By Rob Ciampa, Theresa Moore, John Carucci, Stan Muller, Adam Wescott

The reason that most people visit YouTube is to watch videos. That should probably be one of the first things you do when you arrive. After familiarizing yourself with the home page, try clicking on a video. You’re taken to a Watch page, which should look a lot like the one shown here.

The YouTube Watch page.

The YouTube Watch page.

The Watch page is, first and foremost, for viewing videos, but it has a number of other functions as well. You’ll want to be familiar with a number of elements on this page:

  • Video Player: Front and center is the video player, which you’ll use to watch the video.

  • Video Info: Tucked beneath the video player you’ll see the video info, including the video’s title, view count, and a description field with ­information about the video.

  • Comments: Everybody has an opinion, right? What’s true about the world outside is equally true in the world of YouTube. Here’s where viewers can comment on and discuss the video, and where the uploader occasionally joins in the discussion.

  • Suggestions: Along the right side of the screen are the suggested videos, which are YouTube’s best guesses about what you might want to watch next, based on the video you’re watching and your overall watch history.

That’s the birds‐eye view. The next few sections take a closer look at some of these features in a bit more detail.

The YouTube algorithm, the mysterious piece of code that is responsible for guessing what you want to watch next, is uncannily effective a lot of the time. The suggested videos have the ability to suck you into what is known as the YouTube spiral, in which you can potentially lose hours of your life clicking on video after video and eventually end up watching infomercials from the mid‐1980s with no clear idea how you got there.

The YouTube video player

The most noticeable item on the Watch page is the video player. As with most video players, the YouTube version has a number of controls ranging along the along the bottom. Here’s an overview of what each control does:

  • The Scrubber: This bar runs the length of the video player and allows the viewer to jump around in the video. Click on the white circle and drag it to the right to “scrub” forward in the video.

  • The Play/Pause button: This button stops and starts the video stream.

  • The Mute/Volume control: When you roll over the speaker symbol, the Volume bar appears. Click the speaker to mute the audio. Use the volume slider to adjust the volume.

  • The Counter: This is the timer for the video. It shows you how much viewing time has elapsed as well as the total length of the video.

  • Watch Later: This button looks like a clock, and it simply adds the current video to the Watch Later playlist. The idea here is that, with this playlist keeping track of what you want to watch, you can easily wait for that perfect moment to watch the desired video(s).

  • Closed Captions: This button, marked CC, toggles the captions. Not every video has good captions.

  • Settings: You have to click the little Gear icon to access the Settings menu, but that’s not too hard to do. For most videos, the available settings include toggling annotations on and off, changing the video speed, and setting the resolution of the video.

  • Display Controls: You can change the size of the default player to show across the width of the browser (Theater mode) or take over the entire display (Full screen).

    Most videos do not default to 1080p or 720p HD. The default playback is often 480p or lower, which doesn’t look that great. If you want to watch videos in high definition, you have to become familiar with the Settings menu. Keep in mind that your Internet connection needs to be fast enough to stream HD video to avoid interruption.

The video info section

Directly below the video player, you’ll find a bunch of information about the video — the video info.

The video info section.

The video info section.

Here’s a list of the most important information to pay attention to in the video info:

  • Title: In large type just below the video player is the title of the video.

  • Channel information: Just below the title you’ll find the channel name and a logo known as the channel icon.

  • Subscription status and control: Subscriptions are important to channel managers and viewers because subscriptions provide a better level of engagement among the two. The Subscribe button, which is to the right of the channel icon, appears in red with a subscriber count number if the viewer is not subscribed.

    Simply clicking the button enables the subscription, and the button turns gray while adding a secondary subscription setting button that looks like a gear. Click this secondary button to control how you want to receive updates from the channel. To unsubscribe to a channel, all you need to do is click the gray Unsubscribed button.

  • Like or Dislike: The Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down buttons allow you a quick, simple way to let your feelings about a video be known. Just to be clear, punch the Thumbs Up button if you like the video; punch the Thumbs Down if you don’t.

  • Add to: Over time, you’ll want to keep track and organize the video you’re viewing. If you’re using YouTube videos to help you with a kitchen renovation, you may want to keep all the videos about cabinet installation in one place. That place is the playlist. You can save a list of all the videos you want to watch later or videos that are your favorites.

  • Share: Next up is the Share link. When you click the Share link, you’re shown a few different ways that you can share the video and get the world to look at it. (You can see the various Share settings in the following figure.) Don’t forget that YouTube is also a social media platform that’s quite capable of letting you easily share to Facebook, LinkedIn, reddit, and other sites. YouTube also lets you share video on a website with simple HTML embed code, and if that’s not your style, you can simply email a video link to your friends.

    Sharing videos.

    Sharing videos.
  • More: This catch-all button lets you see more information on the video if the channel manager offers it up. This info includes statistics about the video and a transcript. You can also report this video to YouTube if you see something inappropriate in its content. This last piece should be used only sparingly.

  • Description: The video description field should provide all sorts of helpful information about the video and a way for viewers to get additional information, which may include links to make a purchase or support your candidate, for example. Only part of the description is shown, so a viewer can click the Show More bar under the description summary to see the rest of the information.

  • Comments: Comments about the video are placed just below the description section. Regular YouTubers know that comments can be highly informative and occasionally pretty bad. Remember that YouTube is a social media platform and with it comes the good, the bad, and the ugly — especially in the Comments section. As a channel manager, you definitely want comments, but keep in mind that you can filter out inappropriate ones or ban specific users who only cause trouble.