The Brand New Yahoo-ified Upcoming Has a Few Misfires

Well, that was, with hindsight, inevitable. Yahoo, who purchased Upcoming back in late 2005, have made a similar move to integrate the Web 2.0 tool more fully into the Yahoo stable. Small things to the large Sunnyvale based company, like changing the main url to Upcoming.Yahoo.com; requiring everyone to change their account to one that uses a Yahoo Login (becasue it makes it easier on their servers); tweaking the logo to a more 2.0 style; and introducing a cartoon logo man to announce stuff on the website.

Upcoming

Okay, in reverse order. The cartoon logo man looks like a top hat plonked on top of a strawberry mivvi ice lolly, and the sort of thing an aging executive thinks is hip and for the kdis. For FSM’s sake Upcoming’s current user base is going to be heavily skewed to the digerati of the modern internet, using it for conferences, bar camps and other high-value events. I’ve no idea who Yahoo’s primary audience is, or what there ages are (can anyone help?), but it appears that Upoming is going to be targeted towards the teenagers and college students in the USA.

The changing of the logo is an amazing piece of design. The graduated colours of the top banner have been replaced with a single block of colour, and the solid feeling yellow 3d writing of upcoming has been replaced with a single solid yello version of the logo. Flat, unexciting, and I have to say a step backwards. Logo’s are important, and the previous iteration made the site feel very professional. Now that the pallette has been radically simplified, and it’s been tilted at a ‘jaunty ten degree angle’ (our mid life crisis executive again?) I’m not so sure.

As a programmer I can understand Yahoo wanting to bring the login code under the same stable (ditto with the Flickr OldSkool switch) but then I’m not a programmer of Upcoming, I’m a user, and I really wonder why there is so much difficulty in having a little subroutine that says IF oldskool(ewanspence) THEN yahoo(ewanthreeclubs).

My over-riding thought of the new site is that there’s a lot of white space, and all teh lsits seem to be expanded out with the date, location, a seperation bar and tehre’s not as much info on the front page. One of the things I lkike in an application (be it on the web or on a mobile) is that I want to see as much information on one screen (no scrolling or more buttons) as possible. Glancing at my friends events was a great way to overview everything, with each event title on a single line. Now, it appears to have everything on show, date, lcoation, description and it’s just a lot less navigable for me. Where’s the UI toggle for ‘more/less’ info I wonder.

Upcoming was never a vital tool for myself, but it was useful. It will remain useful but my gut feeling on having a look around the new version is that I want the old layout back. Given that websites now divorce content from layout, could this not be the same in Upcoming and simialr net apps? The old format worked for me, the new one, like the logo, I’m not so sure.

There’s also the issue of the T-Shirts. In a move similar to Blogger, and in a nod to the backlash Flickr experienced, the team is giving the Old School users (ie those that have used Upcoming a lot, have promoted it, and helped it get bought by Yahoo) a free T-Shirt. How sweet. Unless of course you live outside of America or Canada, then they won’t send you one because postage costs too much. So there you have it – you now know how much Upcoming values their old school members. A 12 ounce package from Sunnyvale to New York on USPS is about $4 (Parcel Post). To the United Kingdom is about $10 (Global Priority Mail).

Nicole Simon raises this point, and also the internationalisation of the date and other issues – given she’s a big user of Upcoming her post, and the comments from the Upcoming team to them, make interesting reading.

Of course Yahoo has always had this bias to the US and Canada – for example their AdSence rival, the Publisher Network is not available to residents outside the US (Terms and Conditions: you are a US-based business and you are operating Your Site and/or Your RSS Feed solely for viewing and use by users within the US) – so is this the ‘Big Company’ ethos bubbling down to Upcoming?

So a final thought. If you only have the budget to reward half of your Old Skool users, and by doing that the other half feel undervalued, then maybe it’s an idea to find more budget or do something else.

One Response to “The Brand New Yahoo-ified Upcoming Has a Few Misfires”

  1. Andy Baio says:

    I’m sorry you don’t like the new changes. For what it’s worth, everything that you see on the site was designed and decided by the exact same small team that’s worked on Upcoming for the last three years. I did most of the graphic design, just as I designed the last version. I chose John Martz from Robotjohnny.com to design our new shirts, and liked the result so much that we threw it onto the page announcing the new site. He’s not a mascot; just a temporary addition for the announcement.

    As for the rest of the design, it’s always a work in progress. We know the first pass of the new design isn’t perfect, just as the last one wasn’t. We’ll keep making changes based on feedback like yours, but overall, people seem to have loved the changes based on the comments and blog posts I’ve read.

    I know it’s tempting to blame change on some larger corporate entity, but it’s just us. I guess the closest to a mid-life Yahoo! executive at Upcoming is me (I just turned 30 today!). Anyway, thanks for the useful feedback. Some good points in there.