When I heard about the call with Yahoo yesterday, which was to feature “a significant announcement,” I thought: “Bing, here it is.” When it turned out the call was about a formal announcement of the new Yahoo homepage I was disappointed; it seemed anti-climactic.
The existence of a forthcoming Yahoo homepage redesign has been known for months and screenshots of earlier versions have been seen previously in several places online. However, the new Yahoo homepage, which launches around 4:30 Eastern today, turns out to be both interesting and practical. The embargo was broken yesterday so immediately everyone rushed out their stories and there’s already been considerable coverage.
Here’s the Yahoo homepage as it exists this morning:
Below is the new homepage. It will not immediately replace the one above but be an opt-in choice for those interested in the near term:
Overall the page is less cluttered, there are fewer buttons and modules and search is somewhat more prominent. In the current Yahoo homepage search seems to exist outside the main visual field, whereas in the new design it’s more “visible” and integrated into the rest of the page.
The left column goes from being a static list of Yahoo properties to a customizable menu that effectively turns the homepage into an RSS reader or “dashboard.” Borrowing from MyYahoo (which will continue on as it is), Yahoo allows users to add or remove widgets or applications. Those include third party sites.
Yahoo has created a range of these widgets for launch, but users can themselves add any site with RSS feed capability. And third party developers will soon be able to add their own applications to the gallery. In this way it conceptually brings together the homepage and what Yahoo is doing with SearchMonkey.
Typically users don’t do much customization. I raised this question with Yahoo SVP Tapan Bhat who was presenting the new homepage. He agreed and said that Yahoo will recommend widgets to users based on their browsing and click-stream behavior. The process of adding or removing “applications” is simple and basically involves a single click.
As users mouse over the individual “My Favorites” applications a window opens that allows them to see the site or content. Here’s the official Yahoo screenshot with Facebook as an example.
Users can update Facebook (or Twitter) from this window. On the right side of the window is a new, contextually relevant ad unit that can be targeted to the content of the page. One example Yahoo gave on the call was for a movie opening targeting users looking up movie showtimes from a Yahoo movies application.
I haven’t been able to use the new homepage but it appears Yahoo has done a nice job balancing “push” and “pull,” adding simple but useful customization without diminishing the broad reach that the page offers.
Users will also later be able to adjust the news that they see on their homepage on a sliding fun-to-serious scale:
In terms of search, Yahoo will start “bucket testing” (random testing) a new look and feel for search results that conceptually mirrors what it’s doing on the home page. Below are screens I captured from the presentation. In the left column are (Search Monkey) widgets that effectively become search filters. The second example below shows the same search only showing results from YouTube:
Similar to the homepage favorites, the benefits of this approach rely on people customizing search and adding filters. However it’s pretty interesting on multiple levels. This search page will not be widely available today when the new homepage launches because it’s being selectively tested. In fact it’s possible it may never roll out.
How all this may or may not play with Microsoft if or when a search and display ads deal happens is uncertain. The question was asked on the call about how Bing might tie into this page. Bhat, as one would expect, demurred and declined to say anything.
Finally, the new homepage will make its way to mobile fairly soon. The recently launched mobile portal was ahead of the PC site in terms of customization. But the changes should make it simpler and more useful still.
The new homepage will roll out first in the US, followed by the UK, India, France and other countries thereafter.