Yahoo and User Experience

August 25, 2009

Lots of posts from gurus, azure chip consultants, and real journalists about Yahoo and search. I have plowed through about 15 of the online write ups. A couple jutted above the plain; most we in the low lands. A good example of the thinking that is not quite up the mountain is the write up “Yahoo: We’re Still in the Search Business”. The main point for me was this passage:

“I fully anticipate that our front-end experience will evolve differently from Bing,” said Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president of Yahoo labs and search strategy, during a presentation to journalists at Yahoo’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif. “We collaborate on the back end, but we are competitors on the front end.”

So the plumbing is the plumbing. The differentiator is the user experience. To me that means interface. A search box is a part of the interface. Ergo Yahoo cannot do much with the white rectangle into which people type 2.3 words. Yahoo must add links, facets, and any other gizmo that allows a person to find information without typing 2.3 words.

I just looked at the Yahoo splash page for me:

search splash yahoo

I find this page unhelpful. I can personalize the page, but I see the Excite type of clutter that annoys me when I have to hunt for the specific link I want. Examples: NASCAR news. Three clicks. Email. Log on and extra clicks to get past the news headlines. My account for for fee email? Good luck finding this page.

I look forward to user experience changes, but I don’t think interface alone will address the issues I have encountered with Yahoo Shopping, locating news stories that have been removed even though links in the wild to the story are available, and finding specific discussion group content quickly.

I want more than punditry and user experience. I want a system that provides information access. Right now, Yahoo has many opportunities to improve, but the key will be the plumbing. If I understand the posts I have examined. Microsoft and Yahoo will collaborate on plumbing. I had a house once with two plumbing contractors. I recall some exciting discussions with the two plumbers. No one had responsibility for the leaky pipes.

Stephen Arnold, August 25, 2009

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