To encourage shared viewing of YouTube Shorts on large screens, YouTube has bowed a format optimized for its TV apps.
The format began rolling out Monday on TV models made in 2019 and later, and will continue to roll out in coming weeks.
“Bringing Shorts to our community has transformed the way people create and watch video on YouTube,” the platform’s Chief Product Officer, Neal Mohan, wrote in a blog announcing the feature. “When we introduced this new format, we optimized the experience for the mobile creator and viewer. Today, we’re expanding viewing access to Shorts to our fastest growing surface: the TV screen. While this may seem like a natural next step, an incredible amount of thought and care has gone into bringing this vertical, mobile-first experience to the big screen.”
The blog offers a detailed explanation, from two of YouTube’s UX design directors, of the surprisingly complex (from a non-tech observer’s standpoint) design challenges that had to be overcome to create a viewer-friendly large-screen version from a vertical short-form format optimized for smartphones.
“Our research told us that there would be unique perks of watching Shorts on the big screen,” write Brynn Evans and Melanie Fitzgerald. “They're easier to watch with others, and the larger screen makes it a more comfortable viewing experience. But the design challenge remained: how could we preserve the essence of Shorts with vertical videos on wide screen TVs?”
YouTube tested three different layouts for Shorts on TV and determined that the best was a “customized” interface that displays videos in the center of the screen, with details and controls located in spaces on either side.
The layout includes like and dislike buttons, comments and information related to the video.
In tests of “simple” versus “maximal” prototypes, users preferred the latter, which offers more visible functionality, including related tags, comments and a color-sampled blurred background, the designers explain.
Another learning was that Shorts on TV viewers actually liked using the remote to manually advance to the next video rather than have the feed auto-play. “This was unusual — typically, we find that level of interactivity can be tedious with a remote,” they note. “Research indicated that people want to take charge of the viewing experience — just like with Shorts on mobile — and even expected it.”
While we’re on the topic of YouTube Shorts, you might be interested in checking out the results of a rather elaborate recent test of Shorts and three other short-form video platforms — TikTok, Instagram Reels and Pinterest Ideas — by automated B2B creative platform Creatopy.
Spoiler alert: YouTube Shorts beat the competition at driving traffic to the promoted website.
“All in all, YouTube Shorts ads are a good option to reach a broad audience,” sums up Diana-Alina Aldea, who led the research. “Despite Google Ads being the center of different controversies for its alleged monopoly in the digital area, what’s sure is that it does the job when it comes to delivery.”
However, she also advises marketers not to neglect the other three short-form platforms, since they may all serve a strategic purpose in a digital strategy. “Instagram Reels ads can help in bringing qualitative traffic. TikTok ads can help increase your reach. And Pinterest Idea ads may be a good idea for brand awareness,” she notes.