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article imageYouTube is working on a new look that includes a dark theme

By James Walker     Apr 18, 2017 in Technology
YouTube is quietly testing a substantial overhaul of its web interface on desktop devices. The design is bigger, bolder and brighter, unless you enable its optional dark mode. The feature has long been requested by YouTube fans.
YouTube's web app hasn't seen much attention for a few years. Google is developing a major new design though, closing the gap between the aesthetics of YouTube's website and mobile apps. It brings YouTube closer to Google's other products by modernising the site's aesthetics.
The overhaul is currently in testing with a small number of users and may not necessarily show up for you. There are tricks available that allow you to force YouTube into displaying the new interface. This author was able to access the design after switching to another YouTube channel linked to the logged-in account.
YouTube Material Design overhaul
YouTube Material Design overhaul
YouTube's new look carries the same basic principles as Google's standalone YouTube Gaming product. At its core, the updated site is very much like the current one. There's the still same main sections, a navigation bar on the left side to switch between them and a central viewing area for browsing content and watching videos.
The design is more spacious and modern, using Google's Material Design language and featuring larger font and icon sizes. Video thumbnails are bigger than before and stand out more obviously. Titles are emphasised in bold and unnecessary information has been cleared away. On the surface, it's simpler and more accessible.
YouTube Material Design overhaul
YouTube Material Design overhaul
Google has also included a dark mode for the first time. It can be enabled from the new drop-down settings menu displayed when you click your profile picture. Toggling the option to on will immediately drape the entire YouTube interface in dark shades of grey and black which complement the red accents for a unique visual feel. It's much easier on the eyes when viewing YouTube in darker rooms or at night.
To keep YouTube looking its best with the dark theme enabled, Google has brightened the accent colours to make key controls like the "Subscribe" button stand out. Important text, such as video titles, is shown in bright white. Smaller details are presented in dark grey, lending the dark theme a sophisticated feel.
YouTube Material Design overhaul
YouTube Material Design overhaul
The under-development YouTube design is much closer to Google's mobile apps than the current version. It's also more touch-friendly, making YouTube's website easier to use on tablets. While some desktop users may not welcome the larger menus and reduced information density, it helps to unify YouTube's look across device families.
Although Google's clearly not ready to roll the new design out globally, it's likely it will be launched more widely in the coming months. After a short time testing the new interface, it seems to be mostly feature complete. Some menus still link back to areas of the old site but these are mostly related to advanced tools for creators. Anecdotally, the site seems to be slightly less responsive than before, although this cannot be confirmed and may be improved before release.
More about YouTube, material design, Google
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