AltaVista redesigns.
July 29, 2000 4:18 PM   Subscribe

AltaVista redesigns. Comments? I like it.
posted by Succa (31 comments total)
I like it too. I never use that engine anymore, but I do like it.
posted by thirteen at 4:24 PM on July 29, 2000

It's not that long since the last redesign (I'm still nostalgic for the blue sky and mountains.) But thirteen sums it up: AV's day has long gone.

(Also, the "message to our users" brings up a "cookies must be enabled" error message. Sorry, but if you need to use a cookie to tell me about your redesign, you still haven't understood why I use Google instead.)
posted by holgate at 4:31 PM on July 29, 2000

Why is the type so small? Aren't the search results what I'm supposed to be focusing on? Why are they using such unfriendly font colors in the results? Light blue links and grey text? I can't read anything. With only 10 results per page as a default, and such a small font and general real estate, I think they could probably show me more than one line of the page contents.

posted by magnetbox at 5:43 PM on July 29, 2000

Wow.. it was like visiting an old friend after a long time (I'm sentimental that way). These days I just type my keyword in the address box, ans let the defalt MSN search do my dirty work for me....

Looks pretty nice, but it really didn't give me the urge to look at any of the stuff or new features they have crammed on that page.
posted by CyberPal at 6:17 PM on July 29, 2000, I can't spell for crap tonight. Sorry.
posted by CyberPal at 6:21 PM on July 29, 2000

Actually, my complaints about the page would be:
1. The search bar should be a bit more prominent. I mean, AV might be trying to play off this whole "portal" nonsense, but the search bar is the main reason why most people go to the site.
2. There is too much text on the page.
3. The logo, or more specifically, the little ":" symbol after the word "altavista". It just seems strange that the colon isn't attached to anything, like a slogan or something. That doesn't sit well with me. That colon needs a home.
4. The word "Welcome", sitting all by itself, right above the search bar. Look for yourself! Doesn't that look strange? And it takes up almost an inch of vertical real estate.

Otherwise, I like how they've made use of the entire screen, not just a portion of it. The page loads quickly and I don't get bombarded completely with advertising. So, your new redesign gets the go-ahead from me, AltaVista.
posted by Succa at 7:10 PM on July 29, 2000

it wasn't terribly ugly when it was a search engine. and if it had been terribly ugly, nobody would have cared much.

once it became a portal, it turned ugly.

13 variations later, who cares whether this 200 pound bag of shit you don't want is slighly prettier than the last 200 pound bag of shit you didn't want?

why even talk about the design?

the problem isn't colors or typography or use of white space.

the fundamental design problem is this isn't worth designing. it's an unfocused load of bad ideas.

you might as well comb through a litter box, comparing the size of and shape of cat turds, as compare one of these designs to another. ("hmm ... this one is drier than that one, but that one seems more 'focused' somehow.")

i wouldn't take this project unless my whole family was sick and i really really really needed the money.

i guess it's a pity but the damage was done long ago.

i don't use search engines. i know where everything is.
posted by Zeldman at 7:24 PM on July 29, 2000

Well said Zeldman! I have to stick with Google though since I don't know where everything is!
posted by Mr. skullhead at 7:39 PM on July 29, 2000

Quick! Someone call Lars Ulrich! Tell him he needs to shut down AltaVista! LOL! Actually I searched for Metallica MP3s just to see if it's still possible. Two out of three links are dead or old. That should be expected when it comes to Metallica MP3s, but pretty much anything else you search for in AltaVista is the same way.

AltaVista needs to stop giving themselves a make-over and check under the hood. Their map of the Web is sorely out of date. Yes I agree; Google is much more dependable. Heck, even Jeeves is more dependable than AV.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:54 PM on July 29, 2000

Except for the blue and gold AltaVista color scheme, disturbingly reminiscent of Infoseek.Go. BTW, did anyone catch Infoseek's temporary redesign, which was an out-and-out theft of Google? Back to Altavista, the only thing I use them for is the translator and the last two redesigns have made it hard to find. Why?
posted by Lynsey at 8:29 PM on July 29, 2000

Does anyone else here think AV's Raging Search is a Google wananbe?
posted by riffola at 8:31 PM on July 29, 2000

Their old design in terms of "graphic/color web design" was much better...this looks plain ugly.
posted by physics at 8:34 PM on July 29, 2000

Clean and dull as Des Moines.

And I'm not sure I really need a feature called "Hot Athlete Searches." Let them shower first.
posted by lileks at 8:47 PM on July 29, 2000

I am outraged that such hurtful stuff about Des Moines is being posted here.

Heh-heh. Gotcha.

Sorry for the topic drift. Okay, uh, where were we? Oh yeah, this is boring, it's all wrong and boring, they used to be good, it's all quite sad. I think our work is done here.
posted by Zeldman at 11:20 PM on July 29, 2000

Why do people pick on Iowa? Spent a good 4 years of my life in that fair state, and had a grand time. Of course, Iowa City is a bit different than the rest of the state . . .

As for the cat turds, I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with Mr. Zeldman. While none of us here have any use for AV (or sites of a similar ilk) thousands of other web users do. Indeed, that's all they see of the web. Yahoo, AV, Amazon and the others all look the same - when one goes through a redesign, it alters the entire worldview for those thousands of web users.

If you were to take on a project like this Zeldman, you'd have enormous influence over how people perceive the web. Perhaps people wouldn't automatically expect all of those damn folder tabs . . .

When uninteresting corporate sites improve their design, no mattter how insignificant that improvement may be, it has a positive effect on the web as a whole.

The only problem is that the changes happen at a painfully slow rate. Sorta like continental drift . . .
posted by aladfar at 11:42 PM on July 29, 2000

"i don't use search engines. i know where everything is."

Everything? You must have one huge brain...
posted by geir at 2:34 AM on July 30, 2000

I can't believe the sure-footed nature of Zeldman "i don't use dearch engines. i know where everything is."

Anyway, the AV redesign: Someone at AV has had the job of evolving Altavista's brand a little bit, and to that end I think they've done quite well. The advertising isn't too distracting sitting up there top right and the other features don't interfere with the search bar. (even if that yellow on the left is reminiscent of !)Thumbs up from me AV!
posted by williamtry at 3:15 AM on July 30, 2000

This doesn't help. It's OK, but it doesn't feel useful (at least, not for the things I still use AV for -- Babelfish, image/photo hunting and whatnot). I liked it before, when I at least visited semi-regularly. Is this in advance of an IPO or straight monetization move? I really liked their former incarnation's focus on news. Now it just seems like it's all about the Benjamins (shop 'til your Net connection drops).
posted by allaboutgeorge at 5:09 AM on July 30, 2000

I'd like to know if any MeFi users have had difficulty listing your web sites with Alta Vista. I have about 10 domains I promote on a regular basis. I can find a handful of my sites but have no luck placing them in the top 10. Frustrating!
posted by argus at 6:15 AM on July 30, 2000

I don't think Alta Vista has properly updated their information in at least a year. As I said before it's about one third deadlinks. Trash. So the difficulty in getting your websites listed there is probably because they have too many employees concentrating on making it look fancy and not enough people focusing on making it functional and useful.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:43 AM on July 30, 2000

Alta who? What is that they do again?

Someone will have to remind me why I should give a sh*t about the redesign of a site that no one uses because no one knows what it's for...
posted by m.polo at 7:43 AM on July 30, 2000

Well, at the very least, it's better looking than Lycos.


P.S. Zeldman was kidding.
posted by solistrato at 9:50 AM on July 30, 2000

what's up with that survey? "On August 29th, AltaVista unveiled its new look...."
posted by Sapphireblue at 9:58 AM on July 30, 2000

Gee, what's that horizontal scroll bar I see on my screen...?
posted by baylink at 5:23 PM on July 30, 2000

all I have to say is ewww. Ugly AND useless, it doesn't get better than that.
posted by Ms Snit at 10:56 PM on July 30, 2000

::: aldafar said:

While none of us here have any use for AV ... thousands of other web users do. Indeed, that's all they see of the web. Yahoo, AV, Amazon and the others all look the same - when one goes through a redesign, it alters the entire worldview for those thousands of web users.

Absolutely true.

If you were to take on a project like this Zeldman, you'd have enormous influence over how people perceive the web.

Yes and no.

Yes: I've always believed web designers miss out on something important when they pooh-pooh assignments like this because such assignments don't let you "strut your stuff." You're not likely to win awards designing portals, but you could have a major, positive impact on the experience of millions of web users - and that's far more important than winning awards. But ...

No: In this case, I fear that even an unholy alliance between Joshua Davis and Jakob Nielsen would be powerless to make the necessary changes to this site, because what's needed is structural, and from the looks of it, there are too many vested interests here to allow any design group to make those changes.

To me, the graphic design is not bad for its kind, and I'm sure that very good people worked on it. And I suspect that those good graphic designers worked with good information architects, good marketers (not an oxymoron), and other specialists who strongly recommended that the site return to its roots as a focused and formidable search engine. That, after all, was what we loved about Alta Vista back in the day. It worked really well. But think of the investors and committee members who would have to buy off on THAT kind of "redesign." Even those who agreed with the recommendation would be powerless to make it happen.

That's what I meant by "I wouldn't take this job." Not that such jobs are beneath me (or anybody). And not that a good graphic designer can't make just about anything look a little prettier. But simply that there are too many powerful forces here, inexorably dooming what was once a great search engine. And designers are as powerless to stop negative business cycles as they are to stop war.
posted by Zeldman at 12:21 AM on July 31, 2000

If only this weren't so true Zeldman! The company I work for now will not let me do any design work on any of our websites, even though they hired me to do just that. They have print designers do it instead because our conservative clients view the web as just a funny brochure; they want it to look just like their print collateral. The designers agree with me that this is a strange situation, especially since they don't know enough about the coding aspect or about information architecture to design a decent site. I end up having to go around the bosses big giant heads to collaborate with the designers on these sites. Even still, between the bosses and the clients, good websites are simply not what they want.
posted by donkeymon at 8:19 AM on July 31, 2000

The web's becoming commercially viable has been great in many ways. But one of the unfortunate side-effects has been an influx of people who don't have a chance to learn about the medium before they begin making executive decisions. It's like handing the keys of the car to a kid who's never ridden a bicycle.

I've worked with several companies where the people making decisions had no clue whatsoever. They got their jobs because of marketing successes in their past, or because they knew somebody.

(One guy met somebody at a party. A week later he was handed the keys to a $10 million startup. Unfortunately, though he was very nice and very respectful and all that, he didn't know what he was doing, *and* he spent most of his time trying to hide that fact, instead of accepting advice that WOULD have hidden that fact, had he acted on the advice.)

If you're small enough, you can be very selective with your clients. If you get too big, you have payroll to make and you need to churn cash, so you end up taking assignments that have "Doomed" written all over them, and you put a happy-face on it.

This is why I work for myself now. Even though I miss the good parts of working at companies. (Collaborating with talented people, getting somebody else to pay for the hardware and the insurance.)
posted by Zeldman at 10:11 AM on July 31, 2000

Design issues aside, the new tab bar is broken. Try going to the E-mail tab and switching to the Rewards tab.

You are "rewarded" with the following href:



posted by Chief Typist at 10:27 AM on July 31, 2000

[rant about the screwed up karma of publicly owned companies and how we're gonna get what we're asking for *real* soon goes here]
posted by baylink at 4:12 PM on July 31, 2000

my two cents, i miss the ol' AltaVista. it was plain and simple, and at a glance, once could quickly figure out how to use the site. heck, there was even some info way back then about the h/ware they were using. obviously that's changed now, since ownership of AV has changed. anyhoo, there's always google and the ODP. rock on.
posted by who at 7:05 PM on August 28, 2000

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