MSN Relaunches, Highlights Search, Social, Local Features

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MSN on Tuesday officially debuted its refurbished home page, with a greater focus on Bing-powered search, local content, in-line video, and top social networks.

"This marks the beginning of the ramp-out over the next couple weeks of our new home page here in the U.S.," said Erik Jorgensen, ccorporate vice president at MSN. The new site, which went live in beta form last November, also includes a new MSN Local Edition, which will exist as a stand-alone Web site, but will feature prominently on the relaunched MSN home page.

Since November, MSN says it has been busy gathering over 70,000 pieces of customer feedback, while introducing over 30 "updates," i.e., changes to the site.

"We've iterated a bunch, but we've also seen from users what's really working," said Jorgensen.

Indeed, "anytime you redesign a page that is seen by 100 million people in a month, you want to be really sure that you've done a lot of testing," added Scott Moore, general manager of content and programming at MSN.

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Just in the past three weeks, Moore said MSN tested 32 variants of the page.

A renewed focus on local content resulted from internal MSN research, which found that such content -- from local news and events to weather and sports -- was "the Number 1 unmet need online," Lisa Gurry, senior director at MSN, said in November.

Likewise, consumers who were surveyed said they wanted less clutter and easier access to information and services they care about, which MSN took into consideration when redesigning its site.

As such, the new MSN home page features 50% fewer links than the previous home page, and a simplified navigation across news, entertainment, sports, money and lifestyle.

In should be no surprise that Microsoft's search engine Bing is deeply integrated as the core search service throughout the home page. The new MSN Local Edition likewise combines media with Bing search, and provides access to real-time community news grouped by ZIP code.

MSN reports seeing double-digit increases in Bing search queries coming from the new home page. Apparently not satisfied with those results, it has further increased the prominence of the Bing search box.

Since November, MSN has also added a new TrendWatch feature to highlight "top movers" on Twitter; increased editorial programming of search-related content, including videos and images; and increased the prominence of "Popular Searches," where its editorial team highlights interesting and topical material.

A Windows Live "What's New" feature, meanwhile, aggregates up to 50 Web activities onto the new home page, including Yelp, Flickr, and Pandora.

 

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