In the quickly evolving digital sphere, it's pretty tough to keep up. And while Yahoo! New Zealand has been tweaking its homepage regularly over the years in order to do just that, it hasn't made any major changes since 2008. But now, after a year-long project, it's launched its new, simplified, longer and de-cluttered version.
Website redesigns are often fraught with danger. Change is scary, and, as TechCrunch put it in its copy and paste hatemail template, it's like waking up in the morning and finding someone has rearranged the features of your wife's face. Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!'s new chief executive, oversaw some significant changes to the homepage in the US after she arrived from Google. And while there are some similarities between the two, Yahoo! New Zealand's general manager Laura Maxwell-Hansen says this is a separate project done by Yahoo! New Zealand and Yahoo!7 in Australia to "give us what we need in this market".
The homepage is the real gateway to the rest of the network's content, she says, and with an average audience of 840,000 every week, which is still the biggest homepage in the country, it's obviously a valuable advertising space.
She says a whole lot of usability testing, current usage research, global insights, audience evaluation and focus groups was conducted. And the end result, which was all created by in-house designer and engineers, is a simpler homepage with less clutter. This means it is now much longer and requires more scrolling. But whereas a few years ago she says consumers weren't into clicking, that's not as much of an issue any more. There's also no more left hand navigation bar for its raft of content, there's hover technology to see new emails that have come in (checking email through Yahoo! or Telecom mail is also easier) and the "'70s blue has also gone".
There's also a lot more video, which, given the huge increase in online video viewing around the world, is fairly self-explanatory. And weather maintains its place at the top of the page. The horoscopes also get a position fairly high up the chain, and, while this could be seen by some as a sad indictment on humanity, Maxwell-Hansen says they are remarkably popular (we prefer The Onion's spiritual guidance).
As for advertising, she says the site has long offered rich media opportunities, but they've been enhanced, with options to expand ads horizontally and vertically. There's also new ad service technology that allows brands to "tell a story by serving a whole string of ads" that go right through the purchase funnel.
In the past she says it has experimented with a website that was able to be tailored to user's needs, but she says it became clear consumers didn't want that on their desktop. They wanted to know where everything was. However, a new HTML5 mobile/tablet site that's launching next week allows users to customise the content, something she believes is wanted in this situation due to smaller screens.
The mobile site will also be device responsive, which she believes will help the uptake of mobile ads as it means ads will adapt and agencies won't need to provide different creative for different devices.
Also, tapping into the increasing demand for integrated content, she says the homepage gives brands a way of sponsoring content modules that then links through to their own content, something that's been challenging to leverage on the homepage in the past. Users indicated a strong preference for advertising that contextually relates to what they are viewing. The ‘brought to you by’ logos will allow advertisers to align themselves with the premium content across Yahoo!’s key properties such News, Sport, and Lifestyle.