Marissa Mayer: Yahoo! is riding the mobile wave to reinvention [DF13]

Marissa Mayer DF

When Marissa Mayer first walked into Yahoo!, she sat in the cafeteria, meeting the employees and trying to source out the company. According to the CEO, her “aha!” moment came when a mobile engineer came to chat to her.

Since taking up the troubled mantle of Yahoo!’s head honcho, Mayer has made it clear that mobile is the way to go. Taking the stage at Dreamforce,’s mega conference, Mayer said that at Yahoo!’s core it is a company that builds for the mobile users.

Yahoo! is a mobile first company

She thinks of the company as mobile first and reckons that Yahoo! needs to capitalise on the mobile trend. “Mobile is a wave large enough to ride to reinvention,” she says.

Mayer argues that Yahoo! is getting back to its core but now on mobile. The key for the company now is reinvention. “The scary part about reinvention is that is happens best with platform shift,” she says. “With Yahoo! we really want to ride the platform shift to mobile.”

Yahoo!’s mobile team went from 30-60 people to 400 people and the company has nearly 400-million monthly users.

The way the company is doing this is by looking back at what it does — its core offerings. “When you look at our services it correlates to what people do on their phones: check mail, the weather and the stocks, search and maps,” she said.

Clearly Yahoo! is hoping to win with this mobile thing — it’s big you know. The company has shown this with the redesign of almost all its core offering, making them more mobile friendly and visually appealing.

Useful vs usable

Mayer believes that it is important to have the right kind of product and not designing for the expert user is key to having a good product.

“You should build a product that is really fast to learn so that the user can become an expert user really quickly,” she says. “You have to use your product to understand what the users need and what their frustrations are.”

According to Mayer, if your product begins for the expert user, you trade off simplicity for sophistication. She reckons it’s better to design for the common use case, that way it’s easier for users to connect with your product.

She does warn that an over focus on design can be also dangerous. Though a product might be useable, it also has to be be useful. “You need to have a core value proposition. You need to have something users want to use everyday, like Yahoo!’s digital daily habits.”

She reckons it is better to build a useful product and have design be a part of the process rather than leading with design.

It’s all about the people

The CEO says that her job is to let the people at Yahoo! do their jobs and innovate. Her leadership is about defence. “As an executive your job is to play defence. Clear the way for the doers,” says Mayer.

Her job has mostly included getting the employees to help run the company, like writing the slides for the board meeting and making transfers between departments easier.

“The employees know what’s wrong with company and how to fix it and I make it possible for them to do that.” All the employees want is for someone to tell them to fix the problems that they know are there and know how to fix, she says.

Mayer thinks it’s better to be transparent with the employees, by keeping them in the loop of what is going on at a board level.



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