Yahoo was once the search engine champion, but that was before another Silicon Valley company stole their thunder. Analysts attribute the end of Yahoo’s reign to a cluttered homepage and an inability to distinguish themselves from other services. The future of Yahoo looked even dimmer when mobile devices began to outsell PCs. But recently, the company has been embracing mobile wholeheartedly, promising a new, relevant Yahoo that can compete in the mobile space.
Yahoo, now helmed by former Google executive Marissa Mayer, has released two new mobile apps that are taking the company in a fresh direction. The first is the Yahoo Mail tablet app, which takes the best features of their popular mail service and optimizes them for your mobile device. Developers looked at the way customers use email on tablets and discovered that they read more than they send. Subsequently, the app is geared towards a casual reading experience rather than replying and forwarding.
The company’s second new app is Yahoo Weather for the iPhone, which bears a curiously striking resemblance to Apple’s new iOS 7. Instead of complex tables and temperature ranges, the app streamlines weather by providing a single forecast for an area and a dynamic image of the city or town taken from Flickr. Breathe easy, weather buffs. More detailed forecasts are still available for all you armchair meteorologists out there.
You can draw two lessons from these apps. The first is that mobile is a blank slate. You can’t just repurpose an old desktop design for mobile devices. You shouldn’t even use the same interface for smartphones and tablets. Each device deserves its own design.
The second is that you should tap into your content libraries. Weather is a good application for Yahoo’s vast Flickr archives, because weather is a very visual experience. Yahoo seems to see itself as a content hub, and moving into mobile gives them an elegant way to deliver that content to their users.
One way to assure the mobile future of Yahoo is to buy potential competitors. It attempted to acquire Mailbox, a startup trying to revamp email for mobile devices, but Dropbox beat them to the punch. However, they did manage to strengthen their news presence by purchasing Summly, an iPhone app that tastefully summarizes and displays stories from various media outlets.
Ultimately, Yahoo’s future in the mobile space is to get rid of what doomed it on the web: clutter. By creating (or buying) simple, beautiful mobile apps, Yahoo can once again distinguish itself from the competition.