YouTube is taking another shot at channel customization.
Way back in 2013, after a major site design overhaul, the platform toyed with adding functions like custom skins that would allow creators to make their channels more clearly reflect their “brand and identity.” But plans for customization options seemed to fizzle, and today channels are still fairly homogenous in appearance, with creators’ branding options restricted to their channel’s header image, icon, and the ability to personalize what videos show up on their Home tab.
Those limited options are about to expand, Tom Leung, YouTube’s director of product management, reveals in the latest Creator Insider upload.
“We are making YouTube Studio the creator’s destination for all things channel editing,” he says. “As a result, we will be launching the ability to customize your channel’s look and feel directly within YouTube Studio.”
YouTube will introduce complete channel layout customization, more places for creators to display their personal brand, a reduxed Featured Channels tab, and the ability to switch up “basic info to match your creative style,” Leung says. (That seems like he’s referring to customization options for creators’ About pages, which currently have space for a basic text bio, social links, and…that’s it.)
Leung says the full channel customization rollout is planned for “the future,” but there is one aspect of it that’s already up and running: the new Featured Channels.
Up till now, creators could use the Featured Channels tool to display a handpicked column of channels–their own or any other creator’s–to people who visited their channel. But that column, while customizable, just showed up for desktop browsers; people browsing on mobile could not see it.
Now, though, YouTube has converted the column to a full-on Channels tab that appears alongside the usual Home, Videos, Playlists, Community, and About sections on desktop, and in its iOS and Android apps.
“Because we want to make this a great experience for creators but also land really well with viewers–who, as you know, are often using their mobile device–we’re taking a mobile-first approach to the customization experience,” he explains. YouTube is using Featured Channels to test making custom channel attributes “consistently visible on desktop and mobile.”
New Creator Mixes are an “opportunity for creators to have the algorithm work for them”
The Channels tab isn’t YouTube’s only newly introduced feature. In the same Creator Insider video, a member of the platform’s recommendations team (simply referred to as Sam) unveils Creator Mixes, “an algorithmically generated playlist of any given channel’s content.”
Creator Mixes currently appear in the Up Next column beside (on desktop) or beneath (on mobile) video panes. “If you’re watching a given video, we nominate, like any other video we might recommend, a Creator Mix, which would appear as ‘Mix – Name of Channel,’” Sam says.
In testing, YouTube has seen Creator Mixes perform better than playlists made by creators or users, he adds. That’s because “those playlists are static, and are the same for every user, whereas a Creator Mix is tailored for each viewer,” he says. Mixes are meant to serve as snapshots of channels’ offerings, but also will not contain any videos a viewer has already watched (something Sam says was a “must-have” in designing the feature) and will reflect their interests according to their watch history.
“We’ve actually seen a lot of creators show us that this is jumping to the top of their playlist traffic, which is really exciting for us,” Sam says. “We’re excited that it’s sort of this opportunity for creators to have the algorithm work for them.”
The recommendations team is working to show Creator Mixes in more places. It’s eyeing spots on search and users’ home pages. Per Sam, “We’ve also received some requests from creators to make it so you can put them on a channel page, so we’re thinking about that as well.”