YouTube Channel Design Changes: The Good and the Bad

YouTube Channel Design Changes: The Good and the Bad
April 29, 2013

With the March 7th release of the new YouTube channel design, the world of video marketing with YouTube saw some significant enhancements. YouTube’s popularity is undisputed, making it more important than ever that your brand have a YouTube presence, and these channel design enhancements offer more opportunities for you to brand your channel and share your message.   

After optimizing our YouTube channel to get the most out of the new design, here’s a review of the new features that I found most valuable, as well as some others that I’m not quite as crazy about.


#1. Channel Art

With the new channel design, YouTube introduced an additional channel branding option called Channel Art. Channel Art, which replaced the old YouTube background images, appears in the form of a banner image along the top of the YouTube channel and complements the small, square channel icon (you can see an example of this below).  


Positioned front and center, Channel Art is a prime opportunity for branding your channel with company colors, graphics and even a text-based call to action. YouTube provides size and resolution recommendations for Channel Art right on the upload screen to guide your channel design for optimal results.  Once uploaded, the image is optimized for mobile viewing, and you are even presented with previews of how your Channel Art will appear on various devices.

#2. Linked social icons

Another valuable enhancement is the addition of clickable social icons to link to your brand’s other social media profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and so on, as well as to your company’s website.  These icons display in the Channel Art located at the top of your YouTube channel’s main page.  It’s important to capitalize on this opportunity to connect viewers to your website and other social profiles, especially considering that YouTube limits the ways in which you can link back to your website from other parts of your channel (i.e. you are not able to link back to your website from YouTube video annotations –  in most cases you can only link to other YouTube videos).


#3. Trailer video for non-subscribers

The introduction of the trailer video opens the door to tailored views for subscribers and non-subscribers.  The trailer video is featured in the non-subscriber view, and begins to play automatically when a viewer visits your YouTube channel.  This video, much like the featured video from the old YouTube channel design, consumes prime real estate in the center of your channel, and is a perfect opportunity to give viewers a brief introduction to what your channel is all about.

#4. Sections

The new Sections option allows you to feature sets of videos based on recent activity or organize custom video sets by playlist or tag.  This feature makes curating content into meaningful lists simple and efficient.  What’s more, these sections can be easily added or removed so you can continuously offer up fresh content on your channel main page. 

Another subtle but significant aspect of the Sections feature is the offering of two layout options for every section.  You can set a section to display videos in a horizontal row, which viewers can navigate using the forward and backward arrows located on either side of the section, or you can select to format the content in a vertical list, which will accommodate six videos from that list, as well as their descriptions.  Incorporating both layout formats can lend some visual variety to your channel, while still showcasing both individual videos and playlists like we did in the example below.



As with any update, you have to take the good with the bad. While the new YouTube channel design clearly presents a number of impactful features to enrich your brand’s presence on YouTube, I’ve also found a few unwelcome limitations.

#1. No featured video for subscribers

While the non-subscriber view features a trailer video front and center on the channel main page, the subscriber view lacks this option.  Instead, the space where the trailer video appears for non-subscribers is replaced by a smaller “what to watch next” section where YouTube automatically displays one of your YouTube channel’s videos based on that subscribers viewing preferences. 

Although this does provide each subscriber with a customized viewing experience, as a channel manager, I would prefer to retain some control over the featured video.  


#2. Loss of control of prime channel real estate

The new YouTube channel design also eliminates the channel manager’s capacity to control the entire area immediately below the  banner image (which accounts for a significant portion of the channel’s prime viewing real estate). Instead, this area now contains a feed of recent activity from your channel, such as recent uploads, likes, subscriptions to other channels, and comments. 

One strategy that I have employed to regain some control over the content displayed in this section is to pare down the type of activity which is displayed in the feed.  For our Brainshark channel, I have limited the settings to display only recent uploads, therefore effectively turning this section into a showcase for our most recent videos. You can do this by editing that section of your channel, and deselecting any undesired activity types from the Feed section of the Channel Navigation menu.

Overall, the new YouTube channel design brings a welcome enhancement to online video marketing, with numerous new opportunities to customize your channel for better content visibility and greater brand awareness.  Once you switch your channel to the new design (or if you already have), take some time to experiment with different layout options, and don’t forget to create some eye catching Channel Art and an engaging trailer video.

More tips and ideas for YouTube video marketing:

Learn More: YouTube for the Enterprise