This happened to me a while ago, but I recently stumbled upon the screenshots somewhere on my desktop (Yes take a screenshot whenever a website does something that pisses me off).  This will begin my, hopefully abundance of, rant posts about otherwise great/successful software applications and websites.  I found Twitter was much to short to fully express myself, but I’ll leave my twitter rant for another occasion.

The target of this post: YOUTUBE.com, yes you.. tube </bad joke>.

Youtube’s recent UI change (last quarter or so) has some new modules on their front page which include: recommended videos, popular videos by category (love this module), videos being watched right now (which I still don’t understand) and Featured videos.

Here is what I saw:

Youtube's home page

Look at all the great suggested videos for me to watch!

As far as I know, the Featured Videos (all 4 of them), are submitted and selected by the Youtube team to make instant internet success and fame.  Playing on the whole Youtube / Television station metaphor, the youtube editors choose what will be played on Youtube tv for all to see.  That’s great I guess… because picking 4 videos out of  the hundreds of millions of videos is a fair selection.  Well, I guess its kind of like the “staffs favorites” section of a video store, so… moving on.   2 of the 4 (ESPN and AFP) are pretty well established brands, so I can only assume those are sponsored videos (why not tell me that explicitly, I don’t mind – digg.com does it already).  So fine, I click through to the 3rd video, because I want to see what the League was stunned by…. and then this:

Fig. 1 The soft maroon instead of the standard #ff0000 red makes me less angry...

Nooooo, why would you recommend / feature a video to me when you know that I will not be able to watch it?.  Yes that’s right, you know I am viewing from Canada, you know this video is restricted in Canada (for whatever reason).  Not only is ESPN’s video taking the shelf spot of the next Peter Chau, you purposely guided me to a page that could only leave me in utter frustration.  If it was the top ranked Sports video I *might* understand, but this video occupied above the fold prime real estate!  Why does ESPN need to be featured anyway? This is a prime example of User Experience fail, in a shape and form that might not be normally seen as a UX fail.

I hate being harsh, and to the programmings / team at youtube if you are reading, I love your website.  I just like to complain and find problems that perhaps you guys haven’t though about and maybe will fix for the next overly critical user of your free service.  Since I hate to complain without having a solution, I offer you some starter code ala first year programming class.

// Because I know you love PHP, Youtube
foreach ( $featuredVideo as $feature ) {
    if(array_contains($feature->allowedLocals,  $User->getLocal()) {
        // lets hope youtube uses some kind of cool MVC partial rendering method
        $feature->getView();
    }
}

Writing pseudo code for other peoples projects is fun!  In all honesty, this little hiccup was a total block on my regular Youtube routine of watching hockey fights and make-up tutorial videos body building tutorial videos.  It also exposed me to the fact that they are allowing the users (and presumably ESPN is a partner) to put privacy controls on their videos by geo. location.  Why ESPN wouldn’t want Canadians to watch their videos is beyond me.  Minor changes in a database select statement, attention to detail and being super-sensitive when using restricted content, I live for these little details.

The idea of a website that only works in a certain country doesn't make sense to me, and would likely make Marshell McLuhan facepalm instantly

This facebook screenshot shows the problem arising in other places too.  Here we see my friend who lives in Seattle sharing a link with his friends.  Unfortunately, Canadians cannot visit Hulu.com (thats right, when we try our computer explodes).  As a result, my Facebook feed is now filled with embedded videos that I cannot watch.  This one is a bit trickier, because it is neither Facebook’s or Hulu’s fault.  It is my friend Amish’s fault for not being sensitive to his Hulu deprived friends in the north.  Perhaps I should send my starter code to Hulu as well.

As censorship laws tighten on the internet, UX designers will continually face problems keeping the experience clean.  If I was a Facebook user in China or perhaps Iran, would my friend feed be blocked of all content published on censored 3rd party sources?  If we make software and choose to interact and use outside content that may have privacy/censorship restrictions, lets ensure that we are conscious of this and take that burden off our users’ shoulders.

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