarking on an emotional and expressive shift of which Youtube is a fundamental cog. An engaging and cohesive experience enhances the whole brand machine.

Thriving, deeply considered design eco-systems create enriched, holistic brand experiences.


5 – Implications for creators

Whilst these developments are set to instantly improve the YouTube viewing experience, we’re excited to see what this means for the content created. Could YouTube capitalise on new proprietary features to define even more distinct brand interactions? i.e., content has a more recognisably ‘YouTube’ look and feel vs. other video media platforms

No matter how functional, usage interactions are brand interactions. Enhanced experience and performance directly boost brand perceptions overall


At The Big Picture, we often encounter the challenges, thinking and impact of user-centric design solutions displayed in this example. Usability doesn’t only influence product design (physical and digital), it has critical brand-level implications. When building brand worlds, considering product performance is just as important as positioning and strategy.


Above: Ambient mode which reflects the colours of the video, along with the new button and rounded edges for videos.