User Experience

Yahoo! Go/Mobile Morphs into a Development Platform

Yahoo! has much at stake in the success of its mobile efforts and the company is being about as aggressive as possible in this arena, building numerous OEM and carrier relationships on a global basis. Now Yahoo! has announced that it's releasing Go 3.0 (not live), a new mobile homepage that emphasizes personalization and, most importantly, that it is now opening up to third-party publishers and developers as a (widget) platform.

Partners at launch are eBay, MTV and MySpace. Here's how Yahoo! PR has summarized the chief features and improvements of Go, the widget platform and the new mobile WAP site/homepage:

Yahoo! Go 3.0 beta:

New features include:

Enhanced user interface, optimized for the mobile phone.

Improved performance.

For the first time, consumers will have access to third-party widgets from leading publishers through Yahoo! Go.

Yahoo! Go 3.0 also includes display advertising from Yahoo!’s major global advertisers. Consumers will be able to interact with these ads by clicking to call the advertiser directly or to learn more about the offer.

New Open Mobile Widget Platform:

The platform is an open environment for developers to create mobile Widgets for instant access by millions of consumers.

Widgets created on the Mobile Widget Platform will be available to consumers from various starting points, including Yahoo! Go 3.0 and Yahoo!'s new mobile homepage.

The platform will enable developers to write code once and publish their content across Yahoo!'s mobile network, allowing accelerated delivery of a feature-rich mobile experience.

The platform will enable consumers more control over their experience, as well, by providing the functionality to add and delete Widgets at any time.

Full-featured SDK for developers to be introduced over the coming weeks.

Third-party Widget launch partners include, eBay, MySpace, and MTV.

Redesigned Mobile Homepage

New features:

Completely redesigned and engineered mobile interface from the ground up.

Homepage centers around intuitive navigational structure where consumers can tailor content according to needs, interests and location.

Available to consumers in the United States on high-end mobile browsers, which are included in devices such as the Apple iPhone, sever Nokia Series 60 devices, including the N95, and select Windows Mobile devices. Availability across additional devices and countries to come in the near future.

Key features:

Personal Vitality and Status Updates: Provides an at-a-glance update of what's new since the last visit -- including recent emails, Flickr photos from your friends, upcoming calendar appointments and status of Messenger contacts -- without moving away from the home screen or logging into a separate application.

Customizable Content: Offers a collection of mobile content modules - or Snippets - that provide previews of the user's favorite content - news headlines, weather conditions, etc -- whatever the user wants. In many cases, Snippets are extensions of mobile widgets and can be used to launch a full-featured widget built on Yahoo!'s Mobile Widget Platform.

Quick Links: Customizable links at the bottom of the page, providing fast access to the Yahoo! features or sites across the Internet that consumers use the most. Consumers can easily add and remove Quick Links as they desire.

Now Yahoo! goes head-to-head as a platform with Google's Android, Windows Mobile and the iPhone, even as it's optimizing its WAP site for iPhones. With its widget approach Yahoo! competes with uLocate's Where and Microsoft-backed Zumobi, which both see themselves as platforms for third parties.

The bottom line, as always, is about the user experience. Neither the new WAP site nor Go 3.0 are live yet. We'll write more as we get a chance to have some "face time" with these apps.

Intelligence on Windows Mobile 7

Here's a very long and detailed (and somewhat technical) post about Microsoft's intriguing plans for Windows Mobile 7. From our point of view, and according to the post, many of the design and functionality upgrades are responses to the sensation caused by the iPhone and the fact that the latter has quickly overtaken Windows Mobile in terms of market share.

The improved user experience reflected in the post is good for users, as desktop titans, carriers and OEMs such as Nokia engage in an intensifying battle for mobile consumers.

Dial Directions White Labels Service to Ask Mobile

Ask has tapped Dial Directions to offer a voice interface for obtaining driving directions. Beside the "Directions" link on the mobile Ask (WAP) site there's a new "Voice Entry" link. That sends users to the Dial Directions phone number (347-328-4667) or initiates a phone call from the device. Users hear "Mobile Ask powered by Dial Directions" and the service basically works exactly as Dial Directions does, except that results are returned on a WAP page with a map vs. in text messaging form.

Currently the new Ask service doesn't include some of the other Dial Directions features such as "meet me" or directions to events.

Ask is the first of the major engines to offer WAP-based voice-search for directions. Live Search for mobile (the downloadable application) offers embedded voice for local search, but not for directions. InfoSpace FindIt (now part of Superpages) has voice output for turn-by-turn directions; so does the Mapquest Navigator client.

I would expect Dial Directions to attempt to "white label" its service more broadly to others in the future.

ChaCha Goes Mobile with Text-Based Answers Service

I've written up today's release in some detail at Search Engine Land.

The service allows users to text ChaCha (242242) and to essentially ask any question about any subject, which makes it more flexible that the current crop of free DA services. ChaCha's many human guides respond in the same way that they do on the desktop. However, in mobile, you get a single answer (via text).

I asked the following questions in testing out the new service:

  • What are the hours of the Getty Center museum (Los Angeles)?
  • How far from LA to SF?
  • Who won the 2006 Oscar for best actress?
  • What's the highest rated Sushi place in SF?
  • How do I get from 91306 to Palo Alto, CA?

Overall it performed generally well in response to these questions. There will be a client advisory coming out shortly with more detail.

MSFT Live Offers Upgrades for Local WAP Search

LiveSearch

Microsoft has added new content and some upgraded features to Live Search for WAP. The Virtual Earth blog explains the new features:

  • 1-click directions for all businesses and street addresses in U.S.
  • Additional details for U.S. businesses, including neighborhood, business category, cuisine (restaurants) and hours of operation
  • Photos and reviews for U.S. businesses
  • Improved movie show times Instant Answers (we now show critics rating)
  • Added interactivity to all maps (clicking on maps now zooms in/out to predefined levels, or advanced to the next waypoint for routing maps)
  • Traffic & map Instant Answers
  • Mobile search for the China market. Scopes offered are local (no maps, but coming soon), web, images, news and Spaces.

The VE blog post has a range of nice screenshots of the new features. I may not have noticed it before but the WAP site promotes the free DA service 1-800-Call-411, as well as the Live Search client application (which offers embedded voice search).

All the major search engines on their WAP sites are now offering blended or federated search, which was initially introduced by Yahoo with oneSearch.

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I provided some additional detail in my post on this for Search Engine Land.

Google Upgrades Picasa for iPhone

Google has launched an upgraded version of its Picasa photo album/sharing site for the iPhone. This is just the latest in the "iPhonification" of Google applications.

You can search Yahoo!'s Flickr on the iPhone with iPhlickr.

More on Google for iPhone

That Google has tailored its suite of services for a specific device - albeit it's the iPhone - is tremendously noteworthy for members of the Local Mobile Search community. The trend recently has been for content providers to treat the mobile Web as one of the emerging mass media. It's an approach that puts emphasis on audience size, "impressions", CPM, click-through's and the like. The mission is to choose a distribution mechanism that reaches the largest footprint possible which, in the mobile world, has kept SMS and voice-based services in the mix.

You don't see TV production houses tailoring their offerings for specific brands of television based on the quality of the tuner, even in this age of home theater and HD TV. By contrast, iPhone and its non-conversational iTouch counterpart offer a user experience that is so different from other products in their category that search leader Google found sufficient cause to tailor its suite of services "for iPhone only."

The salient differences are summed up as "speed" and "ease-of-use." It is the visual analog to 1-800-GOOG411, the automated, enhanced directory assistance service that keeps its prompts brief and response times short. The iPhone-optimized greeting screen includes very prominent presentation of the search box, but features a banner across the top that includes buttons that provide single-touch access to popular Google services like Gmail, Calendar and the RSS "Reader". A button that simply reads "More" adds quick access to Goog411, Blogger (for sharing) and other services. As for the ever-popular GoogleMaps, the original iPhone already featured an optimized version of the map-based service. The next phase in its evolution will be the addition of location-awareness through GPS.

Google for iPhone is a great example of addition by subtraction. While it appeals to a smaller audience, it shows how an improved user interface will spur innovation both by service providers and mobile subscribers. In the coming year a flurry of iPhone clones and imitators will hit the market and service providers will be well advised to go to school on the preferences of iPhone users. Keep the display clean, interactions speedy and sessions short.