Yahoo Canada unveils slicker, feature-rich home page


Yahoo Canada Co.’s newly redesigned home page is choc full of features likely to appeal to consumers – particularly younger users.

The Web media giant says its new Canadian homepage was created as part of “the most comprehensive redesign in the company’s history,” signifying this operation was far more than a facelift.

The new desktop is being positioned as a hub, a “one-stop-shop” for access to a very broad range of content, services and capabilities: mail, instant messaging, music, maps, news, blogs et al.

The site “gives users more control”, a Yahoo Canada statement says.

From a purely aesthetic perspective, the new site’s design team has done a decent job balancing content and aesthetics. Though fairly text-heavy, the page isn’t cluttered – or at least doesn’t appear so.

Facets such as the ability to add content, change layout and even change colours have been further simplified.

It doesn’t take more than a glance at the redesigned home page to figure out who the main target group is.

“The desktop is clearly focused on youngsters – teenagers and the 20 something crowd,” said Michelle Warren, an IT industry analyst with Toronto-based consulting firm, Evans Research Corp. (ERC).

Over the past couple of years, the look and feel of Yahoo’s global and Canadian home pages have changed radically – a transition that reflects a shift in the Web media giant’s strategy.

Back in 2004, “less is more” appeared to be the prevailing theory. In that year, the home page – which was already pretty spartan – was given a “functional” makeover that made it look even less flashy.

The trend today, on the global and various country, is quite different – it’s one where functionality doesn’t trump aesthetics.

Some noticeable changes of the re-incarnated page include:

A more strategically placed search box – at the top right of the page. Whether this will simplify user navigation, as Yahoo Canada claims, is yet to be determined;

Enhanced personalization: The new ‘Personal Assistant’ offers previews of mail and instant messenger contact status;

Page layout: This feature lets users toggle between a couple of layout options, by clicking on a ‘Switch to wide/narrow layout’ tab;

Networking: The new Y! Pulse section draws on community content from across the Y! network;

Smorgasbord of services: Clicking on a prominently displayed “All Yahoo! Services” tab causes a window to slide in with links to 48 Yahoo Canada services – all alphabetically arranged for easy access; and,

Expanded Canadian Content: The new home page features more Canada-specific content, including CBC hourly updates on news and events around the country.

Technologies used to create some of these features include AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and Dynamic HTML.

In the launch video posted on the site Jerry Yang, Yahoo co-founder emphasized the involvement of multiple stakeholders in the design process. “Users made suggestions, our engineers made suggestions; we debated, we added things, subtracted things…but at the end of the day, we made our little slice of the Web more relevant to you,” Yang said.

With its new home page is going head to head with the consumer version of Google Desktop that provides many similar features, services and capabilities. In the past few months Google has announced several initiatives to gain a bigger slice of the online advertising market.

Warren noted that both Yahoo and Google offer desktops that function like online personal organizers, providing personalized news, e-mail, photo archiving, scratch pads for jotting down notes, To Do lists and so on.

The redesigned site also incorporates services recently launched by Yahoo, including a trip planner feature – that can be accessed by clicking the Yahoo Travel link.

The Google Desktop, however, also offers text search over e-mail, files, music, photos, chats, mail (Gmail), and viewed Web pages. This does save you the time and trouble of having to manually organize files, e-mail, and bookmarks.

However, unlike the Google desktop – the functionality offered by does not require a download.

Right now, browser support on the new site is available for Internet Explorer (IE) 6 and Firefox 1.5.

Warren said the fact that the new site doesn’t support Netscape (or earlier versions of IE) is a big drawback (in Netscape, homepage displays very plain layout – with text links to various Yahoo services and nothing more). “That’s certainly going be very frustrating to Netscape users.”

Warren predicted the rejuvenated site would be a big draw for advertisers – mainly in the consumer space. In the enterprise arena Google has far more traction, and Yahoo has a lot of catching up to do, the ERC analyst said.

The new site, she said, may also up the ante in Yahoo’s clash with Microsoft Corp. which has beenquietly adding services to its Windows Live portfolio to compete with services Yahoo and Google already have in place.

See the blog.


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