YouTube has never won awards for its appearance or user interface, but a new experimental redesign called Cosmic Panda demonstrates the company is addressing those issues.

Viewers who choose to activate the redesign will get a YouTube that looks more sophisticated, with a darker and less cluttered appearance overall. Thumbnail views are larger and easier to see, and playlists have a cleaner, more inviting look similar to YouTube’s Leanback feature.

The modernized Cosmic Panda look should definitely appeal to companies using YouTube as part of their promotional or marketing campaigns, especially those on behalf of movies, music or other entertainment properties. There are better opportunities for advertisers than previously, too.

There are four channel templates to choose from, each with a different layout to serve different needs. The Network template, for instance, has a large video above a group of channels, while the Blogger template is a reverse chronological list of a playlist or a viewer’s recent activity. The Like, Add To and Share buttons have been moved away from the video controls, making it more intuitive to interact with the videos.

Those who use Google’s Chrome browser to access YouTube also can keep videos playing when they’re browsing, searching or doing other things. It’s understandable that a redesign would start there, since Google paid $1.65 billion for YouTube in October 2006, but it’s unlikely this capability will remain limited to Chrome.

A little blue flag on the left invites user feedback, so evidently YouTube considers Cosmic Panda to be a work in progress.

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