Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Friday, 19 September 2008 13:46 UK

Yahoo starts front page overhaul

Yahoo front page in 1994, Yahoo
Yahoo's front page looked very different in 1994

Randomly chosen visitors to Yahoo's website will soon be helping the web giant re-design its main page.

Those picked will give feedback to Yahoo about the different ways that information and applications can be presented to regular users.

The company hopes the revamp will boost the number of people that visit the page and improve advertising revenues.

Yahoo claims that its homepage is the most heavily trafficked on the web with more than 300 million visitors a month.

Soft choices

The last big overhaul of the Yahoo front page took place in May 2006 when it added elements to the page that let people choose what they saw when they visited.

But, said Tapan Bhat, Yahoo's senior vice president who oversees its front door, the 2008 revamp will go further. It aims to build on the personalisation tools that let users of its My Yahoo service put together their own start page.

"A lot of people like My Yahoo but they do not want to do the work," Mr Bhat told BBC News.

The re-design will see clutter on the front page reduced in favour of a mix of static and customisable content.

How the new Yahoo page might look

"It's about making a dashboard for the things you care about around the web," he said.

To help people work out which extra applications and content will be relevant Yahoo is planning to use in-house technology that helps it spot popular news stories.

While Yahoo employs human editors to compile its news stories it also uses a content optimisation engine which recommends others that readers might also want to read.

Visitors to the Yahoo homepage will be able to add suggested add-on programs to an application bar that gives them access to all the services, such as e-mail, social networking sites and video portals, they regularly visit.

Users need such a filtering tool, said Mr Bhat, because the sheer amount of information on the web means many people feel overwhelmed by it and stop trying to keep up or find new services that might prove useful.

Yahoo also plans to let third parties produce little programs that can sit in the application bar to give people access to other services.

Opinions about how to change the homepage will be sought from randomly chosen users from the UK, France, India and the US. Once the testing is complete over the next few months all regular Yahoo users will be able to opt in to the new look.

Mr Bhat said the revamp will also help it get more money out of the home page. Tightly tuned content on personal pages would help those efforts, he said.

"What advertisers want is attention," he said. "They want your attention in context."

The revamp of the main page is part of a larger plan to help the ailing web giant restore its fortunes.

In late January Microsoft made a bid to buy Yahoo for $44.6bn (24.82bn) in an attempt to produce a web giant that could mount a credible challenge to Google.

Yahoo rejected the bid even after it was raised to $47.5bn and Microsoft ended negotiations over the deal in May.

In June Yahoo signed a deal with Google to use the search giant's advertising technology.

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