9 October 2009

Inside user research at YouTube

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User experience researcher Sasha Lubomirsky talks about his work at YouTube:

“If you think about watching a video online, it may seem pretty easy. A player, a play/pause button and some content. Done. But what about if the video is being played on a mobile phone? Or on a big screen? What if it’s being viewed in Nairobi? Or Shanghai? Now let’s say it’s being viewed by someone who wants to share her thoughts on the video and by someone who wants to do nothing more than watch more videos. Before you know it, watching a video becomes more complicated than you realize.

Enter user research. While far from providing all the answers, it can help illuminate how the site is actually used — as opposed to guessing how it might be used or assuming the user is just like the people designing the site.

So what exactly is user research like at YouTube? Sometimes it means letting users design their ideal experience. For example, last year we used a method called FIDO (first utilized by Fidelity Investments) where we cut out different elements of various video sites, stuck them on magnets, and had users arrange their ideal organization of the elements (see below for an example). Other times we use a more standard research method called a usability study, which entails seeing whether a user can or can’t complete certain standard site tasks in a usability lab.

Sometimes having users come into labs is not enough, though; we want to understand how users use YouTube in their context, in their living room, with their laptop on their lap, sprawled out on the couch. In this case we might have field studies where we interview users in their homes. In addition to such qualitative research, we look closely at the behavior of millions of users through traffic analysis and try to understand what users think of the site by deploying thousands of surveys.”

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(via Usability News)

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