Yahoo Rocks my World! (Sorry, Google.)

my_y_bang_logo Yahoo has just surprised the financial analysts. Yahoo just reported that they are seeing increased revenues and user-generated momentum in search, as well as other key web products.

I was not surprised.

As a matter of fact I have been talking about Yahoo and how they contrast with Google for some time. Put simply, Yahoo gets the normal users; and Google gets the geeks. I believe this is the beginning of an emerging trend where we will see more and more users seeking out and returning to the Yahoo user experience (UX) over that of Google’s current product offering.

Google’s got Tech

Google has the technology, the scale, speed, and algorithms to present excellently targeted search results and advertisements. Hey, we already know that. And, big deal if their interface is sterile, or the more powerful aspects of their technology and products remain elusive to the average user. Everyone knows how to start a search. So what if I (and everyone else) are only successful on the first search query 15% of the time that and it takes, on average, 4 attempts to find what I (we) want? (http://www.ysearchblog.com/archives/000494.html)

Discussions with developers and product managers at Google have lead me to believe that at some level they understand that their current appeal is overly skewed to the more technically inclined individuals. However, over the past year I have seen very little movement in the realm of UX (other than Desktop Search – but, to be honest, that is another techie oriented product; the average home user doesn’t use it nor know about its existence) that would or could appeal to the broader audience, that I so often talk about. For a company like Google, where they have (nearly) unlimited resources to solve a problem, I wonder just how much they believe in moving the company to the next level in User eXperience.

Cool features are great. But what do all these cool features matter if most people never know about them or how to take advantage of them?

Google is known and used by the typical Internet user for search. Google’s search interface is simple, but all their other search tools as well as other Google product functionality is hidden from the ‘normal’ user. A user’s interaction with Google is limited to a text field and a search result list. That’s it!

Google, help me find what I want. Facilitate my introduction to and use of your other web products. Stop intimidating people with overly complicated, overly technical interfaces where the average person is going to be too timid to click and see what happens — especially if they were finally able to locate what they were looking for – probably accomplished through trial and error.

The Internet, and finding what you want and using new web products can be an overwhelming experience; albeit for many, nerve racking and scary. And Google has, to date, not visibly sought to lower the bar for the user or simplify or make the experience enjoyable. They have a visible attitude that goes something like this: We (Google) will lead with new technologies, dropping in more interfaces and Google paradigms to learn, and it’s your (the user’s) job to figure it all out.

There is one more thing I would like to mention before I jump into my discussion on why I believe Yahoo’s approach is ‘The Approach’ that is driving the shift now being seen in Yahoo’s latest quarterly report. APIs.

API Philosophy: getting to the guts of the products

There is a very interesting observation that can be made with respect to the APIs offered by both Google and Yahoo. I believe the differences in the cores of these APIs, as well as what they are most known for, speaks to very different philosophies that drive the product innovation processes at Google and Yahoo and, again, where Yahoo draws its strength and growing consumer-driven momentum.

Google’s APIs are targeted to empower the web developer to connect to Google and create more technically sophisticated applications. The emphasis is on deep technical integration.

Yahoo’s APIs are targeted to empower the web developer to leverage the Yahoo platform and, more importantly, create more standardized, easier to use, visually and interactively pleasing web products. The emphasis here is on the interactive user experience.

The key is user experience. The future of successful web products and platforms is user experience via Modular Innovation. Both companies provide for Modular Innovation (MI); Google’s are very technical, Yahoo’s ‘average’ consumer focused and geared towards real-people engagement.

Technology may (does) produce great results, but the user experience (of course, when coupled with sound technologies) is what makes the users want to come back and drives the product’s growth momentum and, in turn, revenue.

What is that that I feel?

Many people do not or are unable to clearly identify what aspects of a product made it “feel right” or why they “enjoyed” interacting with it. But, those same people do know that they will come back for it again, and as their enjoyment and comfort with the product increases, so too will their frequency of using that product.

That product is Yahoo!

When you go to Yahoo and its various connected products and services you can consistently expect to see and experience…

  • Simple interfaces
  • Clean page layouts
  • Animated (for a purpose) UI components
  • Mouse and interaction responsiveness
  • Minimal clicks to accomplish one’s goal
  • Intuitive functionality
  • A guiding, helpful presence.

Briefly…

Simple interfaces with clean edges and layouts allow for the smooth transition of the user’s eyes from page element to element. They facilitate intuitive designs, interactions and results. Animated page elements, not for the sake of animating, but for the sake of the gentle transition from one state of information or ideas to another are invaluable to empowering the user to accomplish things painlessly and pleasingly in as few clicks as possible. This is Yahoo!

Please & Thank you.

A wonderful example of the added value and top-notch user experience that Yahoo presents is within their Search product. Yahoo presents an extremely pleasing search experience. There have been countless times where I have attempted, on other search engines, to find something online, and search and search I did — sometimes without success — many times spending endless hours.

In what I feel is a great example of the Yahoo approach to excel in user experience is their Search Assistant. As I enter my search into Yahoo Search they automatically provide me with suggested auto-complete phrases. When the search runs, I am also presented with helpful ways to refine, try alternate ideas, phrases, and topics, and zero in what I want. I do not have to search for the Search Assistant. I do not have to figure out some complex way of entering more advanced queries. I do not have to worry. When I need it, I receive the right amount of help with the Search Assistant. Yahoo caters to its users’ needs, does not ask them to figure it out, but guides them on a journey to increase their gradual exposure and comfort with everything that is Yahoo. Yahoo, thank you.

It’s all about the trend.

Yahoo is not (yet) my default search engine. But, when I am having trouble finding something, it is to Yahoo I go — because Google is not going to help me. When I want to find a better way to do something online it is to Yahoo I go to see if they will offer or introduce me to something that will facilitate my task — they have content and services on their homepage for me. With increasing frequency many of us are returning to Yahoo for Search and the other products that they have been acclimating and introducing everyone to on each of our returning visits.

This is the heart of the trend in Yahoo’s visibly improving, more competitive, performance.

As Yahoo continues to push in their portal and user experience strategies, so too will the frequency of return users continue to increase. An ever improving and useful user experience will drive sustained growth in returning users, that will, in turn, drive revenue and future success of the Yahoo suite of products. A fact that many other Internet companies (and their constituents) can benefit from by truly taking to heart.

Remember, neither strong technology nor a cool user experience alone drives sustained success of a consumer product, but when intelligently combined, they result in sustainably successful products. Yahoo, you rock my world!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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About Jeremy Horn

Jeremy Horn is an award-winning, product management veteran with thirteen years of experience leading and managing product teams. Jeremy has held various executive and advisory roles, from founder of several start-ups to driving diverse organizations in online services, consumer products, and social media. As founder of The Product Group, he has created the largest product management meetup in the world and hosts the annual awarding of The Best Product Person. Jeremy can currently be found pioneering the next generation of content management and sharing at Viacom, acting as creator and instructor of the 10-week product management course at General Assembly, and mentoring at Women 2.0 and Lean Startup Machine. Follow Jeremy on twitter @theproductguy or his blog at http://tpgblog.com.

7 thoughts on “Yahoo Rocks my World! (Sorry, Google.)

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