Last night Microsoft launched a new look and feel for msn.com to a limited number of consumers. The new design will roll out to the mainstream in January.
Forrester got a sneak peak of the new-and-improved interface in October.
Here is my take on the redesign. It:
Limits clutter. Perhaps the best thing about the new msn.com is that it is simply cleaner. MS says it has 50% fewer links than the old msn.com. As part of the clean up, MS removed the left hand navigation and turned the top nav links into five customizable tabs.
Integrates personal social experiences. The idea of the new msn.com is to make it a "personal portal" where people can come to "infosnack" on their preferred news, communications and community fix. I like the facebook and hotmail integration shown here, but I think all portals are facing a strategy challenge as consumer media behavior changes. That is, consumers no longer *want* to come to a single source for news, communications and community. We, in fact, want these syndicated to us across the multiple sites and devices we use. So while I think integration of new types of content is imperative for MSN.com, I don't think it completes users' overall quest to have their online needs met.
Will increase content distribution relationships. To the above point, This means, MSN should increase the network of content providers, sites and devices it shares content with. We hope MSN's rev after this one shares MSN proprietary content more universally across devices and sites (yes, esp iPhones and iTunes) and allows consumers to add in feeds for digital formats of books, video, music, or games into their customized msn.com.