YouTube recently introduced a new end screen feature to better serve mobile viewers while responding to a popular trend among YouTubers.  If you are a YouTuber or have watched enough videos on the streaming mega-giant, then you know about end screens.  They are those 15-60 second spots at the end of a video where the YouTuber encourages you to watch other videos, subscribe, or both.  For an example check out the end of one of my videos.

The downside of many end screens–like in the linked-to example above–is they use annotations which do not work on mobile devices.  However, YouTube’s new end screens, according to their help info, are mobile friendly.

PERFECT!

Well, not so quick.

While there are some thinks to like about YouTube’s end screen feature, there are some problems with it, especially for mobile uploaders and those not using video editing software.  I’ll outline those weaknesses below.  First, though, let’s look at the benefits of this new feature.

The Benefits of YouTube’s End Screen Feature

As I tested out this new tool I discovered some nice features and benefits to using YouTube’s end screens.

  • They are mobile friendly for viewers.  I’ve already mentioned this, but I’m listing it here because it is a major plus.  Unlike annotations, YouTube’s new end screens will work on mobile devices.  However, the mobile friendly benefit is only for viewing the end screens.
  • They are relatively easy to create.  I say “relatively” because there is a learning curve, just not a big one.
  • They allow linking to associated websites and some fundraising campaigns.  This means that you’re not restricted only to YouTube videos, playlists, and channels.
  • There are numerous templates from which you can choose.  Just in case you don’t know how to set up your end screen or where to place each element, YouTube offers a variety of templates from which you can pick.
  • Elements (videos, ‘subscribe button,’ other links) can snap to the grid or snap to each other.  If you’ve used video editing software or some graphic design software, you understand the tremendous benefit of snapping an element.  This prevents overlap and helps create a cleaner, crisper overall look.  However, I use single quotes around the subscribe button element because this gets into the problems with the end screens.

Despite these benefits, there are some significant problems with this new feature.

The Problems with YouTube’s End Screen Feature

As is true with any software or web app, there are always drawbacks.  YouTube’s new end screen feature is no exception as, I believe, it comes with a multitude of problems.

Now, before I list these issues let me say that this list is based on my experience at the time of this post.  Your experience may be different and that’s okay.  Without any further ado, here are the problems with YouTube’s end screen feature.

  • It’s not user friendly for mobile YouTubers who upload direct from their phone.  While YouTube tries to keep up with the mobile world, this is one of the areas where mobile users are left out.  The end screen requires a minimum of 20 seconds at the end of your video to work.  This means the elements will cover 20 or more seconds of video.  So, unless you film fo ran extra 20 seconds just to have an end screen, mobile uploaders may find the end of their videos obstructed by various elements.
  • Snap to grid does not snap to all bars.  When viewing the grid, you’ll notice there are alternating dark and light vertical bars (see the screenshot below).  When moving elements around, they snap only to the dark bars.  As you can see below by the darker blue lines (in the circled area), the elements is snapping to the dark bars.
Elements snap only to the darker bars, not the lighter bars, when creating an end screen in YouTube.
Notice how the element snaps to the darker bars (cf. the blue lines within the red oval). Elements do not snap to the lighter bars.  Click image for full size.
  • Snap to grid does not work vertically.  Just as Google redefined the phrase “search for it” as “Google it,” it seems Yahoo is redefining “grid” to be “vertical bars.”  There is no grid.  As a result, elements do no snap when moving them up and down unless unless you snap to the top or bottom of the frame.
This example still image implies a still image background. While that may be the case in the video shown, that is not the default setting.
This example still image implies a still image background. While that may be the case in the video shown, that is not the default setting.
  • The example screenshot is misleading.  The sample video in the image that YouTube uses to promote end screens appears to be using a static background image.  While that particular video may be using a static image, that is not the default setting.  Rather, YouTube uses your video as the background.  If you want a static image, you need to add one manually using video editing software.
  • The video background creates unnecessary visual noise.  As I just mentioned, unless you manually add a still image, you’ll end up with a video background behind your end screen elements.  As a result, you could end up with videos on top of videos, creating visual noise that defeats the purpose of the end screen.
  • In order to have a cleaner looking end screen, you’ll need to use a video editor before uploading.  Sorry, mobile uploaders, you’re out of luck here!  If you take a look at some of the more effective end screens used by YouTubers you will notice some commonalities: social media contact info, still image background, very little motion (except feature videos), a clearly labeled subscribe call to action, and background sounds or background music.  I followed this pattern when I started using end screens.  As a result, the featured videos are easy to see, the contact info is visible, and you can easily tell what to do.  In order to accomplish this with YouTube’s end screen feature, you’ll need to use video editing software to manually add a still image at the beginning or end of your video that is at least 20 seconds long.
  • No clear subscribe button.  Communication 101 says “clarity is king.”  If you want someone to do something, be direct.  YouTube doesn’t seem to have learned this.  When it comes to the subscribe button, YouTube uses your channel’s profile image/logo for your subscribe button rather than something clearly marked “Subscribe.”  While some people might know that the channel logo is the subscribe button, many more will not.  It’s better to have something that clearly says, “Subscribe,” so that people know what the image does (I have this same gripe about the subscribe watermark, but that’s another issue).

Overall, while the concept behind the end screen is worthwhile, the implementation is quite flawed.  Although it is mobile friendly for viewers, the functionality of the end screens is mobile unfriendly for YouTubers.  Additionally, the help info does not clearly indicate that you are better served using video editing software to add an end screen section to your video prior to uploading it.  Rather, they encourage mobile uploading while creating features not conducive for mobile YouTubers.

You may have had a different experience with YouTube’s new end screen feature.  You may think the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.  Share this article, comment below, and join in the conversation.

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