That Rediff.com will sport a minimalist look much like its India Abroad website, which had gone minimalistic in January this year, was known; CEO Ajit Balakrishnan had mentioned that they’re keen to do so in the Q4 earnings call. Earlier this afternoon, we received an anonymous tip-off, suggesting that we track the Rediff.com homepage. Bit by bit, we saw sections of Rediff – Shopping, iShare etc, become minimalist. Yet, we missed the momentary switch to the minimalist design for the homepage that WATblog captured.

A screenshot of the new-look Rediff, now live:

rediff-homepageSome sections – Astrology, Matchmaker, Connexions and iLand (blogs) still retain their old look, but we won’t be surprised if they are eventually transitioned to the new design. Last month, we’d reported on the launch of the new, minimalist, Rediffmail.

Our Take

While on the homepage and browsing through the content on the site, you’ll notice one thing: despite the clean, user and mobile friendly, and relatively advertisement-free design, users now have to view more pages, and browse through more content to find what they’re looking for. That may mean more pageviews, and hence more impressions for the large 300×250 pixel advertisements that the new Rediff design sports, but it also means that the  discovery of content through browsing has become a lot more difficult than before.

Secondly, you’ll notice that on every page, the search bar is now more prominent and has more page-real-estate (in percentage terms) than before. The natural propensity for a user will now be to search for that content. So Rediff’s redesign may not just be about being minimalist and mobile friendly – it could be about giving an impetus to the search piece that we had written about last year, and perhaps making search the key element of the new Rediff.

An increase in search usage offers Rediff greater insight into user intent, as well as allowing them to deliver keyword related advertising to users. At the same time, as content discovery becomes more difficult, Rediff could also lose users to other portals. We think it’s a gamble – it’s one thing to launch a minimalist, iPhone friendly site for International users, but the Rediff homepage is its cash-cow; why risk that?

Update: As Salil rightly points out in the comments, the search functionality isn’t present in all the inside pages. I thought I noticed it there, though, but maybe not. In any case, we do think that now that this redesign has been launched, it would be a good idea for Rediff to better leverage their search capabilities across their content pages. It may not be about search right now, but why shouldn’t it be?

We’ll try and get inputs on the companys plans from its management tomorrow. In the meantime, do tell us what you think of Rediffs redesign, and also what you think of our take.

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Rediff’s Minimalist India Abroad Is Live; Social Bookmarking, Facebook, Orkut, Hi5 Updates