Richard MacManus has a great review of the new Yahoo home page and podcast with Yahoo Chief Product Officer Ash Patel and Vice President of Front Doors Tapan Bhat. Richard concludes that the redesigned page is more contemporary and Web 2.0 savvy. The block of Yahoo services has been moved to the left side for easier navigation. It has a bigger search box, increased emphasis "your" stuff, AJAX pixie dust and multimedia content.
It's a nice, incremental improvement, which has been the case for the last ten years for the majority of Web sites. Incremental improvements, no rocking the boat. No big convergence or radical change of the user experience.
With a half a billion users, Yahoo now has the legacy and scale problem. Users become accustomed to the site design, and any micro-change can cause a disturbances in Yahoo's force field. So much stuff, so little space.
Yahoo engineers, designers, user interface experts, researchers, sales and marketing people, Jerry, David, Terry and Dan probably spend several man years figuring whether the left navigation makes sense, whether he little icons are obvious, how big to make the type, how to keep the cash register ringing, what screen size to design for, what bandwidth target, how many pixels for the search box, bold or plain text tabs for the AJAXed blocks, how to shed sunlight on over 50 services clamoring for attention, increasing the revenue per page visit (as in the AJAXed block below--click on the image, watch the trailer, book tickets, etc.)
Is it a navigation page, a personal page, a search page, a showcase page? It's becoming a My Yahoo junior, a kind of evolving blueprint, with many known constraints, for a community, continually trying to optimize for user satisfaction and revenue generation. Time spent + pages views + design smarts = more opportunity to ring the cash register.
Stay tuned for the next edition of the Yahoo home page. Will the left navigation bar get more AJAX? Will it be moved to the top of the page?