Yahoo tests new home page

The company is quietly trialing mock-ups of the redesign. A screen shot viewed by CNET shows minor layout changes but a more prominent ad box.

Yahoo has begun quietly testing a makeover of its home page, as evidenced by trial mock-ups seen by some Web users over the past few weeks when they accessed the portal.

Yahoo While the redesign appears to be a preliminary test, the mock-ups show minor layout changes rather than a drastic overhaul of the home page, according to a screen shot viewed by CNET

According to this version, the six "buttons" that flank the Yahoo logo have been moved down into a "Y Services" box that also displays links to other areas on its site. The buttons are graphic links to popular tools such as instant messaging, e-mail, finance, travel, job search and the company's My Yahoo page. The links in the Y Services box are regrouped alphabetically rather than by theme.

Another shift is the prominence of Yahoo's advertising box along the right side of the page. It's now above the box that links to e-mail and Yahoo Messenger. Meanwhile, its search bar remains a major focal point on top of the page.

Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako could not confirm the authenticity of the screen shot, but she said the company routinely tests changes in its products to get feedback.

"We value our consumer insights, and from time to time, we will test a few simple modifications to see if these ideas and enhancements are beneficial to our broad base of visitors," she said in an interview.

The home page redesign has been expected. Yahoo executives last month told Wall Street analysts that a handful of its high-profile Web properties would undergo changes later this year, including its e-mail service.

The e-mail revamp, slated to launch this summer, will include a boost in memory to 100MB for free users and "virtually unlimited" storage for its paid customers. The move is meant to counter archrival Google, which plans to launch a free e-mail service called Gmail that offers 1GB of storage.

The latest home page update comes about two years after Yahoo's last facelift, when the company opened larger portions of the site for online advertisements and promotions.

Still, Yahoo's home page changes are few and far between. The company has long remained militant about maintaining the site's speedy load time and visual style, resisting a heavy use of graphics and animation. Before its 2002 makeover, Yahoo's home page had maintained its basic framework since 1995.

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