Earlier today, I got an e-mail from the folks at AOL who are trying to drum up some attention for the new user interface on the company's namesake portal. According to the e-mail, AOL has taken a ton of user feedback it has been getting and is using it "to create a richer, more personalized experience -- that doesn't look like Yahoo." Perhaps they meant to say "doesn't behave like Yahoo" because , at a distance, the beta home page of AOL and the current home page of Yahoo look (see resized images below) nearly identical. ( continued below.....)
(....continued from above). Except for a few elements, the wireframes for the two sites look like they came from the same designer. So, not look like Yahoo? Hmmmm. All this said, the new interface has a really interesting "Snag" command in the upper right hand corner of the news box that's front and center of the home page (see image, left). Clicking on it yields the following dialog box:
This sort of modularity, in my estimation is exactly where most sites should be heading with elements of their user interfaces. I should be able to take any element of the user interface of any site and relatively painlessly incorporate it into the RSS/Atom reader or the online portal of my choice (be it NetVibes, myGoogle, myAOL, or PageFlakes (the latter two of which are marked above as "Coming Soon") .
Incidentally, if AOL is looking to harness the Web's social phenomenon and modularity and it wants to be entirely different from Yahoo (while be able to walk the circles of a MySpace or a FaceBook.... two properties it probably wishes it had acquired), then it should probably make a move on Fifth Generation Systems and it's ultra-cool Zude.com (my video coverage of Zude here, Scoble's coverage where he says it's the coolest thing he saw at Web 2.o is here). Zude's willingness to allow componentry from any site onto it's pages is probably what's driving normally restrictive sites like MySpace to allow componentry that it didn't allow before. But what those sites don't have is Zude's drag and drop user interface. If AOL wants the grooviness of a MySpace or a FaceBook and it really wants to be different from Yahoo, then it doesn't have to look any further than Zude.