Don’t be a yahoo, Yahoo

Yahoo defined internet search a decade ago, but since then the brand became somewhat strained in each and every aspect of its services. Google is to Yahoo where Yahoo was to AOL. The company did expand, but they made little effort in improving. It’s hard to dilute what direction they’re taking, or interestingly enough if they know the answer themselves. The fact is that the Yahoo brand has a lot of potential, and a substantial user base, but it needs a lot of work, and what good time it is during a corporate restructure. Here are a couple of suggestions and pointers to hopefully help them out.

Keep up. If the company is losing behind being competitive, one easy check-box is to improve user experience. Yahoo hasn’t changed much in years, and their design isn’t even good in the first place. Numerous companies managed to refresh their pages last year, though Yahoo supposedly being one, it shows how re-design is able to capture interests, and good re-design defines how users interact; it helps to keep users coming back, and this should be basic. The reason I choose other services is because their user experience is simply better, and it helps for example, going through relevant results and information, even searching.

Refine and define services. There isn’t a race to expand your portfolio, so don’t try to acquire and cover other services without refining what is already on the catalog. Yahoo has been very eager in trying not to be left out to what others are offering, but it does so briskly and impetuously. There is never a very well refined service offered by Yahoo, and while this is hard to realize, at least respond to user feedback and implement occasional upgrades. Yahoo Mail has remained the same ever since it was refreshed two years ago, and not to make it worse, but the classic interface is still an option. Third-party content is all over Yahoo, and while this keeps advertising revenue in-check, it’s not good for users. Content becomes diverse and dissipated, not to mention undesirable and in-your-face; it is like having the contents of an entire newspaper summarized on one page, and this brings us to consistency.

Lack of consistency. The inconsistency across its service is immensely apparent, and it makes recognition and navigation considerably difficult. Yahoo has never focused on this issue, and as a user I have never efficiently jumped from one service to another, so then I just wouldn’t bother. This issue is across local pages too, services or even simply the style offered in United States are different than those in Canada, Hong Kong or Japan, and it certainly makes me wonder about the cost savings if a generic standard or guideline is common across the company.

It is interesting to bring social networking into discussion, not only because is it a prevalent internet service, but it illustrates the very problem that plagues Yahoo. The company launched the 360° service as a communication portal, incorporating social networking, blogging and photo sharing a couple years ago; it never caught on. It should not be novel for Yahoo, a part of GeoCities offered blogging-like services even before social networking was prevalent, though it was a separate service in itself, they had the foresight and resources to do so, and they have, in selected countries. China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea and Hong Kong each offer their own blogging service. Talk about consistency.

Yahoo has a 1.5 billion annual user base across the globe, second by Alexa to Google. One is trading in the hundreds and the other is around the 10 dollar mark. It’s hard to offer judgments for services that are susceptible to such a large user base, but it’s also hard to neglect the sub-par quality and features being offered to these dedicated users. Yahoo does not innovate, and that has to change. I am however pleased to praise Yahoo for some of its services, Yahoo Answers, Yahoo Mail, and of course, Flickr. I love Flickr. I just hope that whatever does happens to Yahoo, please leave Flickr be.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.

1. Why Yahoo! doesn’t matter, 24/7 Wall Street.
2. Yahoo! Operations Center, cdye1, Flickr.

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March 25, 2009 · 0 Comments
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