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  • 1. Yahoo-MSN Project
  • 2. Introduction Design of a good web portal, is becoming the growing need of users and web developers around the world and also for the brand to stay in, sell their services and satisfy consumer needs in a competitive and limited market. However, it is not easy to clearly explain what a successful web portal is, because its nature and characteristics depend on what kind of system it uses, what field it is in, what its purpose for use is, and so on. These features are strongly connected to who the target users are. And this factor has been an important global concern. User preference can be defined as a choice of alternatives, that is, a user’s belief based on his or her individual opinion that one thing is better than another. Preference reflects a user’s feeling and attitude for the interface and functional design of a web site, and influences his or her decision for a final behavior on that web site. Generally, user preference for a web site is indirectly measured through an interview or a questionnaire. Criteria for users’ preference-making include usability, performance, aesthetics, information quality and architecture, brand, and so forth. Users consciously or subconsciously assign different weights to these factors when making their preferences. In this sense, the present study investigates different impacts based on user preference for web portals Yahoo! and MSN, and users’ psychological characteristics in evaluating those web portals are considered. Findings related to these objectives can be consequently used as basis of constructing a conceptual model for the process of users’ preference-making and suggesting design strategies to yield more preferred websites. Background and related work 2.1. Web portal definition A web portal, also known as a links page, presents information from diverse sources in a unified way. Apart from the standard search engine feature, web portals offer other services such as e-mail, news, stock prices, information, databases and entertainment. Portals provide a way for enterprises to provide a consistent look and feel with access control and procedures for multiple applications and databases, which otherwise would have been different entities altogether. The first Web portals were online services, such as AOL, that provided access to the Web, but by now most of the traditional search engines have transformed themselves into Web portals to attract and keep a larger audience. While there are many web portals designed for general use by consumers, there are also portals that are created for the use of authorized personnel only. This is the case with the corporate or business web portal. In this case, access to the portal is limited to those with login credentials issued and managed by the employer. Portals of this type are helpful in allowing employees who are traveling to access corporate servers and connect with documents and other data saved on the server. Corporate portals may also be configured to allow customers to browse, search, and purchase goods and services from the company. Government portals are another example of a private web portal. As with the corporate model, users must have authorized access to the portal in the form of login credentials, security clearance, and other proprietary access codes in order to use the portal. This helps to ensure that
  • 3. employees can only gain access to data that is considered within their area of responsibility, and effectively prevents the use of proprietary data by unauthorized individuals virtually impossible. Yahoo! and MSN, which are included in the category of public web portals, are selected as the domain of this study. History of Yahoo: Yahoo stands for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”. It Incorporated is an internet service provider that serves both users and business globally. The company was founded in 1994 by David Filo and Jerry Yang who were attending Stanford’s University's PhD program. Yahoo! Inc. began as a hobby for Filo and Yang and has now evolved into a multifaceted brand that serves internet users worldwide. Yahoo! Inc. has become the world's largest global online network of integrated services. According to Yahoo! Inc. website, they have become one of the leading search engines on the World Wide Web. Due to the torrent of traffic and enthusiastic reception Yahoo! was receiving, the founders knew they had a potential business on their hands. In March 1995, the pair incorporated the business and met with dozens of Silicon Valley venture capitalists. They eventually came across Sequoia Capital, the well- regarded firm whose most successful investments included Apple Computer, Atari, Oracle and Cisco Systems. They agreed to fund Yahoo! in April 1995 with an initial investment of nearly $2 million. Yahoo! Currently has 500 million users worldwide that visit the site each month. Yahoo! is provided to users in more than twenty different languages. The company also has office locations in Europe, the Asia Pacific, Latin America, Canada and the United States. Yahoo! Inc. is currently head quartered in Sunnyvale, California. Today, Yahoo! Inc. is a leading global Internet communications, commerce and media company that offers a comprehensive branded network of services to more than 345 million individuals each month worldwide. As the first online navigational guide to the Web, www.yahoo.com is the leading guide in terms of traffic, advertising, household and business user reach. Yahoo! is the No. 1 Internet brand globally and reaches the largest audience worldwide. The company also provides online business and enterprise services designed to enhance the productivity and Web presence of Yahoo!'s clients. These services include Corporate Yahoo!, a popular customized enterprise portal solution; audio and video streaming; store hosting and management; and Web site tools and services. The company's global Web network includes 25 World properties. Headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., Yahoo! has offices in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australia, Canada and the United States. Yahoo! Inc. also operates Flickr, a photo sharing and storing website. The company also provides its users with web mail, instant messaging, music, video, personals, and much more. History of MSN: MSN (originally The Microsoft Network) is a collection of Internet sites and services provided by Microsoft. The Microsoft Network debuted as an online service and Internet service provider in 1995 and over the years range of services offered by MSN has grown.
  • 4. In the mid-1990's, Microsoft was at a crossroads as it struggled to reinvent itself during the ascendancy of the Internet. It's then-upcoming operating system, Windows 4.0, would be the last major product the company shipped that came without pervasive Internet features. Indeed, Windows 95 only included the "plumbing" necessary to drive the Internet: Low-level networking functionality such as TCP/IP. For the next few years, MSN was recast again and again as Microsoft tried to make sense of the Internet. The company tried a Web-based version with a custom MSN browser, all done up in Darth Vader-like black and red colors. Then, Microsoft tried the content route and pushed sites such as Mungo Park, offering viewers a unique combination of "Internet text, audio and video chat." There were some high points during this era, however. Microsoft purchased the Hotmail Web-based email service in 1997 and turned it into an extremely popular MSN service, and arguably the largest Web-based email service on the planet. In 1999, MSN introduced its first instant messaging (IM) client, MSN Messenger. And in 2000, the MSN online service was recast yet again as a friendly and safe portal to the Web. In 2003 MSN decided to build its own search engine from scratch. Previously, MSN Search used algorithmic results powered by a company called Inktomi, which was bought by Yahoo! To compete with search and provide the kind of service that will keep people coming back to its network, MSN needed its own search engine. Otherwise, the division wouldn't be able to compete for search users or develop a lucrative advertising business. In 2005 MSN network launched the new MSN Search Toolbar with Windows® Desktop Search, a suite of tools that helps people rapidly search the Web or their PC and provides easy access to leading MSN services. Many of MSN's services were reorganized in 2005 and 2006 under a new brand name, Windows Live. This move was part of Microsoft's strategy to improve its online offerings using the Windows brand name. Windows Live uses 'Web 2.0' technology to offer features and functionality through a web browser that were traditionally only available through dedicated software programs. Some of the MSN services affected by the rebranding included MSN Hotmail, which became Windows Live Hotmail; MSN Messenger, which became Windows Live Messenger; MSN Search, which became Live Search (now known as Bing); MSN Virtual Earth, which became Live Search Maps; MSN Spaces, which became Windows Live Spaces; MSN Alerts, which became Windows Live Alerts; and MSN Groups, which became Windows Live Groups. Some other related services, such as MSN Direct, have remained a part of the MSN family without transitioning to Windows Live. Following the launch of Windows Live, the MSN brand took on a different focus. MSN is now primarily an online content provider of news, entertainment, and common interest topics through its Internet portal, MSN.com, while Windows Live now provides most of Microsoft's online software and services. MSN's Internet portal, MSN.com, offers a wealth of content and is currently the 9th most visited domain name on the Internet.
  • 5. Changes in Yahoo! Yahoo! is best known for its web portal, search engine (Yahoo! Search), Yahoo! Directory, Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! News, advertising, online mapping (Yahoo! Maps), video sharing (Yahoo! Video), and social mediawebsites and services. In year 1996 to 1997, number of hyperlinks was increased and the alignment was changes from centre to left. Advertisements were introduced above the search tab in 1997. In 1998, below search tab anyone of Yahoo!services was advertised. In the year 1999, three column grid was introduced. Advanced search option was provided, services increased,change of header (check email in place of cool, personalize in place of today’s news, help in place of more yahoo), change of footer (more categorization) was done. 2000-Length of main body increased ,fill of the third column content was changed, Yahoo!Shopping integrated in the main body,Quick links increased from 6 to 4 in the header,hyperlinks below search tab were categorised so were more yahoo services in the footer, No major changes were introduced in the year 2001. 2002-hyperlinks to services below search tab was merged with the main body, third column was changed graphically, most popular option was provided along with advanced search, personalized option was highlighted (was provided at the top of third column), scroll length as well as width of screen space increased, footer options (local yahoo and more yahoo) organized in columns ,search tab was provided in the footer as well 2003-search tab was changed,search options increased (on the web, in images, in yellow pages, in products) 2004-the quick links to services that are there on the top are graphically improved,Hyperlinks organized in vertical columns and given colored background to match the boxes of the main body , services in footer organized and merged with the main body. 2005-Yahoo advertising solutions were added at the bottom of third column. 2006-major change was introduces. Scroll is removed and all the information in the page is removed; only links are provided. Search options are removed and search tab is merged with header my Yahoo! And my mail options are also kept in header and links to yahoo services are provided in the body in addition to sign in | sign up options. 2007-sign in/sign up options were removed. 2008-some services (like 360) were removed.
  • 6. Changes in MSN From 1995 to 1998, the MSN.com domain was used to promote MSN as an Internet service providerbut Microsoft's major Internet portal was known as 'Microsoft Internet Start,' located at home.microsoft.com. It served as the default home page for Internet Explorer and offered basic information such as news, weather, sports, stocks, entertainment reports, links to web sites on the Internet, articles by Microsoft staff members, and software updates. In 1998, the largely underutilized 'MSN.com' domain name was reinvented as both an Internet portal and as the brand for a family of sites produced inside Microsoft's Interactive Media Group. Since then pertaining to the growing services, it has expanded and many of new and interactive features have been developed since then. Windows live, MSN messenger, MSN explorer and hotmail are some the currently provided services. The interface was first changed effectively in 2000 when the wire frame structure was molded according to the hierarchy needed. Since then for 2-3 three years there has been no major change. The next significant change that they took was changing the color and introducing graphics to give it a more aesthetic appeal. Some of the other was grid modifications and increase in spacing. This took place in 2002-03. From the year 2004, search was placed at the top highlighting it. Also wireframe was adjusted a little. In the year 2005, search icon was more highlighted and categorized search was introduced. Icons were changed into buttons and centrally placed above the search bar. Dual search bar was introduced placed both at top and bottom. No major changes were taken up from 2005-06. In the year 2007, regular 3 column grid was reframed to 2 columns, also providing more categories and easy navigation. Page width was also increased in the following year giving more substance, scroll was reduced, colors were lightened, in all layout was made more aesthetic and viewable. New search engine was introduced by MSN to compete with Google search. In the year 2010, major step was taken to revamp the interface. Page width was increased, more appealing colors and categories were made, also the logo was changed to give a fresh look. Hypothesis What constitutes a good web portal has been traditionally explained by relating it to user and usability. In other words, a successful and preferable web site generally refers to one with high usability, which is user-friendly and user-centered in interface and functional aspects. According to the International Standard Organization (ISO), usability is defined as an outcome, ‘‘the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a Specified context of use’’.
  • 7. Several studies suggested guidelines and requirements to help design a better web site. Their focuses mainly lie in usability, although a few guidelines include aesthetic aspects. Usability of a web site is measured taking into account users’ perspectives, and thus it can be continuously improved for the benefit of target users through an iterative cycle of development. Hypothesis 1: The two web portals Yahoo! and MSN differ in terms of their information architecture, aesthetics and navigation and these attributes contribute to their overall performance. Hypothesis 2: The attributes information architecture, aesthetics and navigation contribute to different extent on the users peception of these webportals. Methodology Our study begins with a complete background research of two webportals: Yahoo! and MSN. In it the changes done in Yahoo! and MSN portals over the years to increase their usabilty are studied. Fifteen participants who are potential users of these web portals are selected. Tasks to be performed : Participants were required to perform two tasks: 1. Assessments by memory and not while viewing the web pages.This assessment and the background study together helps in identifying the usability attributes which influence users perception and the efficiency and effectiveness of webportals. 2. Usability testing while using the webportals and proper feedback through given questionnaire, containing questions about the derived attributes. Interests of this project was to focus on why and how are the changes being done relating to interface and how has services and usability grown over the years, how users perceive and evaluate them for their actual use. The major web portal Google (www.google.com) was not chosen because participants were very familiar with using it. This was to avoid participants’ bias from their past experiences. In the two web portals Yahoo! and MSN, the brand power and the prior use of the web portals is considered of less priority. In the first task, participants assessed pre-use usability of the web portal based on their feeling and attitude for them. They were just asked about their personal insight and no attributes were mentioned. They had the ease for analysis and were not bounded by any given assessment list. Because participants
  • 8. did not actually see the web portals, their perceptions of usability were mainly based on the web portals’ visual attributes (in memory) In the second task, both web portals were given to participants at one time. After looking over for about 15 min without any specific limitations, participants were then asked to express their perceptions based on web attributes for those web portals and ranks through the survey. The second task required participants to complete a questionnaire in which sections on each of the attributes will be asked. Specific and representative scenarios were made based on the results of the user background survey. This was very important because any given scenario could not cover all interface and functional features of the web portals. Also, the scenarios needed to be as specific and concrete as possible, reflecting users’ main needs and ease for use. Two web portals taken for Survey: Yahoo www.yahooo.com MSN www.msn.com 1. Participants Fifteen participants are choosen who are users of both the webportals or who have used both of these in the past. Information about user background related to using web portal was obtained from the user background survey. This was done using a user feedback form. The results user background survey indicated that the participants were between the ages of 19-24 and they were using their personal computers and the Internet every day. Also, they had experience with web portals and web development, and their main purpose for using such web portals was to look into daily news besides checking their mails. Participants believed that a well facilitated interface generally helps to ease out lot of stress of searching, and also finding information at preferred location helps developing bond with that portal. Finally participants agreed that such web analysis is of their interest and there were many potential opportunities for them to become more involved in using these web portals. 2. Experimental design and procedures
  • 9. Criteria for users’ preference-making include usability, performance, aesthetics, information quality and architecture, brand, and so forth. Users consciously or subconsciously assign different weights to these factors when making their preferences. These preferences are then tested with our assigned attributes. Questionnaire was prepared based on the chosen attributes selected through the process and shown below: Attribute 1 Information Architecture Attribute 2 Design Attributes Attribute 3 Page Controls Information Architecture Information architecture is the categorization of information into a coherent structure, preferably one that the most people can understand quickly, if not inherently. It's usually hierarchical. Most of the time, planning a site’s information architecture requires little more than a liberal application of common sense, although the more complex the content, the more detailed the planning must be. It is important to focus on the type of information provided, information update and flow of information. • If information provided is appropriate, credible and updated, site is more preferred. • Better usage of interactive tabs and sections help out in better information flow for the user. Design Attributes Visual Appeal has been recognized as an important factor in determining a websites’ quality and a good predictor of a user’s intention to revisit the website. Further an appealing website may be important in developing the trust of the users. Aesthetic impressions are inherently multi-dimensional. It was found that various demographic factors such as age, gender, education levels, prior experiences and religious background affected the variability of aesthetic responses. There are many visual elements comprising web pages that evoke aesthetic responses, such as colors(color is one of the aesthetic aspects that appeals to users’ feelings and helps them know the functions of icons, buttons, and boxes), typography is attractive and easily-readable texts that draw users’ attention, logo and other brand design, Sounds, motion and shapes. • In the presence of consistent visual organization, users understand the relations between the items and the structure for web pages well. • If there is improper use of metaphors, inappropriate changes in logo, negative impact is created on the users.
  • 10. Page Controls (Navigation) Navigation builds a solid foundation for an easily-managed, flexible, and highly usable site. Page controls or navigation system is for assisting users in knowing their positions and situations in a web site and deciding their actions to go to next pages the main navigation bar should appear on all pages in the same style and in the same place. • Site is prefered and ranked depending on number of clicks required reaching a preferred link. • If easily located and usable controls are there and user learnability, error minimization, etc are taken care of, site becomes more user-friendly. Participants were then asked to complete the user reaction form containing questions about attributes. The format contained questions relating to attributes and the participants were required to rate each on a 5-point Likert-type scale (4, most satisfactory; 0, least satisfactory).The questionnaire was presented to the participants. After the feedback, the result was be taken toANOVA Test. Experimental procedure for each participant: Identifying participants using a user background research survey. Pre-Usability assessment without mentioning usability attributes. Preparation of sectioned questionnaire based on previous surveys.
  • 11. Proper feedback and evaluation based on ANOVA test. Final assessment of the surveys and analysis. Questionnaire Please spend at least 15 minutes looking at the websites and fill in the questionnaire accordingly.The questionnaire is divided into 3 sections containing questions relating to different attributes to be rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale (4, Very good; 0, very poor). Very Poor (0) Poor (1) Average (2) Good (3) Very Good (4) Attribute 1: Information Architecture 1. Relevance of the information and content provided. 2. Credibility of information provided. 3. Conceptual grouping of information. 4. Regular updates of content. 5. Information Flow (path you traverse while browsing). Attribute 2: Design Attributes 1. Use of color. 2. Legibility of text, controlled and meaningful use of fonts. 3. Layout of the page. 4. Use of metaphors and logo design. 5. Consistency of visual organization. 6. Optimization of graphics and quality of images. 7. Placement of ads
  • 12. 8. Use of Java (eg. moving texts, flashing images). Attribute 3: Navigation 1. Ease of browsing the site. 2. Easy identification of controls. 3. Minimization of user error through controls. 4. User learnability (the capability of a software product to enable the user to learn how to use it) provided by controls. 5. Ease of reversal of actions. 6. Shortcuts for frequent users. Results and Analysis: Two hypotheses were tested through the experiment using Yahoo! and MSN. The experiment results showed the following results: 1) In terms of the attribute the two sites are significantly different. 2) Given an interaction of attributes and sites the results are not significant, which means that not all variables have equal effect in terms of difference on MSN and Yahoo 3) Yahoo and MSN differ in terms of the attributes but not uniformly across all attributes 4) In order to find which attribute has the most and the least difference we have to perform a post-hoc analysis. In order to better understand characteristics of users’ evaluation of the two web portals MANOVA test between scores of the attributes was conducted. Participants gave scores to the questions on a 5-point Likert-type scale. Scores under each attribute was individually summed up for all participants. The table below shows the scores for different users. These scores were then used to run MANOVA test and following results were obtained.
  • 13. Within-Subjects Factors Measure:MEASURE_1 attrib Dependent ute Variable 1 IA 2 DES 3 NAVI Between-Subjects Factors Value Label N Group 1 Yahoo 15 2 MSN 15 Descriptive Statistics Group Mean Std. Deviation N IA Yahoo 14.4000 2.58567 15 MSN 13.3333 2.96808 15 Total 13.8667 2.78832 30 DES Yahoo 22.6667 4.60848 15 MSN 20.8000 3.23375 15 Total 21.7333 4.02521 30 NAVI Yahoo 16.4000 4.91063 15 MSN 15.0000 2.90320 15 Total 15.7000 4.02706 30 Multivariate Testsb Effect Value F Hypothesis df Error df Sig. attribute Pillai's Trace .832 66.828 a 2.000 27.000 .000 Wilks' Lambda .168 66.828 a 2.000 27.000 .000 Hotelling's Trace 4.950 66.828 a 2.000 27.000 .000 Roy's Largest Root 4.950 66.828 a 2.000 27.000 .000 attribute * Group Pillai's Trace .012 .157 a 2.000 27.000 .855 Wilks' Lambda .988 .157 a 2.000 27.000 .855 Hotelling's Trace .012 .157 a 2.000 27.000 .855 Roy's Largest Root .012 .157 a 2.000 27.000 .855 a. Exact statistic b. Design: Intercept + Group Within Subjects Design: attribute Page 2
  • 14. b Mauchly's Test of Sphericity Measure:MEASURE_1 Epsilon a Within Subject Approx. Chi- Greenhouse- s Effect Mauchly's W Square df Sig. Geisser Huynh-Feldt Lower-bound attribute .983 .460 2 .794 .983 1.000 .500 Tests the null hypothesis that the error covariance matrix of the orthonormalized transformed dependent variables is proportional to an identity matrix. a. May be used to adjust the degrees of freedom for the averaged tests of significance. Corrected tests are displayed in the Tests of Within-Subjects Effects table. b. Design: Intercept + Group Within Subjects Design: attribute Tests of Within-Subjects Effects Measure:MEASURE_1 Type III Sum Source of Squares df Mean Square F Sig. attribute Sphericity Assumed 1016.467 2 508.233 60.327 .000 Greenhouse-Geisser 1016.467 1.967 516.821 60.327 .000 Huynh-Feldt 1016.467 2.000 508.233 60.327 .000 Lower-bound 1016.467 1.000 1016.467 60.327 .000 attribute * Group Sphericity Assumed 2.422 2 1.211 .144 .866 Greenhouse-Geisser 2.422 1.967 1.232 .144 .863 Huynh-Feldt 2.422 2.000 1.211 .144 .866 Lower-bound 2.422 1.000 2.422 .144 .707 Error(attribute) Sphericity Assumed 471.778 56 8.425 Greenhouse-Geisser 471.778 55.070 8.567 Huynh-Feldt 471.778 56.000 8.425 Lower-bound 471.778 28.000 16.849 Tests of Within-Subjects Contrasts Measure:MEASURE_1 Type III Sum Source attribute of Squares df Mean Square F Sig. attribute Linear 50.417 1 50.417 5.334 .029 Quadratic 966.050 1 966.050 130.603 .000 attribute * Group Linear .417 1 .417 .044 .835 Quadratic 2.006 1 2.006 .271 .607 Error(attribute) Linear 264.667 28 9.452 Quadratic 207.111 28 7.397 Page 3
  • 15. Tests of Between-Subjects Effects Measure:MEASURE_1 Transformed Variable:Average Type III Sum Source of Squares df Mean Square F Sig. Intercept 26316.900 1 26316.900 1.143E3 .000 Group 46.944 1 46.944 2.040 .164 Error 644.489 28 23.017 Profile Plots Estimated Marginal Means of MEASURE_1 attribute 1 2 22.5 3 Estimated Marginal Means 20.0 17.5 15.0 12.5 Yahoo MSN Group Page 4
  • 16. Tests of Within-Subjects Contrasts suggets that value obtained is less than 0.05 so we can safely say that on the basis of attributes the two portals (Yahoo and MSN) differ significantly but if all the attributes are combined together the value is more than 0.05 so we cannot say with much surety that both the portals will have uniform differences across all the attributes. Also these values say that there is certainly stochastically significant difference between Yahoo and MSN on the attributes we had selected.This is basically happening becase of the small participant size we have selected. The results also indicate that the two chosen web portals differ significantly in terms of design aspects but are apprimately at par when the other two attributes are considered. Conclusion: The study examines the changes done on Yahoo! and MSN sites over the years to increase their usability and to understand how the attributes influence the users perception of these webportals. Results indicate: In terms of the attribute the two sites are significantly different. Given an interaction of attributes and sites the results are not significant, which means that not all variables have equal effect in terms of difference on MSN and Yahoo.Yahoo and MSN differ in terms of the attributes but not uniformly across all attributes. In order to find which attribute has the most and the least difference we have to perform a post-hoc analysis. The findings taken can be used to construct a conceptual framework for understanding user preferences and to develop design guidelines to yield more highly preferred web portals. Also, the methodology (constuction of attributes and thier testing) in this study can be applied to other computerized-applications and comparisons.