MSN updates : New MSN Homepage?, MSN Health & Fitness team up with HealthVault, and MSN Lifestyle gets a facelift

So lately, there’s been a new MSN.com homepage showing up. Thanks Albert!

                                                                 

First thing of notice, is that MSN is getting yet another new homepage makeover. This time, it’s adding a "sidebar"-like feature, and a slightly different layout. So here’s the dish on the sidebar and minor changes :

                        

1. Communication tabs – Now it’s easier to see a preview of your inbox, start an IM, and make a Space, all from one tabbed box.

However, the ability to preview inbox messages already existed on current MSN.com (no new features like deleting right on the spot or preview of first few lines, AND missing Inbox and Calendar links), the Messenger tab doesn’t do a browser version of Messenger or show who’s online (just a link to launch Live Messenger), and the Space button doesn’t show latest updates on your friends’ Spaces (just a link to make a Space). So it’s just plain useless, if you ask me. Doesn’t show updates on your friends’ Spaces, Messenger doesn’t show who’s online or chat within a browser, and inbox preview is just the same, but smaller and no ability to delete right on the spot or preview a few lines. Useless! Is this anything other than product advertising on a site? Nothing special here.

                                                                       

2. Video Highlights – An MSN video player set for the day’s video, along with links to other special video highlights under it.

I guess if you’re interested in video junk on YouTube, then MSN Video highlights should be no different. I only liked the "Scare Tactics" video. It was actually funny and entertaining, than the usual junk people claim as ‘funny’. Too bad you can’t play the video headlines under the video player, right on the video player. It just switches to an MSN Entertainment video page.

         

3. Custom MSN Content – Another tabbed box that includes local news headlines, stock quotes, and daily horoscope

In this tabbed box, you can actually interact and customize a bit. For local news, you can type your city or zip code, and headlines from MSNBC or the closest NBC affiliate station. For stocks, you can type a company’s stock symbol, and get the latest stock value, and the change. Funny thing is, is that the Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P quotes are in a pane at the left of the sidebar, so it’s kinda redundant to have two different areas for stock quotes. Though the other one doesn’t allow you to add stock quotes. For horoscopes, you just select what sign you are, and you get the day’s horoscope. That easy. Not much to complain about there.

                              NEW AND OLD

4. Weather at the very top-right of page – I guess weather must be so important these days, that it’s at the very top-right of the  MSN page. Nothing big, just the 3-day weather forecast for your city, or a few other cities you add. You can toggle the Celsius or Fahrenheit scale. What’s funny, is that this is another change where it’s worse than what it was before. On the current MSN page, you can see the weather of multiple cities all on pane, and get a 4-day forecast, not 3-day. Strange how this is an improvement over the old.

5. More MSN junk at the bottom – I mean content/"services", not junk. There’s a big section filled with all the other MSN junk, that aren’t main ones.

Overall, I’m NOT satisfied with the new MSN page. Instead of more junk, and more ads, how about less clutter? A new sleek look that’s 2008 and beyond? Important news I could actually care about at the very top, in a better preview box, than the outdated one that sits right under the pane listing tons of MSN content sites? Daily interactive stuff, like a poll? Who knows. But I’m no Yahoo! fan, but Yahoo.com is a lot of better looking model for a content portal, than MSN.com is. MSN has to do better than this.

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I took a look at the MSN Health & Fitness Site, and noticed this thing called My Wellness Center (Beta). It’s a health fitness tracker.

                                       

If you look at the bottom of it, there’s a Microsoft HealthVault label. About time. I was wondering how long it would take for MSN Health to offer some online health tracker thing.

To use HealthVault, you have to unfortunately get a "stronger" password for your Live ID. Which means a password with a combination of alphabetic characters, numeral characters, and a symbol (like : & ) all in one password that has to be 7-16 characters. I don’t like this. My original password was 6 characters long, and very easy to remember. Nobody has ever hacked into my account, and won’t. I guess Microsoft really is pushing the bar on it’s security, in a way I’m not sure it’s better.

I also had an issue with my age. It seems you have to 18 and over to do this. Is there anything wrong with being a teenager’s age? It’s not like there’s explicit content on the site, right? And MSN should encourage youths to use an online health tracker. Not discourage. I made up a different age, just to take a look at it. I’m actually quite fit by the way. I even have some real abs. I might share my secret someday. So online health trackers are really useless to me. If you know what you’re doing.

So here’s my weight maintainer :

                                                                      

My current exercise plan :

                                                                          

And a bunch of other stuff. The main thing is that you can plan your daily food consumption, and  daily exercise results. I’m not sure what it lacks, since I’m not used to this stuff.

I wish there were more food options that could also take into account commercial food products (Oreos, Pringles, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Maruchan ramen noodles, etc.) as well as nutrition info. from fast food places (like McDonald’s or Wendy’s) and calculate all the percentages into on easy to read package. Like "If you eat only these foods today, you’ll get only 10% of your daily needs for potassium". That kind of stuff. Get a database of the nutrition information all the commercial food products, and fast food joints as possible, and make it easy to calculate the day’s need.

Or an option to restrict what you eat every day, based on a specific diet.

Or include how many calories you burn a day for normal run-of-the-mill things (walking, reading a book, all that stuff) that you can add.

The site is still rough in my opinion, and could use some more features.

====================================================

MSN Lifestyle gets a facelift. Check out the Lifestyle team’s post on what’s new. 

                                               

Now the site isn’t too gender and age specific. MSN Lifestyle used to be divided up for women, men, and boomers (seniors). Most coverage was done for women (no surprise). Now it’s just simply divided up into your Looks, Home, and Life. I looked over the site, and there isn’t much content for men anymore. It seems to be almost all feminized. And the articles still look like they’re geared towards young adults to middle aged folks. Not much content for teens or children.

It’s still basically a site that has pulled article content from providers (Good Housekeeping, Esquire, Pop Mech, etc.) all into one site. Whether that’s good or not, I don’t know. I never seen any original articles from an MSN editor. The site still has ugly parts :

                                                             

Whoever came up with the gray/indigo/blue/black theme ought to be laughed at. It’s really ugly. A "lifestyle" site, and these colors don’t seem to go together in my opinion. Tabbed boxes are for the better, but just headlines? Talk about bland.

Photo slideshows are still crud, since they’re more like page-reload slideshows. At least the ugly big gray box is gone. The site’s fonts are still very dull, the layout and everything. And there’s something called "Lifestyle Favorites" where you can add an article you like on the site, to a special favorites box on the site. However, you can have only 7.  I actually liked the old MSN Lifestyle better. I haven’t seen much good improvement, and this still fails to me. You can’t even search yet, for pete’s sakes.

Sorry for the mega long post, but I thought 3 MSN updates, all in one post was better.

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7 thoughts on “MSN updates : New MSN Homepage?, MSN Health & Fitness team up with HealthVault, and MSN Lifestyle gets a facelift

  1. Very interesting and informative post you have here!  Personally, I choose to use my.live.com as it brings yet even more customization to your site as you can incorporate personal widgets and such directly onto your site as well as keep better tabs on your friend\’s "Spaces" and such as well as being able to delete mail directly from there! 
     
    Some fantastic views you shared with us here!
     
    Have a wonderful and blessed week my friend!
     
    Greg

  2. That health tracker thing is a fantastic idea. What a great way to promote HealthVault! The new design looks great as well. Now if only Live Wave 3 would be completed…

  3. I agree that the health tracker is a pretty good idea, and your concerns about accessibility issues for younger users are valid. Perhaps MSN figures parents should retain control over their children\’s health issues; somehow, I don\’t see that happening much in realtime. The TV and video games appear to be childcare providers now and McD\’s and BK are the first choice for a quick meal. It would be an interesting experiment to offer attractive, savvy health information for young users; it could be empowering as well as entertaining.
     
    Your features about the tweaks in MSN pages only reinforces many of my reasons for avoiding them altogether: they\’re ungraceful, cluttered and clunky, and frequently contain content which, in my opinion (take it or leave it), is superfluous.
     
    It would be interesting if MSN would beta a page which a user could design ENTIRELY as they wish from categories with cross-linked information, gadgets, etc. My guess is that MSN might possibly–just possibly–learn something from their beleaguered users.
     
    Thanks for the wealth of information, Michael; you continue to impress me with your diligence!
     
    Note to MSN: "Are you listening?"
     
    As ever,
     
    Marge
     
     

  4. Thanks for the comments everybody. It feels wonderful having regular readers.
     
    @Politically Incorrect : I explore almost all of Windows Live and MSN that I can. Even the boring parts of MSN.
    @marge : Thanks for your thoughts. I\’ve always said MSN needs some major rework to be something other than that "instant messenger" that people used to use, or mistakenly call Live Messenger. I\’ll make a post on that soon.

  5. The new weather module really sucks.  I keep getting new cities and cannot delete them.  All I\’m interested in is the city I live in and msn keeps adding more cities.  They have given me 4 different instructions to delete the cities and none of them work.  Is this typical?

  6. Marsha,
    I am having the same problem.  I have a city coming up on my MSN home page that I can\’t delete.  When I add a city it says I have 2 cities but I can\’t see the first one(the one I don\’t want) and I can\’t delete it.  When I delete the city I added, it goes back to showing I have no cities.  Must be some kind of bug.

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