Hulu vs. YouTube – Will Design Decide the Winner?

I recently read an Article on the NYTimes website which talked about the success of Hulu in hosting popular TV shows and movies and they mention how YouTube is trying to move in on that game. There are many reasons I think YouTube will have trouble with this, but the NYTimes writer made an effort to point out how Hulu had a much better design and was easier to navigate by far.

In order to show this comparison they compared the American Glaiators Page on YouTube to the American Gladiators Page on Hulu. I will let you decided whose page looks better, but I think the winner is pretty obvious and that’s a big plus for Hulu.

The Importance of Design

As a designer I found it refreshing to see some one point out how very important design truly is for user experience. I have always believed a website design can make or break a site in certain aspects and I think this could be very true for Hulu and Facebook and even reminds me of the MySpace vs. Facebook.

I believe MySpace got very large, out of control and messy looking and then Facebook came into the game and was way better designed and cleaner and I think this is a large part of the success of Facebook. I see the same thing happening to YouTube.

YouTube is getting very big and messy looking and while Hulu currently specializes in TV shows and movies as opposed to mass user generated videos, its become a huge name in the online video industry. Once again I believe this is largely do to the sites beautiful and innovate design, clean navigation and overall simplicity. How do you guys think the design of YouTube’s site will shape its chances of competing with Hulu?

27 comments on “Hulu vs. YouTube – Will Design Decide the Winner?”

  1. Danny Tatom Reply

    I’ve always felt youtube was a poorly designed site. And it doesn’t help that the comment system sucks to the point of comments being rated down for no reason and/or every video starting a racist flame war.

    I don’t see them doing too much to make it better, though. It seems like they’d rather roll out new features and partnerships then fix or updates whats already there.

  2. 1deomatik Reply

    I think your absolutely right. Sites like YouTube and MySpace require users (especially unfamiliar ones) to sort of dig through all the excess of their affiliates and new ways to display the same thing. Sites like Hulu on the other hand cut straight to the point while maintaining an amazingly attractive look. But do you think this could change after Hulu has been around the block and has a more significant ammount of partnerships and gimicks? I hope they stray away from that sort of thing personally.

  3. Dreams Reply

    I was going to make the same analogy how YouTube is the MySpace of video sites. Just because they were first and the biggest doesn’t mean they are better. Don’t forget that you have sites like FanCast around the corner too.

  4. Julien Reply

    One thing that slows down Hulu is that they ban non-US viewers. Youtube has the whole world watching. You can go through a proxy, but it slows down the connection so much that it ain’t worth the effort. (and from a designer point of view, Youtube has a lot to learn from Hulu).

  5. Stefan Reply

    Quality on the video will decide who wins. And YouTube have already lost there.

    If YouTube doesn’t get the same video quality, they will not stand a chance.

  6. CreadorDeSitios Reply

    Hi boys. only can be watched in United States, I`m from Argentina, and I can`t used it. For this reason, YouTube, is the really winner to me, and to be honest, hulu`s web page isn`t beatyfull, looks like a e-commercer shop or something. Too much white and formally.
    Sorry, my vote:
    Design and functionality (vs. Hulu)

  7. kb03 Reply

    I’m not entirely sure if the comparison between hulu and youtube is entirely appropriate at this point. Yes, youtube is getting sloppy, and it’s layout is making it difficult to focus on the 2:00 minute video clip, and IF they go to the format like hulu or tvshack then it has the potential to become a mess. BUT Hulu is designed for a viewing experience, not full interaction and “over-action” through out the site.

    And as for myspace and facebook, Facebook HAD a clean layout and user friendly interface, but now the new format involves a lot of extra clicking to find the same info that a simple scroll used to solve.

    As you mentioned, though, it is refreshing to hear about people’s concern for effective design.

  8. Gino Reply

    1deomatik – Yes it seems like as sites get older sometimes they pile on too much stuff!

  9. Gino Reply

    Julien – What is the reason for this ban?

    My only guess would be to cut down on bandwidth usage until they can monetize the site better? Their sponsors are currently probably more interested in US traffic?

  10. Gino Reply

    kb03 – I agree about the new facebook I hear many people say they do not like it as much, but hey I am sure they tested it so maybe more people like it then don’t unfortunately =/

  11. Donald R. Anderson Reply

    This is the first time I’ve heard of hulu. Looking at the layout, yes hulu looks better and more friendly, but because of the differences in how they are used it really can’t be compared against youtube on the apples versus oranges basis. Youtube still offers the community aspect and the ability to have tons of users load personally made videos. They remain independent functions in my mind.

  12. Internetagentur München Reply

    Its the first time that I hear about Hulu. I can’t imagine that they will become more popular than YouTube. YouTube belongs to google as far as I know – and I am sure that they have the right marketing people to ensure the market leadership of YouTube as they are also leaders in other fields.

  13. Tim Smith Reply

    I totally agree. I recently heard of Hulu and I love it. Hulu in my opinion is light years away from Youtube and the video quality is exceptional.

  14. kb03 Reply

    Gino- I noticed that during the transition period, while they were slowly moving the profiles and account to the new form, you had the option of utilizing the ‘new’ or ‘old’ style. I know myspace gives you a similar option and has for quite some time.

    Does it, or would it affect the whole entity that is FACEBOOK, if they simply gave us the option? My work is mostly print design and don’t have much experience with the back end of web and it’s structure. Maybe you’re right, maybe they tested a sample, but I still feel that (with all those i have talked to) the old way requires much less work to navigate and become involved with.

  15. Jon Williams Reply

    I don’t think YouTube looks that good actually. When you’re dealing with a massive volume like these 2 sites, cleaner is always going to be better for the end user experirence. The faster you can find the video you want the better. Hulu wins in my opinion.

  16. Logo Design UK Reply

    As I live in the UK I am unable to view the videos on :( I like the idea of YouTube having competition though as this will mean better videos for everyone as the two sites compete with one another. Thank you for the post.

  17. Alex Reply

    I live in Australia, so Hulu, as good as it may be designed, is not for me, for now. So I guess I will be rocking out on youtube for the moment.

  18. Timothy Reply

    can i write in a vote for vimeo? much better design, just the search capability needs to be increased. the quality is amazing as well. but if i have to vote for one i’m going with hulu.

  19. Rasterfield Reply

    In this (your) case, Hulu is the winner, though I am living outside of the U.S. I have to go with YouTube. I don’t have much problem with watching YouTube Content, but I don’t like Channels. Their channels are hard to follow and read.

    The design must include information where must be, also content hierarchy on a page.

  20. Branden Reply

    I sort of feel like this is a comparison of apples and oranges, but to answer, I think Hulu’s design will definitely catapult them in taking the market for streaming video in the entertainment realm (tv, films) despite the attempts of YouTube to get in on it. YouTube will be a major force still though for many years to come, but for different reasons.

  21. Eric Reply

    I prefer Vimeo as well. The one thing that youtube has, and will most likely never lose is the power of Google on its side. Until then, I doubt youtube will ever be in danger.

  22. Peter Reply

    I honestly don’t think design will be as much of a factor with YouTube as it did with MySpace and Facebook. While design is extremely important in terms of usability, video players are much more simple and familiar than navigating a social network site. The blog layout and navigation of YouTube is also very familiar to a younger generation, so I would not necessarily consider Hulu easier to navigate. Perhaps, based on design education it would appear so, but everything is relative.

    Content and usability will determine how each site fares. I agree that Hulu is much more attractive and has a higher quality video player. However, YouTube has a huge advantage of having a much larger visitor base because they host almost any kind of video and were one of the first sites to do so. This is what allows them to take the chance of adding television shows and movies. I, personally, think deviating from their niche of user-generated videos is a mistake, but I don’t necessarily see them losing many viewers to Hulu.

    I disagree that Hulu initially did well largely because of its design. As a designer, I would like to think that, but Hulu one of the first sites to offer cross-network television shows and the first to strike deals with those networks. I think design certainly helped Hulu to rise to the top and make those deals, but it’s not why it is such a big name in the online video industry. Content will always be most important and it is design that makes that content accessible and easier to function.

    I think if either site should worry about competition within the television/film business, it should be Netflix. They already offer online viewing in addition to their regular “hard-copy” subscription service. With their partnerships with Xbox, etc., you don’t even need a computer to watch videos online. Their site is well-designed as well, so it’s evident that design certainly plays a factor in the success of all of these businesses.

  23. IronDog Reply

    In terms of user interface I couldn’t agree more that Hulu is the clear winner. In terms of video offerings, the ability to post video, and quality is a closer comparison. It also beats Youtube In my opinion. That said I wish that Stage6 was still available. They have since closed the site due to the sheer volume of materials posted there but the format and interface created by the folks at divix from a pure quality and interface perspective put all current video sites to shame.

  24. Nitin Reply

    There’s a lot bigger world that exists outside of US which cannot access Hulu, the single most reason why Hulu will not replace you tube…yet!

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