If you are a business person I am sure you would like to get a crack at running Yahoo!. Maybe you are a designer and what better feeling would it be than to get the opportunity to redesign all of Yahoo? In either case you would be in for a bumpy ride considering the size of the actual site. It is hard to tell how large the site is just by looking at the homepage, but you would have to imagine they have hundreds of independent sections now each with a different design. A couple of years ago I longed for the day that a global internet power like Yahoo would change their ways and put more behind their designs.
About a year ago they finally embraced the importance of design and branding and worked on improving some sections. For example, Yahoo! Finance received an excellent makeover giving the site a much cleaner feel than before. With this example you can see the problem is not whether Yahoo is aware of design or even capable of pulling it off, but that there is so much to design they now have an inconsistent site with various designs all around.
The perfect example can be seen on Yahoo! News Politics. Here you can see the basic news page which is not that bad, but then again can be greatly improved. In the same section you also have People of the Web and the Democratic Candidate Mashup, which in my opinion are lightyears ahead when it comes to design. Three pages and three different designs all under the same section. If you removed the Yahoo logo you would think that they were three different sites.
Now with a strong, recognizable brand like Yahoo! having such fragmented designs across your whole site is not that damaging, but for your business and site it can be fatal. This does not mean that every page should share the exact same design, but the branding across the site should remain consistent and the only case of finding that on Yahoo is the logo.
In today’s world where people get to know a company by their online presence more than anything it is vital to make sure all of the pieces fit in the same puzzle. Building a brand can be hard enough so try not to make it even harder for your audience by making each section a site by itself. A great example of this would be Apple where each section is unique, but each section has that Apple feel and branding behind it.