YouTube vs. Usability

By September 11, 2009 CRO & UX No Comments

Is your YouTube content usable?  A new article from Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox outlines some compelling reasons NOT to participate in social networking sites.   Research behind “Social Media Outsourcing Can Be Risky” makes the case that:

1. Usability can be harmed.  In the article’s YouTube examples, inappropriate image thumbnail choices, repetitive features, and poor organization are all culprits.  It argues the broader point that the particular interfaces of social network sites may not serve your own site’s users in the way that’s best for them.

2. Your own users are being trained to go elsewhere for your content.  Just as with search engines, the biggest social networking sites win out while your own site is the three-legged dog when users search for engaging or informative content.

3-legged dog

The larger argument about the superiority of engaging users on your own website vs. more popular external sites (i.e., social networking sites) is a debatable point, but the idea is worth exploring.  After all, website owners can probably all agree that they would ultimately rather see traffic on their own site than on a YouTube page.

What if you still want to use YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, et al.?

Nielsen recommends that you pay attention to the organization and categorization of your content.  Using the default templates is NOT the way to go, so customize, customize, customize.  Don’t expect that your video will get a million views. In fact, according to a recent study by Slate technology writer Chris Wilson, the odds of your video getting even 1,000 views on YouTube in a month’s time are 3 percent.  Think about usability by writing good titles, descriptions and tags, which can also reap keyword-specific SEO benefits.  I would also consider Google’s ranking factors for videos.

For Twitter, I would recommend reading C.G. Lynch’s “Twitter: How to Get Started Guide for Business People.” For Facebook, Rae Hoffman’s (Sugarrae) beginner’s guide to using it is the best.

Last but not least, being mindful of usability should not prohibit tapping into the power of Internet video or Twitter or Facebook.  Just be smart and consider the context.

Photo courtesy of twodolla via Flickr.

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