With much fanfare, AOL has released its new free portal and “MyAOL” service. Granted, it feels like a flasback to 1998 when everyone and their dog were releasing portals. Obviously, it seems that AOL is still coding like its 1999.
Granted its a Beta release, but it appears that AOL (Disclosure: I used to work at AOL) still has some work to do before the portal can be considered completed.
Example, please…you ask. Well, I first loaded up AOL in my favorite Firefox browser. And being that my Firefox has the text set a bit on the small side, the AOL page rendered as it appears on the right hand side here (click through for a larger image). As you can see, the page looks like it has some serious design challenges, with images partially covered, navigation tabs partially covered, ads that are wider than the column they are sitting in, text extending outside of its section, icons that are misaligned.
It gets even worse with Internet Explorer. When AOL’s homepage is rendered in IE, if the text size is set to “smaller”, the two main columns of the page sit on top of each other making the page twice the intended length and nearly imossible to comprehend.
Now to be fair, when you go to most sites (for example, go to Yahoo and increase the browser text size) and adjust the text size larger or smaller, the interface does adjust (expand and contract) with the text size. However, in many cases, the layout of the site follows with the adjustment of the text and keeps the basic integrety of the “normal text” interface. And with well coded CSS driven sites, the text size is pretty much fixed and controlled by the style sheet. Howver, I’ve seen few sites as high profile as AOL degrade so quickly after a single text size adjustment higher or lower within the browser settings.
Has AOL still not figured out that they need to look beyond their “walled garden” when it comes to developing online products? I am rooting for them. I think they have a lot of great products that are overshadowed by the perception that AOL is “internet on training wheels”. I’m looking forward to the Alpha release of this portal!