There’s no doubt that Yahoo’s revamped home page is more attractive and easier to navigate than its predecessor—gone, for example, is the list of 19 Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) services that cluttered the entire left-hand column and that you probably never used. That said, after spending some time trolling around the new Yahoo.com, I think there’s a strong possibility that the redesigned home page will fall short of its lofty goal of being the “center of people’s online lives.” Yes, the addition of apps to the home page brings third-party sites to Yahoo.com; but it’s not quite a one-stop destination. Most of the apps—which users can add to a list of “My Favorites”—are little more than RSS feeds that tease users with a few lines of content. If users want to read or look up anything more, they are shuffled away from the home page.
There are practical reasons for this, of course. Third-party sites might not be too happy if Yahoo co-opted big chunks of their traffic. Yahoo has also been clear in saying that allowing users to simply “preview” content is a goal. Still, for anyone who uses “apps” on their smartphones or even on Facebook, these apps will be a letdown. And while Yahoo has talked up the addition of ads to the apps, if it doesn’t provide many opportunities for people to engage within them, users might not stay around for long enough to notice the plugs.
Even Yahoo’s own apps, like weather or horoscopes, offer only a few tidbits of information that people can actually access from the home page. Clicking on almost anything within these apps, like a listing for today’s weather, takes a user from the home page to the specific Yahoo property. In fact, clicking, rather than hovering, on any of the apps listed in the “My Favorites” column takes you away from the home page.
In other ways, too, Yahoo’s outside tie-ins seem limited. For instance, a field in the upper-right-hand corner of the new home page allows users to “update” their status. But the updates only post on the person’s Yahoo profile. Even when I activated the Facebook app on “My Favorites,” I couldn’t figure out how to update my Facebook status from within this box. As for updating my Facebook status from the Facebook app itself, that was problematic too, since the app kept on insisting that I needed to grant Yahoo permission to update my status—even when I had already done so. (Some of this could be due to bugs, as some apps, like Games, don’t seem to work.)
Other reviewers —including PC World’s David Coursey and John Battelle have noted that the new home page also isn’t as customizable as it could be. For instance, the box of “popular searches” that’s on the top of the page can’t be moved or tweaked; same goes for the featured articles.
Of course, all this could change. For now the design is opt-in only and Yahoo has said it will soon start testing a feature that will let home-page users slide a lever to determine the mix of contentbe it fun or more seriousthey want to see. And by even simply adding the concept of apps to Yahoo.com, Yahoo is opening the door for more complex (and useful) apps in the fture.
By Joseph Tartakoff