Posted February 28, 2007 4:15 am by with 13 comments

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I guess Yahoo felt they needed to be in the news this week – no matter what the reason. It’s the only explanation I can think of for Yahoo’s Jeff Bonforte, senior director of real time communications, attacking Google’s usability efforts.

“[Google] definitely is lacking in usability,” Bonforte said in a meeting with reporters at Yahoo’s corporate headquarters.

“They don’t have this intimate connection in usability with consumers that Yahoo has had for 10 years. When it comes to consumer applications, no-one is more successful than Yahoo hands down. And it happens over and over and over again. In every application, we are number one or two.”

I can’t resist pointing out something interesting about Bonforte.

Bonforte joined Yahoo 18 months ago and heads up the company’s messenger product…Online application providers should focus on limiting the number of features that they deliver, he argued. Where adding features will alienate users, the company found that removing them can increase the time that users spend using them.

Is this the same messenger product that tries to hijack your browser settings and change your default search engine to Yahoo? Well, I guess removing clear indications that Yahoo’s about to hijack your settings, is one way to “increase the time that users spend using them.” 😉

  • I thought only football managers engaged in prick-waving? Apparently Yahoo are not above it either.

  • I picked up on this one too.

    My question is if Google care so little about usability, why are they advertising in excess of 30 positions in user experience fields right now?

    Moreover… since both companies started out as search engines, should Yahoo be nitpicking about the success or failure of ‘complimentary products’ when it is clear that Google is doing a better job on the search engine front?

    Seems like a little ‘self-confidence exercise’ to me.

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  • Jordan McCollum

    I’m thinking: what’s unusable about a white page with a search box on it? Even the personalized home page is a lot less cluttered and easier to use, IMO, than Yahoo’s. Though they’re getting better, I can’t find anything on Yahoo’s site without searching for it. And even then, sometimes it’s touch-and-go.

  • I like Yahoo’s homepage, and I guess they were around first, but Google’s user-friendliness (along with their vastly more relevant search results) is what drove users in their droves away from Yahoo in the first place.

    And in terms of consumer applications, well Sketch-Up, Earth, AdWords, AdSense, Desktop…need I go on? These have made my life easier/more interesting. That’s something Yahoo can’t claim.

  • Good observations. Either Yahoo’s decided to play a battle of wits (strange, when they’re unarmed) or Bonforte is in a little hot water with the Yahoo chiefs today.

  • Graeme Pounds

    Seems I am the only person not drunk on google kool-aid on this posting, but here goes…

    To be fair to Bonforte, he was talking about gmail and gtalk (he never said anything about search). Can anyone here, in all honesty, say that those products have better usability than their Yahoo! counterparts?

    And if GOOG is looking to hire over 30 user experience people right now, I would say that maybe they are doing so because they figured out they aren’t too strong in that area!

  • Graeme – I don’t think it really matters what Bonforte was talking about. He’s still in a glass house throwing stones. I think Google, Yahoo and even MSFT, have their usability strengths and weaknesses.

    I’ve worked with Google’s usability team, and they’re very much on the ball.

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  • It is interesting to watch the video of the conversation where this article stemmed from:

    My feeling is that if Bonforte isn’t well-schooled in the dangers of opening ones mouth before one thinks, that he should be kept away from cameras and recording devices.

    I may be wrong here, I am a usability nut after all and not an expert on PR or marketing, but doesn’t this open up Yahoo to a lot of scrutiny Andy?

    Or is this a case of all press is good press?

  • I’m a big fan of simplicity and ease-of-use, and Google has delivered on that. Yahoo has the benefit of being around longer, so of course they should have better usability. Give Google time. Also give Yahoo time to get even better. I don’t agree with Bonforte that Gmail and Google Talk have poor usability. They work very well, and are easy to use. Google Talk especially has only the necessary features, and it integrates well with Gmail.

  • Greg – not all press is good press, esp if it casts a negative light on Yahoo. Some might say it smacks of desperation. Let the users decide which company has the best products.

  • I had my suspicions, but I wanted you to confirm this for me. Thanks Andy.