What is Yahoo! Food Cooking up for the Holidays?

With the holiday season right around the corner, Yahoo! has perfectly timed the launch of its newest service, Yahoo! Food.

Potentially a competitor for Bon Appétit, the Food Network, and CNET’s Chow.com, Yahoo! Food is intended to provide users with helpful tips from celebs like Rachel Ray, Wolfgang Puck, and Martha Stewart, not to mention features like Yahoo! Food Videos, food Q & A, and much more.

As I prepare to host my very first Thanksgiving dinner (don’t worry, my grandma is coming a few days early so no firefighters will have to pull themselves away from their own feast on my account), there are some things that I need a bit more information about. For instance, even though I am getting some professional assistance from my Gram, I am in charge of buying the turkey and some other popular ingredients beforehand. Having really no idea what to buy, I began my search through Yahoo! Food to see what sorts of information it can offer the amateur hostess.

From a usability standpoint, Yahoo! Food is lacking. In my profession, I am pretty aware of usability issues that can hinder users from finding what they need, or returning. Yahoo! Food, while offering a plethora of useful information, could stand a good re-organizing.

The main navigation at the top of the page is fairly consistent, and quite often, I was very unsure of how I even got to the page I was viewing. The overall structural hierarchy is unclear, thus making it difficult for users to return to an area where they found something useful. Moreover, because there is no virtual recipe box or recipe saving option, I found it frustrating as I reviewed the recipes – plus, I wasn’t even sure if I was seeing all of the available recipes.

I also think their search tool needs a little scolding. As a test I searched two terms – “foxy festivities” (a Yahoo! Food blog) and “holiday recipes” – a branded term and a popular search term. There were no results for “foxy festivities” in Yahoo! Food, however Google places the Yahoo! Food blog in the #1 position in its results. When I searched the term “holiday recipes” I again was told, “Sorry, no matches were found for ‘holiday recipes’.”

As far as business goes, I think that this is an interesting addition to Yahoo!’s roster of features and again, I couldn’t imagine a better release time. Food is in the air (or at least thoughts of it…) and Yahoo! is taking advantage of frantic hosts and hostesses (like myself) or veterans who are interested in trying out a new recipe for the holiday season. Additionally, I think that entering into the food and entertainment area expands its business to people who Yahoo! wouldn’t normally reach. The site’s Foxy Festivities blog also offers some fun entertaining tips for the holidays or any other time of year.

Overall, I think there is some work that needs to be done – first and foremost, a little organization could make the information more available to users, frantic hostesses and seasoned veterans, alike.