On Twitch you shouldn’t expect the overly produced, heavily edited programming that audiences have been accustomed to from network television. And the platform lacks the mile-a-minute movement of content that becomes viral on TikTok. Live streamers are auteurs of their content, and this has led to a plethora of subject matter and style. Some creators simply stream themselves walking around, eating tacos, cooking or pretty much any other weird or random thing you could imagine.
Nmplol fries some food with around 14,000 concurrent viewers.
RetroGaijin eats a taco with a friend of his (and around 3,000 other friends from the internet).
Mizzy paints a deer on her chest with over 1,400 live viewers.
Here, Phuzzy_ fishes in some gross water.
User koalapuffslive smokes marijuana as 450 people watch.
This goes to show that streaming audiences aren’t looking for a buttoned-up final product (beyond the necessity of a quality camera).
Streamers may not be actively using design principles in setting up their streams, but they are definitely applied. The Interactive Design Foundation writes that “Visual design is about more than aesthetics. Designers place elements carefully to create interfaces that optimize user experience and drive conversion.” As a streamer, you optimize (and eventually monetize) your stream by getting viewers who become followers who then become active members of your community. So the design of a live stream should work to increase accessibility for new viewers and engagement for recurring ones.
These principles explain the designs norms for many streams on Twitch.
Twitch is primarily used for live streaming video games. In fact, 91% of the gaming live stream market is controlled by Twitch. For video game streams, the design is intuitive. Most streams use the gameplay as the primary visual, often with a facecam on the streamer as well.
Pokimane, a streamer with 6.5 million Twitch followers, streams the hit sensation Among Us. Her camera placement blocks public game code, showing how facecam placement is dependent on the game.
Jessie streams Rocket League with 1,400 live viewers.
This basic layout has been used by many on the platform to gain extremely large viewer totals. Many of Twitch’s most popular streamers use this set-up regularly. Along with being scalable, this design is great for new streamers due to its simplicity. It doesn’t require excessive graphic design or complex layering in OBS. One reason this set-up works so well is that gameplay is intended to be visually captivating, so watching the game should generally look cool.
On this Minecraft stream, michaelreeves has over 25,000 concurrent viewers.
sodapoppin’s standard set-up didn’t prevent his stream from having 34,000 concurrent viewers.
The gameplay stream layout easily engages viewers by showing them what’s being played and who’s playing it.
Although gaming is the backbone of Twitch, much of the platform’s recent growth has come in other areas. The Verge writes that Twitch’s “Just Chatting” category increased from 166 million hours watched to 176 from June to July. Over the same time, the “Music & Performing Arts” and “Creative” categories increased as well.
The “Just Chatting” category encompasses pretty much anything that isn’t gaming. Still, the category is used by many gamers to have laid back streams where they focus on interacting with their audiences. Because interaction is the goal, many such streams only use a facecam-only layout. Even though this layout is less visually interesting, it immediately conveys that the purpose of the stream is, quite literally, just chatting.