Apple LisaPerhaps Microsoft should buy Yahoo! They have something in common: they both try to do many things, and too many of them are second rate.

It’s the Quality vs. Quantity problem. Apple learned its lessons long ago when it came out with too many products either not ready for the market, or the market not ready for them, such as the Lisa (right) or the early PDA, the Newton. These items suffered from being ahead of their times. Yahoo!’s problems stem from scattering their energies in too many directions. Apple’s and Google’s successes stem from excelling with the one market they are competing in.

A few examples of Yahoo! missteps and bad design:

  1. Online Advertising: I’ve tried Yahoo!’s online ad program, Overture or Yahoo! Publisher Network, which they bought to compete with Google’s AdSense. The user interface for designing ads was not as thorough as Google’s, the diversity of the contextual ads presented on web pages was poor and often irrelevant to the context of the page, and the payout rate was not as good as Google’s. Eventually I deleted all my Yahoo! ads, using Google’s AdSense entirely. What does it tell you when one of Yahoo’s own writers, TechieDiva’s personal site uses Google and other’s ad programs, and not theirs?
  2. Account Profiles: I’ve tried many times in the past few months to update my various public profiles. A few years ago they worked, and I had images and info linked to each profile. Out of the blue, Yahoo! switched to a trendy Anime-like design of Ken and Barbie Flash based cut-out characters as choices, and threw out my old image links. Now when I attempt to update or change the images, the system hangs and times out, or gives me a message that they are not ready to accept profile images at this time. Come on Yahoo! dudes! This is basic social networking 101, or website 2.0, I should say.
  3. Hanging Links: My most frequent use of Yahoo is Yahoo!Finance. During the tech bubble, Yahoo’s mix of financial charts, stock information and message boards made for an exciting mix. In the past year, Yahoo!Finance has changed their message boards. For a long time, when you navigated to a board, you lost the navigation menu of the stock and experienced difficulty returning to it. The same for their new beta charts. I wrote toYahoo! about it, and I see navigation is now back to normal on the message boards. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
  4. Yahoo!Mail: I can give credit to Yahoo that its e-mail works, but it is an ugly mess, full of advertising sidebars, spam from Yahoo!Messenger, and an extremely slow response time for scrolling and loading messages. I recently gave up and deleted all my Yahoo inbox messages just to try and make it more usable.
  5. Clutter: The result of trying to be all things for all people is a massive clutter of cramped, competing stuff on main portal entries My Yahoo! page and Yahoo! Home page. Remember the original Yahoo! before all the sneaky slide on ads, when it was just a directory of many categorized web sites, and you could submit yours or others? Very Web 2.0, simple text hyperlinks, and the formula that Yahoo! grew from. Google’s search is still a clean, plain page, mostly text, with some occasional decoration, and it gives the user a focused, reliable experience. Who willingly navigates to a desktop traffic jam?

So here’s my own $0.02 plus, and I have suggestions and solutions for these and other usability problems. I can help Yahoo! clean house, simply for a few left over Semel dollars.