Yahoo’s New Homepage Design Is Less About Yahoo

Yahoo is calling a new redesign of its homepage “the most radical re-imagining yet” of the experience. The company plans to roll it out to U.S. users today before releasing it internationally and on mobile devices next week.

The most significant aspect of the revamp is the company’s embrace of non-Yahoo content and services through a “My favorites” navigation bar on the left side of the homepage. These are made available to users as in-page modules — referred to as “apps” by Yahoo. (Screen shot below) The modules are monetized with Yahoo-sold ad units that can be targeted to the content brought in from outside sites.

“It’s a great opportunity to target content and context,” said Yahoo’s Tapan Bhat, SVP of integrated consumer experiences. For instance, he said, Yahoo can serve movie ads next to movie app experiences. In the future, he said, Yahoo expects to sell sponsored apps and performance-based app monetization offerings such as a “deal of the day.”

Available apps in the new design include e-mail from AOL, Gmail and others; social networking tools from Facebook and MySpace; and content from the likes of NPR and USA Today. In cases where Yahoo has not already built modules, users can use an “app maker” tool to automatically generate them from their favorite sites.

The revamp also includes a social networking function that could shape up into a significant play for a share of its users’ social activity. A “social updates” feature allows people to share their status with friends — a la Facebook and Twitter. Updates can then be cross-posted to those services.

“We are really reinventing the way people interact with the homepage,” said Bhat. “When you look at the [old] homepage, it’s about Yahoo. It’s not about the user. If our goal is to make Yahoo the center of people’s lives online, the homepage has to change.”

Beginning this afternoon, Yahoo’s U.S. users who visit the homepage will be given the option to try out the new homepage. Over the next week, the company plans to roll out versions in France, India, and the U.K.

The redesign extends to the company’s mobile homepage experience. Beginning next week, Yahoo’s mobile users will be able to pair their homepage settings with their mobile homepage experience. When that happens they’ll see the same options and services when they visit Yahoo.com, regardless of the device. The mobile homepage will be organized into three tabs: “Today,” “My Favorites,” and “All Sites.”

Future plans for the homepage include giving users more control over the content they see. For instance, Yahoo plans to introduce a sliding scale allowing them to introduce more “fun” or “serious” content.

Additionally, in August Yahoo plans to begin testing a new search experience that will include the My Favorites left-hand nav-bar. Users will be able to search within their preferred services.

“This represents a sea change in the way we think about products, the way we think about our users, and the way we think about the experience,” he said of the new search look.

Bhat argued the homepage can offer people a way to keep up with sites that are important to them without knowing a thing about RSS.

“It becomes simple for ordinary people who are focused on the results, not the technology, to be able to get stuff they care about,” he said. “It makes it very simple to do your daily routine without doing a whole lot of work.”

Yahoo claims its homepage has approximately 113 million unique visitors in the U.S. and 330 million around the world.

Below is a screenshot showing how Yahoo’s Facebook app will appear on the new homepage.

yahoo-homepage.jpg

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