YouTube Updates Its User Interface with New Look, Features

YouTube is getting a user interface update that includes a darker night mode and, for mobile users, a pinch-to-zoom feature similar to that used for photos on Android and iOS devices. Additionally, a new frame-by-frame search lets users find an exact moment within a video using thumbnails. YouTube’s watch page also gets a refresh, with links in the video descriptions restyled as buttons, while common actions (“like,” “share,” “download”) have been formatted for a cleaner look. On watch and channel pages, the subscribe button has been redesigned to stand out more, which should help creators.

Executives at YouTube are hopeful the site-wide UI updates “will generate some goodwill” after the Google-owned company raised its YouTube Premium family subscription by 25 percent and aborted a short-lived attempt to paywall 4K videos.

The fact that YouTube’s Premium family subscription plan is increasing to $22.95 in November leads The Streamable to speculate “further price hikes could be just around the corner.” Nonetheless, with pinch zoom a much-requested feature, “the company is paying more than lip service to its customers’ needs,” Streamable concedes.

The new, darker theme also comes in response to user feedback, writes 9to5Google, that says the currently gray alternate background will go darker still “and will soon be closer to YouTube Music’s black background,” allowing colors to “truly pop” on platforms including the web, mobile and smart TVs.

“When that theme is on, you can enable a ‘subtle effect so the app background color adapts to match the video,’” 9to5Google says, adding that “YouTube’s ambient mode tints your phone’s status bar and the strip that contains the video’s title just below the player.”

YouTube UX director Nate Koechley writes in a blog post that ambient mode, which uses “dynamic color sampling,” was “inspired by the light that screens cast out in a darkened room” and aims to have viewers “drawn right into the content.”

TechCrunch describes the new effect as “very subtle and mainly for aesthetic reasons.” Koechley says the intent is “to bring the focus back to the video player,” since video is the main reason users flock to YouTube.

After introducing and testing several new product features on youtube.com/new earlier this year, pinch-to-zoom and precise seeking are now available to all users. With pinch-to-zoom, users can easily zoom in and out while viewing on a mobile app, “and when you let go, the video stays zoomed in” for greater detail, Koechley explains.

Precise seek is designed to help those who frequently find themselves rewinding during a tutorial in search of critical details. Now, whether on desktop or mobile, users can “simply drag or swipe up” from within thumbnail frames appearing over the video progress bar to land on an exact moment in each video.