Spring Cleaning was a really big deal growing up in my house. I'm talking about a full day of planning in advance of the actual cleaning, to plot out the tasks and who would get each job. I never had quite the level of involvement in picking my assigned tasks as I wanted, and it resulted in a lot of vacuuming and dusting—a can of Pledge was my best friend throughout the cleaning process.
Well, YouTube is set to do some Spring Cleaning of their own, and from the sound of it, they're willing to let users be much more involved in crafting the to-do list than my mother was.
We have all kinds of ideas about new things we could build and launch, but we are also taking some significant time in the coming months to do some early "spring cleaning" on the site design and user experience.
In fact, they're straight-up asking for suggestions on what they should address. I probably don't need to point out to you how rare it is for a dominant corporate entity of this size to take operations suggestions from their customers, but it's probably a good idea to consider lending a few ideas—especially if you are an avid YouTube user who welcomes positive change.
What would you want to see fixed on the site? What would you remove completely, if you had your druthers? We'll use your feedback to help prioritize what we focus on, so we can all experience a cleaner, easier-to-use YouTube.
Over at Streaming Media, our friend Dan Rayburn decided to take them up on the offer and then shared his suggestions, most of which sound right on the money to me. His first idea? Have YouTube automatically detect a user's ability to view HD videos, and serve HD first when appropriate. Brilliant… and long overdue.
He also strongly recommends that YouTube get to work on fixing their longstanding buffering issues, which continue to be a nuisance to nearly everyone I know. While I'm sure YouTube has been trying to sort out buffering problems for some time now—it's not as though they've just ignored them—the fact that these buffering delays still exist so prominently is puzzling.
The more you read Rayburn's thoughts, the less a fan of YouTube he becomes. And yet you don't write as passionately about problems with a service unless some part of you wants the service to succeed. He even goes on to point out how much flak Google would take if their search experience were as wrought with errors as YouTube is—which is a fair point.
Has YouTube gotten a free pass from the media on their service's problems? I'm not sure I'm ready to say that they have, though there's no denying that some of these gripes have existed for years.
Personally, I'm still frustrated by YouTube's search function, which has never seemed as intuitive and helpful as Google's. Obviously they are serving search results for a completely different kind of content—one that is more difficult to index. And I don't have any solutions for how to better crawl flash-based video. But it's still entirely too difficult to get straight to the video I'm looking for using YouTube's built-in search function. That being said… I would be remiss if I didn't point out that YouTube's search has improved over the last few years… just still doesn't feel right to me much of the time.
I would also like to see a bit more customization added to the browsing system. Right now, I can filter videos by overall popularity, by views, by HD, by spotlighted videos, most commented on, most-favorited, etc. That's all excellent, a great variety there. But when it comes to the time frame, I'm still stuck filtering only by one of four options: today, this week, this month, and all time. And frankly, I'm not always looking for videos that fit inside one of those boxes. What about the week prior to last week? Or the previous month? Previous year? It has always felt strange to me to have so many filtering options for video type, but not time. Ideally, I'd be able to set my own date range, as I would in Adwords or Analytics, and get a glimpse at the most popular videos for a very specific time frame. Maybe I'm alone in that… I don't know. Feels like it would give people like myself a much better vantage point for examining what makes viral hits so successful.
If you're a regular YouTube user—on either the production end or the viewer side—now is the time to let them know what you like and dislike about their service. You can head over to their Product Ideas page to drop a line telling them of your suggestions. And if you do, leave us a comment and let us know what your idea was. I'd be curious to know your perspective on what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong. And there's no guarantee we'll have any say in future Spring Cleaning task lists, so take advantage while you can.