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TelevisionWeek contributing writer Daisy Whitney is blogging about the pinnacles and pitfalls facing viewers who want to consume television in new ways. Check in frequently as Daisy kicks the tires on the new media juggernaut and dishes on which services do -- and don’t -- make the cut.

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Trial and Error



Five Years Later: Yahoo TV’s Got a New Site and It Looks Good

November 29, 2006 12:12 PM

It’s 9 pm on Tuesday Nov. 28. I keep hitting refresh on my browser. Yahoo TV is slated to flip the switch tonight on a complete site makeover, its first in five years.

On my next refresh, I see a stunning photo of Taye Diggs greeting me on the newly redesigned Yahoo TV page. From a business standpoint, the main features of the redesign are an embedded video player, a dynamic menu with links to TV shows and a personalized TV grid.

But as a consumer, all I can tell you is the site simply looks good. As in gooooood. Of course, I must admit the old site in comparison looks very old school, very 1999, very boxy. The redesigned look in contrast is smooth, current, topical. My eye is immediately, and purposefully, drawn to the centerpiece portion of the site—a box with rotating images of TV stars with four or five tabs for “What to watch tonight,” “Check out Bones,” and “See Top Model Photos,” among other options. I go for the “Bones” tab.

That takes me to a separate page on the Fox show with a prominent link to record the show on TiVo. That’s a nice touch, I think. In the right hand corner of that page is the embedded video player. And the video doesn’t start automatically! One of my pet peeves is video players that launch without asking. I click on the player and watch a short preview of the show.

I bounce back to the home page, where the embedded video player resides in the upper right hand corner, promoting clips such as “Anna Nicole Smith interview,” “Mo’Nique on Michael Richards,” and “On the Set of NCIS.” I choose the “NCIS” clip and then run the usual player tests—toying around with pause, fast forward and rewind. Everything works smoothly.

Next, I fiddle around with the grid. But, like my Comcast grid on the TV itself, it takes too long to jump ahead a day or two. So I lose interest in the grid.

I try one more feature on the site—the menu bar to buzz-y shows. Of course, I click on “Grey’s Anatomy.” On the “Grey’s” page, the embedded video player says it’s got a music video for The Fray song “How to Save a Life,” a popular song for the show.

While that plays, I look around for other videos. And here’s the other issue. I don’t see any other videos. Are there behind-the-scenes clips? Episode previews? I don’t know and I’d like to know.

Still, overall Yahoo has turned in an impressive new look.

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Comments (7)

Misplaced Patriot:

Unfortunately, the new TV listings page just doesn't work at all - it chokes most of the time, failing to list pages.

Also, the new TV Listings requires you to browse in blocks of 3 hours that start at a multiple of 3 - 3pm-6pm, 6pm-9pm, etc. But that means the most important block of time - 8pm to 11pm - can't be seen in a single unit. And it means that if you go to the listings at 11:45pm, you are shown the 9AM-12PM block, which means you don't get to see what's coming up next!

The look isn't awful, but, for example, it's not at all obvious how to get to the TV listings from the front page of tv.yahoo.com. (It's under a dropdown menu.)

Also, I liked the fact that if I came to a movie late, I could click on the link in the Listings and find out if it was coming on again at another time immediately.

Finally, it completely fails to render the pages properly on the Macintosh "Safari" browser.

A complete disaster.

Tom:

The program listings are TERRIBLE! Ans so SLOW to load! What a disaster. It's zap2it for me: (www.zap2it.com/) FAR superior to Yahoo's listings, with a description of each program and tabs to flip between "What's On Now" and "What's on Tonight." And the grid shows 6 hours of programs rather than Yahoo TV's 4. Cjeck it out!

James:

I agree with the previous two comments - the new redesign is terrible. Terribly slow, terribly cluttered. I've been a steady user of tv.yahoo.com too, and found it's previous simple design very functional and clean. If simple and clean = "old school", I'll take it.

Yes, simple = clean = useful. I actually go there to use the grid! Not to have video's streaming that I never requested, not to wait for junk to load before I can check the listings. This is a perfect example of throwing in technology simply because it can be done - it does nothing to help someone looking for a usable grid. For my listings, what used to take 1 and 1/2 screens worth of vertical real estate now takes nearly 3 screens worth - what a waste.

Daisy mentioned giving up on the grid. The grid is the reason many people use the site!! If it's too slow, or doesn't convey enough information in a clean, uncluttered, instantly readable way, then it is a failure. What use is a tv listing site where the listings are too much trouble to use (as Daisy mentioned)? Doesn't that defeat the entire point? By making everyone wait for useless stuff to load, Yahoo has reduced the functionality of the site tremendously.

Yahoo, give us a link back to the "classic" view, and leave the cluttered, slow interface for those who aren't looking for clearly presented information, but go to the site to be hypnotized by shiny, moving things.

- James

James:

One more thing - "Misplaced Patriot" mentioned that the new site breaks Safari. I run Windows XP, fully patched, and the latest Mozilla browser - and the new site caused unrecoverable errors twice in a row. It had *never* done that before - never.

Yes, it's really broken. I'm looking for a good alternative now.

James:

I know, I'm a pest. Regarding finding future airings of programs...

I live in the NYC area. I find The Newshour on PBS, broadcast on WNET at 7pm. I navigate to where Yahoo TV is supposed to show me future airings (this is a program that is on eery single weekday at 7pm EST). But Yahoo TV shows future airings not at 7pm on WNET, but at 4pm each day on WNET.

Not only do we have to click more to get the same info we used to get in one click, the info is now WRONG! Oy!

Daisy Whitney:

Hey James...thanks for all your posts and for the added feedback on the service. I've never been a big user of online grids, but the TV listings are clearly a big deal to a lot of users...I'll see if we can get someone from Yahoo to get us some feedback on the listings...standby!

James:

I've been looking into alternatives to tv.yahoo.com. I can't believe I'm leaning in this direction, but at first blush tvlistings.aol.com fills many of the gaps the new redesign of tv.yahoo.com (in no particular order):
- being able to click on a station's name to see what is on that one station for the entire day on one screen
- you can choose which hour is first in your listing, so the crucial 8-11pm time period is viewable on one screen
- being able to associate an alert with a program's listing (that Yahoo seems to have broken the one-click connection the previous design had with calendar.yahoo.com is surprising)
- a more concise grid that is clean and makes use of the entire width of the screen, and isn't squeezed by ads and videos, (along with a link to give you a printable version - just the grid alone)
- the ability to create a 'favorites' list, which shows you a listing of only the programs you add to it, showing when they are on
- when showing when future airings are on, it gets the time zone correct
- the entire page loads at once - not in pieces as you scroll down as the new Yahoo tv site does
- hasn't broken any browser I've thrown at it
- it appears to get it's data from zap-2-it
- yes, you do need an aol id - or an AIM id (which I happen to have) - but you do not need to install any AOL software
- James

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