Interactive design patterns of YouTube

In this blog post I aim to analyze design patterns and structure of YouTube, in order to understand effects on the social behavior among its users.

According to the statistics supplied by YouTube, “more than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month”.  I believe this is evidence to well-designed network structure. Additionally, YouTube’s data are coming from user’s uploads, which mean users are not only consumers but producers as well. In this case, I should concentrate on the questions; what motivates people to contribute and how does the interaction process work?

According to Tedjamulia et al. [1] online communities have both lunkers and contributors. Lunkers are interested in finding reliable and relevant information. Furthermore “contributors have same benefits as lunkers but are more strongly to contribute” [1]. Recently, there are many academic researches to find out why do contributors supply online communities with information. One of the answers can be that contributors find it so important to contribute for their followers.

To continue with design patters, Crumlish and Malone [2] points out that interaction patterns allow users to interact both with the content and with each other. Thus, YouTube’s design structure is collaborated with interaction patterns such as; sign in, subscribe channels, activity feed, comment, tags, conversations, discussion, recommendations and so on.

I will use both non-signed in and signed in page views in order to have a deeper analysis on YouTube’s deign patterns. In that case, I use design view for computer screen.

Figure 1. A screen shot of YouTube, default page design for visitors (non-signed in users).

youtube pic 1

YouTube’s design is made as simple as possible; the white background color, grey and blue text, clear page division, data and objects in to layers/boxes.

Above, Figure 1 shows default page design of YouTube, where we can see that the page is divided in to two columns; left and middle, the widest middle column divided in to two layers. Left column provides categories like Popular on YouTube, Music, Sport and Gaming. YouTube’ algorithm offers channels that might catch user’s attention, especially if previously the user has been searching for data. However, for more specific suggestions, YouTube’s offer is; Sign in now to see your channels and recommendations!

It is certain that design of YouTube helps new users to decide where to start from. Middle part of the page is designed wider than the left column to fit as many as features.  Additionally, in both non-signed in and signed in cases, search function covers the entire database of YouTube.

Figure 2. A screen shot of YouTube, view for signed in users.

youtube pic 2

Ones the user signs in YouTube, the design and the content show changes. For example, left column keeps the content of user profile, watch later, what to watch, subscriptions. The middle column has the biggest design space, aiming to attract more attention to the features like; popular videos, recommendations for you. Furthermore, the right column is filled with Recommended Channels, that doesn’t exist for non-signed in page view.

Crumlish and Malone [2] claim that “the object model provides people collect media objects, join groups and submit media objects to them”. All YouTube users, one way or another, are part of creating, producing and subscribing the data.

If a user wants to contribute to YouTube, he have to register to the network. Register pattern redirects users to sign in with Google account. So that, an identity card is provided by Google where user’s background information, retrieved from Google’s database, can easily be connected to YouTube’s algorithm.

Some other social interactive features of YouTube are conversations, comments, like and unlike buttons, tags, subscribe, share with other social networks. Hence, Cheng, Dale, and Liu [3] write that “communities and groups exist on YouTube…, and so videos are no longer independent from each”.

Commenting on a video, creating or/and subscribing channels, clicking on a like/unlike button are the main features that affects social behaviors of users on YouTube. Some of us might use YouTube only for listening music or watching funny cat, dog, baby videos but not for interactive purposes. Whether we want it or not, its design patterns are created to make us interact with each other .

YouTube is a free of charge social service, but then, what kind of business model is used to success/survive for such long years (since 2005)? The answer is video and animated advertisements. The more data and users YouTube attracts, the more popular it becomes, and that is not surprise why companies would be interested to pay for video advertises on YouTube. YouTube promises to its advertisers; “Only pay when people watch” which seems to be good business strategy.


1. Tedjamulia, Steven JJ, Douglas L. Dean, David R. Olsen, and Conan C. Albrecht. 2005. “Motivating Content Contributions to Online Communities: Toward a More Comprehensive Theory.” In System Sciences, 2005. HICSS’05. Proceedings of the 38th Annual Hawaii International Conference On, 193b–193b. IEEE.

2. Crumlish, Christian, and Erin Malone. 2009. Designing Social Interfaces : Principles, Patterns, and Practices for Improving the User Experience. 1st ed. Sebastopol: O’Reilly Media.

3.Cheng, Xu, Cameron Dale, and Jiangchuan Liu. 2008. “Statistics and Social Network of Youtube Videos.” In Quality of Service, 2008. IWQoS 2008. 16th International Workshop On, 229–238. IEEE.

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