Yahoo Alters Search Page Layout for Holidays

When you’re already on the ropes, it can’t hurt to try something new. That seems to be the attitude over at Yahoo. Hot on the heels of their Livestand mobile digital magazine, the venerable search engine made major changes to its search results for two things that users look for the most at this time of year: recipes and gifts.

It’s been a long time since I’ve even thought about preparing a holiday feast, but I know friends for whom it just wouldn’t be a real celebration without inviting friends and family over for a big meal. So when I saw Matt McGee’s article on Search Engine Land about the changes Yahoo made to enhance the user experience of searchers looking for recipes, I knew I had to try it out. So I popped right over to Yahoo and began searching for holiday recipes.

I performed several searches, but I’ll use my search for “diabetic apple recipes” as my example. (Hey, why should we get left out of all the holiday cheer just because we’re not allowed to overdo the sweets and starch?). The first difference I noticed was tabbed browsing. Right under the search box, there’s a line of tabs labeled Web, Images, Video, Shopping, Apps, Blogs, Recipes, and More (clicking on more, of course, gives you more options). The Web tab is the default. In general, this setup gives a very clean, intuitive look to the page.

Naturally there are ads at the top of the results, but at least they’re on target; one even offers a free diabetic recipe book. Right below the ads is a slider with images from recipes all over the web. I counted at least three sources on my slider at the original setting, two of which I’ve heard of and respect. By the way, even the slider is tabbed; in this case, the choices were Top Recipes (the default), Quick Recipes (recipes under 30 minutes), and Low Calorie Recipes.

For each image on the slider, you can click on a bar to “Show Ingredients & Time;” note that this will give you the time from start to finish, but only show a very few of the ingredients. That combined with the picture, however, should tell you enough to decide whether or not to click through to the recipe itself.

Are there particular ingredients you want to use or avoid? At the upper right hand side of the slider you’ll find an option to Filter by Ingredient. When I clicked on that, I got a drop-down menu that included radio buttons next to certain ingredients listed under either “Ingredients I Want” or “Ingredients I Don’t Want.” I had to click on “Ingredients I Don’t Want” in the drop-down before I could click on any of its radio buttons (only one of those headings is completely visible with all of its options at one time).

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As you would expect, the recipes shown on the slider change depending on what you click on the ingredient filter. The options as to what you can choose to include in or exclude from a recipe also change. I found some interesting recipes playing around this way that didn’t turn up in my initial search.

Like to share recipes? Right next to the ingredient filter, there’s a tool that lets you share what you found on Facebook. Just hover over the image of the item in the slider you wish to share. Click the check box that will appear, and then click the Facebook sharing tool. Assuming you’re logged in to Facebook, a comment box for Facebook will appear with the link to the recipe and a thumbnail of the image already in place.

You major cooking mavens out there may remember that I mentioned an actual tab for Recipes right under the search box. If you click that, you get even more of the best stuff about this new interface. The column at the far left provides you with a whole assortment of filters you can click on: ingredients to include, ingredients to leave out, total time, recipe rating, type of diet (you get seven or eight options here, from “Any diet” through “Vegetarian,” and yes, diabetic is one of the options), meal type (dinner, dessert, breakfast, appetizer, etc), occasion (summer is an occasion? Who knew!), and source. It looks as if you get fifteen links by default in the center search results area, with the first ten including thumbnail images of the dishes. Next to the thumbnail you’ll find the total time to make the dish; next to that, you’ll find the beginning of a list of ingredients, and a number that tells you how many ingredients the recipe uses in total.

Yahoo gives you more than your typical ads in the right column with this setup. When I searched, I found four links to YouTube videos with thumbnails at the top of this column. Not all of the videos were closely related to my search. One of the videos was essentially an ad for a weight-loss program; the others, at least, kept to the topic of diabetic recipes. Below those videos, Yahoo listed more conventional text-based ads – and below those ads, the search engine included keyword-based links to more sponsored ads.

McGee notes that the Shopping tab offers a similarly rich experience. “Rather than just showing five or 10 products and a link into Yahoo Shopping, Yahoo shows a slider and new ‘Deals’ and ‘Buying Guide’ tabs,” he explained. That left hand column offers great filtering options once again. In a search for digital cameras, I could sort by price, brand, megapixels, camera type, image stabilization, memory type, lens mount, optical zoom, LCD screen size, whether or not the camera is waterproof, weight, and the stores in which the camera is available. Presumably the filters vary depending on your search. Also, “There’s a comparison tool that lets searchers check out up to five items from within the search results page,” McGee wrote. To use that feature, click on the check boxes under each of the items you want to compare, and then click the “Compare” link next to the check box. You’ll get a large pop-up table that shows you the various features of each item side by side.

All in all, Yahoo’s changes should go some way toward making the holidays a little easier for both cooks and shoppers. The layout and interface is more convenient for the visually oriented and those who like to interact with their search results; the filters are especially useful. I never thought I’d say this, but if you’re looking for recipes or gifts at this time of year, you might want to give some serious thought to searching with Yahoo. 

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