The new design which launched today, still has way more content than one person needs on the front page, but it’s cleaner than ever before. They’ve done away with the heavy color header bars and they’ve pushed down the menu on the left so the first thing you see is content.
They’ve also done a better job of integrating local news and social media feeds. In the “Classic” design, (seen here on the left) they looked like embedded widgets, but now they’re a part of the page. Sort of. The social media feeds come in via AOL’s Lifestream page which they hope you’ll use instead of HootSuite or TweetDeck to monitor your accounts.
Lifestream pulls all of your accounts into one ugly stream and gives you the ability to reply to any type of account right from the same page. A portion of this page is supposed to feed into the new AOL.com design, but I couldn’t make it work, no matter how hard I tried.
The new AOL also keys into other hot areas such as local, trends and deals. Add your zip code to the page and you’ll get a local news feed via Patch. The right side of the page has a section for trending keywords and Deal of Day is on the way according to the AOL press release.
What AOL is really banking on is the high-level of content that will update three times a day.
- Morning: The most important stories of the day, followed by pop culture updates and news-you-can-use.
- Daytime: Breaking news updates, “snackable” entertainment, latest fashion trends, intriguing personalities and tips for managing home, career, budget and family.
- Evening: A wrap up of the day’s news, with additional themed stories on specific days including Makeover Mondays, Foodie Tuesdays and Technology Wednesdays.
AOL is relying on their owned websites such as Fanhouse, Stylist and Politics Daily to deliver magazine-style content that could set them apart from Yahoo.com which is mostly news driven.
The new AOL design is a big improvement over the old one and if you’re looking for a one-page that does it all (especially if you use AOL Mail and AIM), then this is a good homepage.
Right now, there are only two things that bother me. One is the advertising fake out. At a quick glance, the “Once Upon a Time” box looks like the sports box or entertainment news box but they’re all links that lead to stories about the new movie Tangled. Not surprising since the box says, Sponsored by Tangled but it’s a bit too blatant of a plug for me. I’m curious to see what will take that spot next.
The biggest issue for me is the inability to move or delete things — or am I missing that? I have no interest in sports and I’d want the local and entertainment news up above the fold. Shouldn’t I be able to rearrange the sections to suit my needs? After all, AOL’s new design is all about delivering a “more rewarding user experience.”
What do you think of the new design? Will it help bring users back into the AOL-fold, or is it too late to save this aging icon?