Yahoo! goes live with new design 18 July, 2006 — Stuart Brown
Aging site gets a gradient facelift
Finally, after weeks of testing and 'previews' of the new Yahoo homepage, it rolled out the new gradient-laden design today. They've been sporting the same design since around 2003 (although there have been some incremental changes), so it was long overdue - although Yahoo have never really been leading edge when it comes to site design (with the possible exception of a brief period in the mid 90s). So, how does the new design fare in the Web2.0 climate?
800x600 is dead?
The Yahoo portal has been getting slowly fatter as it has aged - old designs (pre 2000) were a mere 600 pixels across, suitable for even bog standard VGA resolution. During the last 6 years, this slowly grew to a width of 750 pixels, designed to fit perfectly on the baseline standard of 800x600.
The new design, however, casts away the shackles of these limitations and is about 1,000 pixels wide - designed to fit 1024x768 perfectly. So does this mean that it's OK to ditch support for smaller resolutions?
Well, according to W3 Schools, in January 2006 800x600 still accounted for 20% of users - a rather large amount, all things considered. Yahoo do offer a narrow version of the page - comfortable in 800x600, but it's not immediately obvious.
The sideways growth in the Yahoo homepage is nearly linear - if we extrapolate the size of the Yahoo homepage, by 2010 we'll be able to design exclusively for 1280x1024 and up. Of course, by then those of us in the know will be working at much higher resolutions!
It seems Yahoo have not gone too far from current web doctrine, as the prevalence of gradients and tabs would indicate, but it's certainly an improvement on the 256-colour friendly previous version. As per their philosophy, they've crammed as much as humanly possible onto the one page, but it feels cleaner at least.
Overall, it's not a bad new look - some of the gradients are a little ugly (particularly on the tabs), but it's mostly polished up quite well. I do wish they'd stop those scrolling fold-out announcements at the top though - there's nothing more annoying that having the entire webpage lurch downwards as I'm trying to read something.
Yahoo are never going to win a prize for the prettiest site in the world - compared to modern Web2.0 sites (think Digg, 37Signals, Odeo, etc) it's very much 'old-school' - but considering the implications of being ranked #1 traffic-wise, one can only imagine the inertia and amount of effort required to make such a large change.