Yahoo is giving users a first look at what it calls the most significant redesign yet of its home page, featuring a more prominent place for the search box and a more dynamic user interface through extensive use of Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and DHTML (Dynamic Hypertext Markup Language), the company said yesterday.

Visitors to will find a link there to the preview of the home page, whose search engine interface has been positioned at the top, sharing top billing now with the Yahoo logo. "Search is the primary navigation tool on the web these days," said Ash Patel, Yahoo's chief product officer.

The buttons for Yahoo services such as email and IM (instant messaging), which previously sat above the search interface, have been moved below it. However, in the new page, users are able to preview email messages, see IM contacts who are online and check local weather and traffic information, among other things.

"It's a lot more personalised and built around users' daily routine," Patel said. "Our aim is to engage the user more with Yahoo."

A new section, Yahoo Pulse, aims to inform visitors of what is garnering the most attention on the web, based on the usage patterns of Yahoo's search engine and other services.

Gartner analyst Mike McGuire says the new home page has a cleaner layout and shows very effective use of Ajax, which speeds up the response of web interfaces, making them resemble desktop applications.

"It's critical these days to constantly enhance your home page to keep that first exposure to consumers fresh, interesting and useful," McGuire said.

For a company such as Yahoo, which has a wide variety of sites and online services, the home page plays a key role in getting visitors to come back and increase their use of the overall Yahoo network, McGuire said.

Yahoo, whose business is based on attracting users to its websites and selling advertising, faces tough competition for users and advertisers from companies such as Google, Microsoft and Time Warner.

Yahoo's network remained the most visited in the US in April, with about 128 million unique visitors, followed closely by Microsoft and its MSN unit's 120 million, Time Warner and its AOL subsidiary's 119 million and Google's 108 million, according to comScore Networks.

The page, which also lets users choose from among several colour patterns, can be accessed directly here.