MSN UK homepage to integrate Facebook and Twitter
Microsoft is to unveil a new-look MSN UK homepage later today that includes tie-ups with Facebook and Twitter and a new high-profile slot for its online TV service.
A key element of the refresh, the first major overhaul since September 2007, is to simplify the design to reduce download time, which is considered a key factor in keeping users engaged for longer.
"The new homepage is much lighter, much whiter, much shorter [in overall length], much smaller," said Peter Bale, executive producer of MSN UK at Microsoft.
MSN UK's new-look website, which is scheduled to go live from 8.30pm today, will also include social media integration with Facebook, Twitter and Windows Live. The website will also offer more news and larger images.
Users will be able to access and update their social media accounts directly from the MSN homepage - although not if they are members of the second largest network, News Corporation-owned MySpace.
"It is acknowledgment there are other services out there that people's lives also revolve around and it is important to making the MSN homepage indispensible," said Bale.
Microsoft has also given video-on-demand service MSN Video Player, which has 1,000 hours of shows including Peep Show, Shameless and Midsomer Murders, a high-profile slot.
Previously the service, which officially launched in March, was positioned below the "fold" in the lower half of the homepage; it is now near the top.
"We are meeting targets for streams, we are pretty happy about [MSN Video Player] at the moment," said Bale. "One of the difficulties was making it prominent enough for users. It is a very valuable product. We see video as front and centre of our revenue ambitions in the coming year."
A huge amount of web traffic to the MSN UK homepage comes from when users log off from Microsoft-owned email service Hotmail. As such the new redesign features a much more prominent Hotmail service.
"There will be a much cleaner, crisper look and feel," said Chris Maples, the commercial director for Microsoft UK. "This will create greater engagement for users and for advertisers. It feels a bit more nimble, adds some verve."
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