YouTube — Improve the "Watch Later" List

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Over 2 billion users. World’s second-most visited website (right after Google). World’s second-most used social platform (after Facebook). People watch more than a billion hours of video on YouTube every single day... This statistics are just mind-blowing. How does such a product deal with the user experience ? Let's take a look.

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What is the issue encountered on YouTube?

Have you ever used the "Watch Later" button in YouTube ? Yeah, me too ! Over time I ended up with a lot of videos in my "Watch Later" video list. More than 500 currently, more than 2000 for my friend Colbys 😅 What if I wanted a fresh start ? What if I wanted to delete all the watched videos in one click ? Actually YouTube added this feature recently. On April 15th 2021 this functionality did not exist yet.

Screenshot on the French version of YouTube, on the Watch later list page, April 15th 2021.

So now there is a "Remove watched videos" item in the actions droplist. But I'm wondering : "If it includes even barely watched videos, this would be useless 😕". So I don't want to try on my precious curated list.

Now what if I want to clean it myself, choosing multiple videos and then deleting them ? I just can't ! All I can do is "Remove from Watch later" one by one. Maybe if I click "SORT" I'll find a way... I appreciate the sorting feature, but I think I can suggest some better experience. Let's dive in.

What is our design suggestion with this YouTube issue?

Let's begin by improving this new "Remove watched videos" feature. As I said, I was so afraid of loosing all my incompletely watched videos that I had to test it from a fake account. Here is the result : "This will remove all watched videos from Watch Later". Even the videos that I haven't finished watching.

So, I propose this simple choice : Let the user decide if they want to remove all watched videos OR only completly watched videos.

Now what about letting me choose what I want to remove ? Imagine I want to delete only videos from one specific topic I don't care anymore, or maybe I just want to search for videos with specific words.

Here I propose next to the SORT item the same topics tags than in the homepage, and a search field. Very simple. Straight to the point : I select one topic and the list is reloaded. I type a word and I get same behavior.

Now that I can filter by topics or words, I need a way to select videos. Remember that rolling over each video will display the "3 dots" actions icon that allow me to remove one by one. To select multiple videos and apply same action over all selected elements I need checkboxes.

Then, by checking one or many boxes, I can finally apply "Remove" (or "Add to playlist") to multiple videos at once with the top bar. Notice that next to the "3 dots" action icon at the right, there are now 3 icons on rollover to allow quicker access to share, add to playlist or remove.

Global learnings - Takeaways

The recent "Remove watched videos"  update shows that YouTube is constantly moving forward and improving its product. We sincerly hope this little nudge will help going even further. Most of the UI patterns suggested here already exist in other Google products. In fact most of them come from the YouTube Studio website, where creators need fine tuned controls.

So the lesson here is : give the user enough control to make the experience relevant even with hundreds or thousands of videos in their lists.

YouTube is full of small optimizations to work with like this one. Did you spot some of these too ? Let’s chat on social network (#suggestdesign) if you want to 😊

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About this suggestion

The suggestions we make are not made thanks to a full and proper user research. At best we did a guerilla study about user behavior. Most of the time, these are suggestions based on our own experience and needs, which don't represent necessarily all end users needs.

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