Yahoo! Canada unveils new customizable home page

Choice, personalization and flexibility are hallmarks of the new Yahoo! Canada homepage announced today, the company says.

The new Yahoo! Canada homepage will actually be available tomorrow, January 26 at www.yahoo.ca

The launch is a continuation of the global rollout of the new Yahoo home page in markets across the world, Max Tremblay, director of marketing for Yahoo Canada told ITBusiness.ca.

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He said Yahoo decided to make the new homepage available to eight key global markets, including Canada.

The U.S. launch, in October 2009, widened the reach of the Yahoo brand – and intensified user engagement, Tremblay said.

“We witnessed a double digit increase in reach, ranging between 10 to 12 per cent and a sharp rise in user engagement, reflected in page view growth of 22 to 25 per cent.”

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The Canadian launch, Tremblay said, would likely have a similar positive impact on engagement and traffic among users here.

But he pointed to at least one key difference between the U.S. and Canadian versions of the new home page.

Fun with My Favourites 

The way Canadian users will access information through the My Favourites section will be different from how their U.S. counterparts do it.

“On the U.S. homepage, a user would simply scroll through their My Favourites list, and hover over a specific app – such as Yahoo Mail, Finance, Facebook Messenger, Movies, Sports or Travel – to access it.  Just placing the cursor over the app, opens it up in a panel to the right.”

In the new Canadian version unveiled today, he said, an app won’t open by your just hovering your cursor over it. “You would need to actually click on it.”

He said this change, which was based on feedback provided by users of the U.S. site, would offer Canadians greater control, and make for a better experience.

Central hub

With the new home page launch, Yahoo Canada is positioning its site as a central hub – a one-stop location from where users can directly access their favourite applications and sites.

To that end, the new home page makes it simple for users to add their favourite applications/sites.

You click the Add button and in the two fields displayed, type or paste the URL and name of the site you want to add.

Or else you can select from a dashboard of around 57 sites that include:

  • Popular e-mail utilities: Yahoo! Mail, Gmail
  • Content sites: Forbes, BBC World News; and,
  • Social networking sites: Facebook, My Space
  • Once a site is added, its icon appears in your Favourites Section.

    By adding your Facebook page you can access your Facebook stream right on your personalized Yahoo Canada page. You can even post to Facebook from within the home page.

    To provide this capability, it seems Yahoo Canada has relied on Facebook Connect , a set of APIs that developers/Web site administrators can implement to allow Facebook members to log on to their sites with their Facebook identity.

    While logged on, users can connect with and invite their own Facebook friends and post information and updates to their profile.

    Tremblay emphasized that the primary purpose of the new home page is to allow people – from a single place – to do all of their online activities: banking, social networking, looking for jobs online, checking out the news et al.

    Within these categories, he said, there are personalization features available to users.

    “It strikes me as being pretty user friendly,” said Michelle Warren, president of Michelle Warren Research and Consulting, a technology consulting firm in Toronto.

    Warren who has had an opportunity to preview the new Yahoo Canada home page calls it “a good aggregator site,”

    She said the page serves as a hub from where users can access their various social networks, manage multiple communication channels – e-mail, instant messenger – and receive news updates.

    But to make optimal use of all the personalization features, a user would need to “invest a fair amount of time” – a minimum of 15–20 minutes – setting it all up.

    I do expect these new features to improve the stickiness of the home page, causing more users to visit it and stay longer, which from a marketing standpoint would be great for Yahoo Canada, Warren said.

    “As the new page is likely to draw a lot of more eyeballs, its value will increase for marketers – and that would mean a lot more marketing revenue for Yahoo Canada.”

     
    Personalized marketing

    Yahoo Canada’s Tremblay acknowledges that the needs of potential advertisers were also front-and-centre during the design of the new home page.

    Yahoo sought and acquired a great deal of advertiser input, he said. “They came up with suggestions as we created iterations of the site and developed the product in beta. And all this feedback is reflected in the new site.”  

    So the My Favourites section includes a new ad position that’s designed to support contextual or personalized advertiser messaging.  

    “If a car manufacturer wants to promote a new car, they could start with the traditional banner unit on the home page, but could then a create series of contextually relevant messages for each of the My Favourites sections.”

    For instance, he said, a message around temperature control for the car could be presented with the Weather section in My Favourites – because it would be relevant there.

    “Or maybe you want to highlight that the car’s got well-connected off road services in the Technology section.”

    He said these are some ways advertisers can customize messaging on their product’s features in locations where people might be more receptive to those kinds of ads.

    Hyundai Canada and Scotiabank are inaugural advertisers on the new Yahoo! Canada homepage.

    Hyundai is using the new home page to publicize the re-launch of the 2010 Hyundai Tucson, while Scotiabank will be promoting its RSP campaign on the site.

    Some new applications on the Yahoo Canada desktop home page can also be “easily added to the mobile homepage,” says a Yahoo Canada release. [That way] Canadians’ Yahoo! mobile experience mirrors their PC experience.”

    Olympics coverage

    Yahoo Canada’s coverage of the upcoming Winter Olympics will be featured prominently on the new homepage.

    According to a Yahoo Canada release, highlights of the Olympic coverage on the site will include:

    • Expert commentary from well-known Canadian athletes including Elvis Stojko (figure skating), Ken Daneyko (hockey), and Jennifer Jones (curling), who will bring a uniquely Canadian perspective to their Olympics coverage.
    • Sports coverage from former Globe and Mail reporters Steve McAllister and Ian Denomme.
    • Yahoo’s Olympic mobile site, scheduled to launch February 9, will offer updates on the latest happenings, including medal counts, news and expert coverage, live results, athlete profiles and more.

    Bilingual launch

    The Canadian launch will be both in English and French. Tremblay cited this as one of the unique features of the launch here.

    “While in the U.S. and every other part of the world it’s a one-language launch, in Canada the launch is bilingual.”

    Making this happen properly, he said, involved a lot of work.

    We had to customize the experience not only at the features, but also at the linguistic and cultural level.

    For instance, he said, the Yellow pages app needed to be suitably tailored for the Quebec market as well. “And we had to ensure the French version of the new site met the needs of the Francophone population in Quebec.”

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