Microsoft Redesigns MSN Porta


Nov 4, 2009- Mike Shields


Microsoft's Web portal MSN today unveils its most significant redesign in a decade, as the company looks to increase engagement on the property while spurring usage of its fledgling Bing search product.

"We think we've designed the best home page on the Web," said Scott Moore, U.S. executive producer, MSN. According to Moore, the new home page is designed to focus on four key areas of overarching consumer interest: video, social networking, search and local news/information.

The revise also considerably pares down the amount of text links on the front page; instead of links to over 30 channels, there are now five key sections: News, Entertainment, Sports, Money and Lifestyle. The result is a strikingly cleaner, more sparse look. "This was a complete overhaul," said Moore.

That overhaul is not necessarily aimed at luring new users, but will keep MSN regulars around. "We already have 100 million users in the U.S., which is a fairly mature Web market. Our biggest goal is to drive engagement," he said.

To that end, like its portal brethren Yahoo and AOL, the new MSN allows users to interact with their e-mail, Facebook and Twitter accounts without leaving the home page. Plus, users will be able to access more local information via a new product that incorporates real time local information -- much of which is culled from Bing.

Moore said that when he left Yahoo to rejoin MSN last year, he had planned on launching his own local Web startup. Instead, many of the concepts he explored at that time have made their way onto the new local component of MSN. For example, users can sift through automated listings of regional events without visiting another site. "No one else has this," said Moore, who added that the product represents the "intersection of search and browse."

Microsoft hopes this intersection will encourage more users to try Bing, which has been well received but still trails Google by a huge margin. "Bing has great awareness," said Moore. "But getting someone to use it regularly is another thing entirely."

Advertising-wise, not much has changed in terms of the types of units MSN will offer. What should appeal to brands, said Moore, is how their creative looks on this much cleaner page. "We deliberately left a fair amount of white space around ads," he said. "We think this makes them really pop."