Yahoo Changes Listings

Significant changes to the look and functionality of Yahoo are few and far between, which can be a relief given how some other search engines can seem to be constantly altering themselves. Nevertheless, even Yahoo needs to refresh itself now and then. The new changes it introduced last month are designed to help users more easily locate what they are looking for.

The most significant change has been to reorganize how information is listed within Yahoo's category pages. The "Online Horoscopes" category, listed below, provides a good model to understand what's new.

You'll see that any of Yahoo's own relevant content now appears in the "Inside Yahoo" area. After that, any subcategories or categories related to the topic you are viewing are shown, in the "Categories" area. Next comes the "Most Popular Sites" area, where Yahoo is using an automatic system to list the sites it believes are most popular for that category. Finally, the "Complete List of Sites" section has the familiar comprehensive list of all sites that Yahoo editors have reviewed and approved, listed in alphabetical order.

You won't find the Most Popular Sites section in all categories yet, but it should become more commonplace as Yahoo grows more comfortable with the new format. It will certainly be welcomed in any place where there are more sites than a user can easily choose from. Guidance in these situations is needed, as Yahoo itself acknowledges.

"We introduced this feature in some of our larger categories because we realize that a long alphabetical list can be unwieldy to navigate through, and while alphabetical order is extremely functional and democratic, it is also an arbitrary ordering as far as content goes," said Srinija Srinivasan, Yahoo's editor in chief. "For the user who has time to sift through the multiple sites we list, we of course present them all, as each was only included in the directory after thoughtful, manual review by our team. But for the user who would like to see some added information to supplement alphabetical order, the 'Most Popular Sites' section gives them a way of focusing in on those sites that stand out in terms of their popularity online."

Srinivasan said that the sites in the Most Popular area are selected using an automatic system rather than being Yahoo editor choices, as is with the case with Yahoo cool sites, which are identified by the sunglasses icon. " 'Most Popular Sites' reflects what's happening online and is not influenced by our editorial decisions. This [popularity” algorithm is being continually tweaked, refined and updated to remain current with what's happening online," Srinivasan said.

I haven't gotten more information yet on what exactly is being used to determine popularity, but I anticipate having answers from Yahoo for a follow up newsletter. It seems extremely likely that some type of link analysis is being used, similar to what Google did with the Open Directory last month (see article below). It's also unclear where the editorially selected top picks will appear, so I'll be looking into that, too.

The appearance of Yahoo's search results page has also been slightly modified. Instead of making the entire category path clickable, now only the "end" category itself is clickable and set apart from the path with a bullet point.

For example, previously a search for "shoes" would bring up a category list like this:

Business and Economy > Shopping and Services > Apparel > Footwear
Business and Economy > Companies > Apparel > Footwear > Athletic Shoes
Business and Economy > Companies > Sports > Golf > Apparel > Shoes

Each category was a single, clickable link. Now the presentation is similar to this:

Business and Economy > Shopping and Services > Apparel
+ Footwear
Business and Economy > Shopping and Services > Apparel > Footwear
+ Athletic Shoes
Business and Economy > Shopping and Services > Sports > Golf > Apparel
+ Shoes

Only the bulleted word below the category path is clickable.

"This is a straightforward change in presentation as a result of various factors, including results from usability studies, to make our search results more readable," Srinivasan said.


Online Horoscopes Category

Google Adds Directory
The Search Engine Report, April 4, 2000

The Search Engine Update, April 4, 2000

Describes how Google is using link analysis to relevancy rank listings at the Open Directory

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