The world's most visited webpage, Yahoo.com, has just had a major re-design (available for now at yahoo.com/preview). I did a podcast interview with two Yahoo executives about the changes - Yahoo! Chief Product Officer Ash Patel and Vice President of Front Doors Tapan Bhat (yes that's his real title - more informally he's known internally as VP of "Making Yahoo! the best place to start").
The Yahoo.com re-design is officially flagged There's plenty of Ajax magic to make the Yahoo homepage more interactive as a "preview" (aka beta) and it isn't yet the default yahoo.com homepage. In the podcast I was told there is no firm date for go-live - in the grand traditions of Web 2.0 it will be a beta until the company decides otherwise :-)
The new yahoo.com marks a significant new look for the most trafficked website in the world. There's plenty of Ajax magic to make the Yahoo homepage more interactive - and Yahoo has made a big effort to make the user the primary focus of the new homepage. It has a larger search box, in recognition of the big role that the search interface plays in today's Web. There is also more emphasis on personalization, news content and community - moving away from the 90's 'everything under the sun' portal to a more user-focused homepage for the user. Indeed upon visiting the preview page, you're greeted with a banner that shows just how important personalization is to this re-design: "Welcome to the all-new Yahoo! It's made for you."
In the podcast we also discussed how the yahoo.com homepage has added more multimedia links and content, in line with Yahoo's status nowadays as a media company. This trend for more video and audio content on the homepage will only increase over time.
From a design point of view, the most noticeable feature is an increased use of Ajax in the new layout. Also the page is wider, recognizing that the average PC monitor size has increased over the past few years (nb: there is an option to switch to a "narrow page"). The visual design employs the famous web 2.0 technique of faded colors - and there is more use of tabs too. In the podcast, VP of Front Doors Tapan Bhat explained some of the scaling challenges of implementing Ajax in a mass market website. He made it clear that the move to a more Ajax-heavy user interface required a lot of testing and optimization before it was ready for prime time. For an example of the Ajax touches, check out the "Personal Assistant" in the top-right corner. Here it is in a closed state:
...and here it is in an open state, using Ajax to make the transition fluid:
(nb: the 'Music' tab has been re-named 'Radio' since I did that screenshot)
For a full list of features, check out my review on Read/WriteWeb. All in all, I think the new Yahoo.com preview page is a big improvement on the old design - in terms of both 'look n' feel' and functionality. Considering that yahoo.com is the most trafficked webpage in the world - and so any changes they make to it affect many millions of users - I think the new design is a big step forward. It's much more contemporary-looking than the previous version and introduces a decent slab of 'web 2.0' functionality to the masses. What do you think?