Ever since touchscreen devices started to become popular in the first ten years of this decade, they’ve started to eat into the share of the market that was once dominated by desktop and laptop computers. We can largely thank the first generation of iPhones for that. It was the first iPhone that showed the world that apps like Facebook could be used easily without a keyboard, and ever since then, people have been following suit. Tablets, smartphones, and touchscreen devices hold several advantages over bulky home computers when it comes to everyday use, and more and more popular websites are reflecting the changing times by adapting their layout to accommodate touchscreen users. 

Many different apps and websites have experimented with touchscreen-friendly layouts and services over the years, but in many ways, it was online slots websites like Kong Casino that led the way. Although they’re not available in every country in the world, online slots are a multi-billion dollar industry, and they’ve progressed from appealing directly to laptop and desktop users to appealing specifically to smartphone users. Nowadays, internet casino games are just as likely to be played as mobile slots as they are online slots, and the change has been made without seeming to cost the industry a single dollar in lost users. Having seen the money rolling into online slots, other websites are now following suit. Now YouTube has jumped aboard the bandwagon. 

You don’t need us to explain to you what YouTube is or what it does. It’s the most popular video-sharing and live-streaming website in the world, and for many people, it’s become a profession. You can now make more as a YouTube streamer than you can as a professional sports star if you’re within the top 1% of personalities on the platform, and those personalities are increasingly finding that their audience is watching and listening to them on their phones more often than they’re doing so on their home computers. Some statistics and projections indicate that by the end of 2025 – just five short years from now – almost three-quarters of internet traffic will come through smartphones rather than any other device. That means every major website and web-based company will eventually have to optimize for touchscreen, so YouTube has decided to make the jump early. 

If you’ve logged onto YouTube recently, you’ll notice that the majority of the proposed changes have already been made. The most visible difference is that all the icons are now much larger, making it easier to accurately select them with a finger rather than the click of a mouse button. The familiar three-dot menu button has also now been enlarged and added below each video thumbnail by default. In the past, you could only access that menu by hovering over it with a mouse cursor. That’s fine if you’re working from a laptop or a desktop, but not so easy to navigate if you’re working through a phone. This subtle change symbolizes that it’s now smartphone and tablet users rather than desktop or laptop users who are driving change within the huge company. 

As well as the cosmetic changes, there’s a difference in how users interact with the website to perform basic functions. If you were using a phone to access the site until recently, you’d have to tilt your phone or select an option to switch it into ‘full screen’ mode. Now, the same effect can be achieved simply by swiping up on a video. Alternatively, if you’d like to minimize the video you’re watching so you can regain access to the search function or the rest of the website, you can do it by swiping down and activating YouTube’s relatively-new ‘mini-player,’ meaning you can keep your video going while you’re looking for your next piece of short-form entertainment. 

The swiping improvements don’t stop there. In the past, YouTube’s playlist function has been so confusing and well-hidden that many users didn’t even know it was there. Now, it’s been placed front and center. If you want to add a video to your queue, all you need to do is hit the menu button and ask for a video to be moved to the bottom or top of your queue as you wish. This was previously only possible by manually dragging and dropping the videos into place. Again, this was far from being a simple task to perform using fingers as opposed to a mouse. The ‘Watch History’ feature has also been expanded and improved. Whereas your personal history on the website was previously little more than a very long list, it’s now been separated into dates. That makes it a lot easier to find a video that you watched a week ago without having to endlessly scroll down the list and hope that you don’t accidentally miss it or skip over it. 

YouTube’s move mirrors moves that have recently been made by Facebook and Twitter to make their platforms more touchscreen-friendly. Facebook’s current beta has a notable emphasis on larger graphics and bigger buttons, with better use of space and less chance of accidentally pressing one option when you meant to select another. As we’ve seen in the past, once one larger website has decided to make a move toward embracing a new format or a new technology, it’s only a matter of time before everybody else follows suit. Now that YouTube is making such dramatic changes, it’s probably safe to say that the 2020s will be the decade of touchscreen technology. Perhaps by the end of the decade, we’ll be debating whether keyboards even still have a use at all. 

Now that everybody seems to have uniformly agreed that touchscreen is the preferred platform of the moment, we’ve started to think about what comes next. Interactive virtual reality websites seem like an inevitability at some point in the future, but until the necessary headgear becomes less cumbersome and the idea of wearing a headset becomes more wide-spread, it’s too early to think about it catching on en masse. Given the surging popularity of Bluetooth speakers for the home, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, it looks like the public is becoming more used to the idea of controlling technology through spoken commands. Could we see voice control becoming a more popular way of interacting with websites in the years to come? We think that’s more than possible, but we’ll just have to wait and see.