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i think they have a clear timeframe and the search shall fit the OS... if they can do that and the whole works hand in hand without opening too many bugs and security issues (see OS X dashboard), they will combine personalized pages with neat features (google does that already with the personalized page). With MSN on a new Vista and until then improved results, they will take market share - i see no reason why not.
Remember: this is for the masses, not for WebmasterWorld members...
It crashed a copy IE 5.5 (twice).
Before it crashed I noticed the CSS layout left the first three menu items (HotMail, Messenger and "My MSN") overlapping the menu items in the second column of the layout.
To get a little further in the "test", I loaded the site again, and this time clicked "STOP" (in IE to stop page from loading before it crashed)... same old search, same old results. (And same CSS style problems)...
You'd think they would at least test it with their own products. And you'd think they'd try to do something original or innovative with the layout if this is actually an MS announced beta.
They're maintaining good advertising visual real-estate with that image swap near the top (No ads in that section yet, but you just know that's what it's real purpose is - Picture for an article, followed by a picture advertisement that looks like it could be an article...)
The Weather Box remembers your city after you change it. So does yahoo, but I like the format of the one on MSN better. That box on the MSN page needs to come above the fold. (Top right hand corner please - mind, I'm a Canadian, and we're a notoriously weather obsessed breed.) That box should also also look at the location your requesting and give an option for metric. Yahoo fails that test as well. Just because US measurments are still in the middle ages, good websites remember that the majority of the planet isn't.
The Stock Box remembers which stocks you're tracking, and reloads the quotes when you return to the page. One up on Yahoo there.
They should also remember which info boxes you have collapsed.
If they went with an AJAX code base, they'd be able to solve all the compatibility issues and still maintain good functionality.
The layout does need work. It fell apart in FF, but didn't work great in IE either. It turned into one big long column in IE, when I'm pretty sure they want two colums.
The "Green" highlight fields need to be a different color. Its not that the green is too obtrusive, it just clashes with the blue. Green is a good emotional color, so maybe just try a softer shade.
If I get time tonight I think I might start taking screen captures and tracking the progress of the new layout.
My guess is the new home page will be layed out as a part of the Vista timeline. Probably somewhat before vista comes out, and if MS is true to form, there will definitely be features that will simply not work with anything but IE7.
They have months yet to tweak it. What they have now is a good start.
( just as the page was opening for the first time I swear I saw another layout underneath ( while the first do you want to accept the cookie was loading )..with "make this your homepage" etc at top left ..like a 10th of a second meta refresh to page 2 redirect happened )
cant find it again ..