Microsoft launched the redesign of its MSN Mobile homepage on May 13, marking the next step in the company’s attempts to revamp its MSN brand to meet competition from Yahoo, AOL and other Web-content portals.
“The first thing you may notice is that the new MSN Mobile homepage shares the same look and feel of the MSN homepage we launched in March,” Farhana Ahmad and Darrin Eide, members of the MSN Mobile Program Management team, wrote in a May 13 posting on the MSN Blog. “What you don’t see in the picture, although it’s there, is that the design is optimized for mobile devices and the performance improvements make the page really, really fast to download.”
In the name of usability, they wrote, “We’ve consolidated the top content into above-the-fold tabs that remember what you were looking at when you come back.” Microsoft also expanded the homepage’s number of deep navigation links threefold to 30, and the new interface provides one-click access to Bing, Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger. Bing and its various search features, such as auto-suggest, have been deeply baked into the new homepage’s interface.
The mobile homepage is accessible via mobile.msn.com, on mobile devices and browsers such as Safari on iPhone, Safari on Android 1.x and 2.x, Opera 9.5 on Windows Mobile, and Webkit on Palm WebOS. According to Microsoft, the new mobile homepage is accessible on approximately 40 percent of mobile devices.
The announcement comes over two months after Microsoft began rolling out its redesigned MSN homepage, likewise emphasizing a stripped-down design and integration with social-networking services such as Twitter and Facebook. First previewed in November, the redesign included 50 percent fewer links and an emphasis on white space, in addition to Bing-powered search bars and an in-line streaming video leveraging Silverlight technology.
In keeping with the Web’s wholehearted embrace of everything social-networking related, the MSN homepage redesign integrated user feeds from Facebook, Twitter and Windows Live, along with a TrendWatch feature itemizing the most-Tweeted daily topics on Twitter.
Around the time that Microsoft began its redesign, Yahoo also engaged in a homepage refresh, giving users the option of consolidating their favorite content and sites onto single user pages. That Yahoo redesign came paired with the company’s $100 million “It’s You” rebranding campaign, done with an eye towards helping the once-mighty Web giant reconsolidate and perhaps regain market-share.
Both Microsoft and Yahoo find themselves locked in Web battle on a number of fronts with Google, which currently leads the search-engine market in both the United States and internationally. Despite a search-and-advertising deal between Microsoft and Yahoo struck last summer, which will see Microsoft’s Bing power back-end search on Yahoo’s sites while Yahoo takes over both companies’ worldwide salesforce duties, Google continues to hold a substantial market-share lead over even the combined companies.