A Design Analysis of Yahoo Answers

I often use google.com to find the answer to a question that I have and, within the first webpage of my search, I see a link leading to Yahoo Answers. This link often reflects word for word the question that I had typed into google.com, and it is the first link that I visit. Yahoo Answers is built like a forum. The content is largely user generated and revolves around questions that the online community asks and answers. The questions posed may be casual, personal, or intellectual. There is also a ranking system as an incentive for Yahoo users to participate. Members with the highest points are viewed under the Leaderboard on the right column of the Yahoo Answers homepage.

I like the design of Yahoo Answers because the website layout is clean and easy to navigate. I don’t visit the Yahoo Answers homepage, which has a slightly different layout, so I will evaluate a page that I am directed to after clicking on a link resulting from a Google search. The header of the website contains the Yahoo Answers logo and a search bar with the option to “Search Answers” or “Search Web.” The body of the site is divided into three columns. On the left is a list of categories. The middle column contains the discussion to a question that had been asked in a specific category. The column on the right contains a box with the function to enter a question and submits it to the community. Below the “Ask a Question” box, there is a box showing links to a few related questions and a box showing links to answer related questions. I think that Yahoo Answers has an excellent visual hierarchy due to its minimalistic design. There are no extra elements on the webpage that distract from what the visitor is looking for.

The column containing the discussion is the largest of the three columns on the page, and the user’s eye is immediately drawn to the question posted by the discussion starter since it is displayed with the largest text. This is convenient for me because I only visit Yahoo Answers to quickly find an answer to a question that I have. I usually ignore the other functionalities of the page and the additional functionalities do not distract me from my task of reading the discussion.

A Yahoo Answers Page
A Yahoo Answers Page

Another part I enjoy about Yahoo Answers takes place outside of the actual website. If I type into Google, “why do squirrels bark,” a link on the first page leads to Yahoo Answers. Beneath this link are several other links related to the topic that are shown in a smaller text size. If I was in a hurry and had meant to type, “why do squirrels eat bark” I could click on one of the alternative links and be led to the answer. The alternative links also provide another way to explore the site and encourages discovery. Without the extra search results, I never would have known that squirrels do eat bark.

A Google Search Leading to Yahoo Answers
A Google Search Leading to Yahoo Answers

One thing that is not so great about Yahoo Answers is that it can be unreliable. Sometimes, I may visit a link to a question that has no answers. Other times, I may visit a link that has responses that don’t answer the question. Occasionally, an answerer demonstrates bad etiquette by posting a link to a source, expecting the discussion starter to visit it. By clicking on an external link, users are at risk for web viruses or may waste their time reading an article with irrelevant content. Yahoo Answers discourages unhelpful answers by allowing others to thumbs up or thumbs down a post; however, it does little to filter out misleading content. As a result, I lose a few seconds of my time visiting an empty discussion, which are valuable seconds I could have been using to search another webpage.

Another way that Yahoo Answers proves unreliable is that there is no way to verify if the users giving an answer is a professional in the field, or just answering based on past experience or personal opinion. If I were concerned about why my eye muscle is twitching, realself.com would be a more reliable source since doctors with a medical degree provide answers. The format on realself.com is similar to that of Yahoo Answers. Users post a question, and doctors answer it. There is a 5-star rating system and reviews can be written about the doctors. Trust is an important component in design and knowing that the answerers on the website are certified M.D. increases my trust in the answers on realself.com for health concerns compared to Yahoo Answers.

A webpage from realself.com
A webpage from realself.com

Yahoo Answers also does not allow picture previews, which can be inconvenient. For example, a user may photograph a bird she saw flying in her backyard and ask the Yahoo Answers community to tell her what species the bird is. She can click on the photo button in the “Ask a Question” box to upload a picture, but when she posts the question, the photo shows up as a hideously long link. To view the photograph, the answerer must highlight the link, open a new browser window, and paste the link into the window. Again, this demonstrates the possible exposure to inappropriate content.

I think that Yahoo Answers is inconsistent about giving a good user experience since it relies on answers given by the community. The website can be full of discussions with irrelevant or unreliable information. Despite its flaws, I still use Yahoo Answers frequently, and trust information provided in discussions on topics that are less important to me. I appreciate how I can learn and discover things with helpful members that are part of the Yahoo Answers community.

clockswitch

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