The product team at Yahoo Finance had a hard time sleeping for the whole week leading up to the big redesign in July.
It’s not because they weren’t confident, says Michael La Guardia, the head of product for both Yahoo Finance and Sports, but because of the drastic changes he was about to bring to one of Yahoo’s most popular products ever.
“We knew what we were doing was the right thing,” La Guardia told Business Insider. “But anytime you change anything, particularly a product that’s much loved and much used, you’re going to find people flustered by it.”
Since the July roll out of a completely revamped design, Yahoo Finance has received huge backlash from its users, estimated to be 75 million uniques a month, according to comScore. Its user forum is rampant with profanity-filled posts criticising the changes, and even some prominent investors who used Yahoo Finance say they’re ready to ditch the product.
As with Sports, Yahoo has now so radically changed the UI in Finance, that it creates a great time to consider alternatives – what’s best?
— Bill Gurley (@bgurley) August 24, 2016
But La Guardia says the change was necessary to improve the overall product. And despite all the vocal critics, he says the reception has been both positive and negative. The actual performance and engagement metrics have improved, too, La Guardia argues.
“We refer to it as ‘You moved my cheese phenomenon,'” La Guardia says. “I absolutely think we have a better product now.”
La Guardia’s team spent nearly 18 months conducting various user group studies to learn what the users liked the most and what parts of the product needed improvements. Even last week, he had dozens of users test new features, he says.
Some of the changes, like the continuous stream of articles, were made because it’s become a trend led by Facebook and Twitter, La Guardia says. The native ads that now show up in the news stream is intended to maximise value for Yahoo’s premium partners. The wider chart and video section? Those are supposed to present a consistent and fresh look across all of Yahoo’s products, including Yahoo Sports, he says.
And despite all the complaints around Yahoo Finance’s lagging speed after the redesign, La Guardia says that’s just a matter of a “perception.”
“The interesting thing about performance is that a lot of it comes down to perception,” La Guardia said. “The actual speed, the actual numbers on this are faster than our previous numbers.”
Although LaGuardia declined to give any meaningful numbers around the performance, he pointed out traffic has continued to go “up and to the right” since the redesign.
Just last week, its daily active users were up 5% from its 52-week average, and earlier this month, it even had the highest traffic day of the last 6 months — an impressive feat given the market has been relatively quite over the past couple months and finance sites typically don’t see as many traffic spikes during the summer.
Still, La Guardia’s the first to admit that it was a high-pressure situation because Yahoo Finance hadn’t changed in nearly 7 years and it had such a huge and loyal following.
“It took a bit of an intestinal fortitude to go and take such an iconic product and say ‘We’re going to try to do it better,'” he said. “Product management for large consumer products is not for the faint of heart.”
“Deserve to have users leave”
On the day of the new release, La Guardia sent out a personal email to 7 million Yahoo Finance users. It was intended to receive feedback from some of its most loyal users, but also part of La Guardia’s effort to directly engage with people, he says.
“I can’t make people’s complaints go away, other than a day-in-day-out commitment to making the best product experience that we can possibly make,” he says. “In trying to do that, we knew we were going to piss some people off.”
That doesn’t mean all the negative comments have gone unnoticed. La Guardia says he pays more attention to the criticisms so that he can learn from them. So far, he’s addressed nearly 100 user complaints on the product, and in August, he even wrote a blog post detailing the types of new changes he’s brought.
“My boss, Simon Khalaf, likes to say, ‘The opposite of hate is not love, it’s apathy.’ And what we’re seeing is not apathy here — we’re seeing that people really care about this product,” La Guardia says.
The redesign touched upon all aspects of the site, including the backend of the product. That means it’s now able to bring more innovation and new features that were previously impossible on the old site. He declined to share what exactly is in the pipeline, but said it will unlock “all kinds of innovations in finance.”
People who don’t like the new Yahoo Finance can still access the old version by going through international sites, like Yahoo Canada’s finance page, as the update was made only in the US. La Guardia says he has no control over people’s choices, but he’ll continue to work hard to make them happy.
“I’m not trying to say good riddance. People should only be using Yahoo Finance if I’m actually delivering value to them. If I’m not, I deserve to have them leave. That doesn’t mean I’m going to give up. I’m gonna keep trying to earn back their trust,” he says.