Although we’ve already had access to Yahoo!’s new look here in the UK and in the US, the redesign and new features are now live worldwide.
At first glance basically everything is purple instead of red. It has a choice of skins or colour schemes to choose from, switch to “compact view” (change the page size so it fits on 800 x 600 monitors by getting rid of the left hand “My Favourites” column) and “Move News To Top”, which moves the headlines from Yahoo! News, The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Mail to the top of the page. According to the BBC the new look is now “the second-largest source of online traffic to the newspaper’s website”. Of course Yahoo! are taking a share of the revenue the traffic generates.
Hovering over on of the “Favourites” in the “My Favourites” list brings up a list of headlines from the site if it’s a news site, you can watch your eBay auctions from the Yahoo front page, see customized sports results and more. Of course most of the content that appears on the portal page is customizable too, but it seems like an awful lot of effort to set up. Personally I go to Yahoo! for search, not to organize my life. According to Yahoo’s senior vice-president for Europe, Rich Riley, surveys suggest that 60% of Yahoo users in the UK want a one-stop shop to organise their life on the Internet. But that’s a survey of Yahoo users, not the general public or the average user. Whilst I applaud Yahoo! for listening to it’s users I think they should be catering for the mass market rather than the 1% of UK search users who use Yahoo. In a word that means fixing it’s search engine rather than investing in skins and customizable home pages.
The new look isn’t powered by Bing yet, as the tie-up between Microsoft and Yahoo is still being scrutinized by the regulators. Even if Yahoo! does begin to use Bing, will it bring back the visitors?
There are some nice features about the new Yahoo search. As well as the list of search results you can also search for related MySpace sites and Wikipedia articles from the left hand column, see related searches (like Google has at the bottom of the page), and of course there are sponsored ads. The search suggest tool is still clumsy and shifts the whole content of the page about which I dislike immensely.
Finally we come to “Search Pad”. I have absolutely no idea what this does at first glance. I can type notes in it. What these notes do I really can’t say. I can re-order them by dragging them but that’s it. I have to have a Yahoo! account if I want to save them, although it does seem to remember your search pad entries as long as your session is valid. After watching the tutorial videos I’m still at a loss to explain why I’d need “search pad”, surely I can just bookmark the results that interest me?
On the plus side, Yahoo! search retains it’s tie up with McAfee Safe Search so you know if a site is safe to visit or not. Unfortunately Safe Search is off by default and you have to enable it in the preferences. Again you need to be signed into your Yahoo! account to make sure the option stays on. I tried to turn Safe Search on, without signing in, and the default preferences say it’s already on yet the icon in the search results says it’s off. Safe Search also relies on user submissions to tell you if a site is safe or not, unlike Google’s malware warnings which are automatic.
So in summary it’s all very pretty and purple, but it’s still not as fast, relevant or as good as Google and all the bells and whistles aren’t going to change that.