www.yahoo.com on april 23rd may 2013

Yahoo’s Other Big Problem

Has anyone had a look at their homepage lately?

The focus of commentators on Yahoo’s problems has been on its inability to update its platforms and offerings over the years. Flickr and Delicious were really the obvious examples there; both hot web startups swallowed by the bloated Yahoo monster and left to stagnate.

With Marissa Mayer at the helm, however, it seems that progress is being made. Sensible acquisitions such as Summ.ly have taken place, Flickr has finally had a fresh coat of paint, and there is a focus on fixing up the workplace culture and making things more agile.

So, curious to see what else might be going on in the monster-rehaul department, I went to yahoo.com for the first time in years. Big mistake.

Front page of US edition of yahoo.com, 23rd May 2013

I was assaulted by a design that quite frankly in this day and age is insulting. Yahoo dot com is a mess of trashy tabloid news, intrusive advertising and clutter. I don’t see that any major progress has been made on this front since the 90s.

Regardless of the design (which I’ll discuss next), content is really the thing that will keep people coming back to any website. And the content is terrible. The news sources chosen are poor quality, the articles are uninteresting and it’s unclear why on earth they haven’t even curated the trash to be slightly better trash.

Despite removing as many trashy and unsightly articles as possible and tagging which topics I don’t want to read while being signed in, on refreshing, I was still bombarded by celebrity gossip. This lack of regard for user choices is appalling.

The design itself is like something from last century. It’s cluttered, lacks customisability and uses a violent shade of violet that appears to come directly from design hell. The ad space is similarly used in an offensive manner. It’s loud, intrusive and ugly.

The inability to easily change the widgets or columns or news categories is a major turn-off. Once again, it’s a lack of regard for user choice.

Now, I will point out that I’m usually automatically redirected to Yahoo’s Australian localisation, Yahoo!7 (they’ve partnered with the 7 TV channel, known for its poor quality, sensationalist news and inferior programming). Is Yahoo!7 more targeted towards me?

Front page of Yahoo!7 (Australian localisation) on 23rd May 2013

Well, the design is marginally less ugly. At least they’re using red rather than violet, the choice of fonts is improved and the weather widget is attractive and useful. The content and the advertising is still appalling, however. If anything, the advertising is even more intrusive and this time it’s even less relevant to my wants or needs.

Critiques of Yahoo’s inability to connect with younger users focus on ideas that teenagers “don’t know that Yahoo exists” or that the site isn’t “social media” enough. Perhaps the real reason that younger users don’t use Yahoo is because its homepage is simply awful, and Yahoo Mail isn’t good enough to entice people over to its main website.

I certainly don’t see anything that would interest anyone other than the narrow range of people who read magazines such as the Women’s Weekly or New Idea, or who read newspapers other than tabloids. The internet, however, has an increasing number of non-Western, media savvy and well-educated users to whom this does not appeal to and who are repelled by the unsubtlety of the advertising.

Quite simply, my first impression of the “new” Yahoo is that I had visited the website of a spammer, scammer or domain squatter. It certainly wasn’t a website worthy of one of the internet’s biggest companies.

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