WebCrawler Debuts Lighter Look

WebCrawler Debuts Lighter Look

From The Search Engine Report
March 31, 1998

On March 9, WebCrawler debuted a new look meant to position the service as a fast, simple guide to the web.

The changes are mostly subtle and by no means have turned WebCrawler into a watered-down version of Excite. You'll find just as much information presented on the WebCrawler home page as on the Excite home page, and the same is true as you drill down into each service's various channels.

"You don't want to make WebCrawler less functional. There's a constant tension between simplicity and power," explained Joe Kraus, senior vice-president and co-founder of Excite.

Making WebCrawler too simplified might cause users to feel they were missing something, Kraus said. Instead, efforts were concentrated on cosmetics. "What we struggled with was to try to make the feel of the page simpler."

One way of doing this was to use soft colors and small fonts on the service. Such changes are meant to give WebCrawler a different and softer "voice" than its sibling-service Excite.

Along with colors and fonts, Kraus said descriptions were written to be friendlier to new users and page load times reduced, in order to make the service appeal to modem users.

Aside from cosmetic changes, WebCrawler also gained to new features appearing on its home page.

"Today on WebCrawler" features information within the service, focused on a different topic each day. Sunday starts with Health & Fitness, then follows Work & Careers; Kids, Family & Relationships; Personal Finance; Computing; Entertainment; and Travel.

"Daily Toolbox" leads to a list of web gadgets relating to the daily topic. For example, the "Health & Fitness Toolbox" has links out of WebCrawler to an online allergy quiz, a calorie counter and a hospital locator, among others. Smart web marketers might want to consider adding some useful gadgets to their sites, in hopes of getting listed and drawing traffic.

Keep an eye on what's happening at WebCrawler. There's constant talk about Excite transforming its properties from search services to online services. But Excite hopes to program these services in the way a television network programs its content.

It's already doing topical programming via channels. Now WebCrawler is the experiment with daily programming. It's another step toward getting users thinking, "What's on WebCrawler," as opposed to, "What's on the web? I'll search for something with WebCrawler, then leave to go elsewhere."