It seems the Netvibes team has been busy. This week it announced support for greater customization for users and an expansion of its widget technology. For those of you that don’t know or don’t use Netvibes, it is a personalized homepage where you can follow your news, email accounts, blogs, social networks, etc. It is what Yahoo provides: a start destination, with even greater flexibility and personalization (ala iGoogle, Pageflakes, MyYahoo!, GlobalGrind, MyAOL, and MyMSN ). With these new offerings, Netvibes has further proved its focus on enabling personalization and facilitating consumption.
Earlier this year, I converted from Google’s iGoogle homepage to use Netvibes. I have been very happy with the switch. With Netvibes, I found myself reading more of the content I love. With its ability to present text, video and images through simple feeds, I can consume the content I like more easily and in a more enjoyable manner.
Now Netvibes is adding even more customization with its layouts. There is a great number to choose from and the process is extremely simple (once you find it). The silent video below demonstrates the easy way to customize each tab to one’s delight:
The rollout of this feature has been fairly good as well, with messaging at the top of one’s homepage (see image below). The only issue I had was in discovering how to access the feature. Without viewing the video it was not immediately obvious to select the arrow to the right of the active tab. Clearer messaging around this on the “learn more” page or directly on the screen would have been perfect.
So, What Else is New?
Another big enhancement to the Netvibes experience is the extension of the presentation formats allowed for individual widgets. Through what the company dubbed in its blog “Really Sexy Syndication,” users are now able to edit any widget to display text, photo and video in four different ways: ticker (scrolling headlines), carousel (gallery), magazine (front story plus gallery) and normal (multi-feed, multi-tab). See another silent video below:
How Does Netvibes Stack Up?
In my opinion, Netvibes is raising the bar for the other personalized homepage offerings out there. Both Google and Yahoo have implemented these layout capabilities in the past, and for me Yahoo does a great job in making it obvious how to access this setting. However, from a holistic stand point, Netvibes gets the experience right. With Yahoo, it can often feel that you are getting a canned experience, and with Google it can often feel clunky to find content and manage the various areas that you have — it doesn’t feel enjoyable. Google started off on the right track by keeping things simple, but I think lost focus and started working on the wrong issues (case in point for me was the plus link to expand items in place and the expanded tabs on the left – see image below).
With both Yahoo and Google the experience induces the sense that you’ll need to learn a lot to get the hang of this RSS thing, when it’s really very simple. I’m not familiar with many of the other providers in this space, barring Pageflakes, which I used once and never used again due to abysmal performance. Netvibes’ “Get Started” wizard makes RSS simple from the very beginning. Overall, the real win is how it presents its widgets and, with its expanded support architecture in this area, I’m positive we’ll see more options and creativity to come.