Standing still is never an option, especially in the cutthroat world of business. Innovation is the inarguable key to survival.

So, it is with this grand spirit that I'd imagine the creative team over at Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) was working as it freshened up the website, implementing things such as new tabs and content controls; you can read about a few of the expected changes here. (Also check out a recent article by the Fool's Alyce Lomax for her thoughts on the potential portal initiatives of Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) AOL division.) While a reformatting of the visual/utilitarian aspects of a portal's interface might appear to be superficial in nature, it is actually a crucial process.

The more things change, the more consumers stay interested. Viacom's (NYSE:VIA) MTV cable channel certainly knows this; that operation isn't afraid to ditch stale shows and structures in favor of new concepts and ideas. Retailers know it as well; chains such as Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT) constantly shift displays and stock end-caps with different items. The inventory selection may not differ significantly in the short term, but novel positioning tends to engage shoppers more than one might think. It's like the background music we hear while shopping -- there's a whole scientific discipline devoted to music's ability to modify purchasing behavior.

If sites such as Yahoo! can change their spots quicker and with a higher frequency, they will be able to capture a higher number of eyeballs. It's almost Darwinian, except in a converse sense: Instead of blending into the background like a color-shifting lizard, the point of the exercise is to stand out and be seen.

More complex initiatives designed to better target the consumer can never be replaced. There is always a need for such programs as the recent Burger King/AOL music download campaign. Still, a facelift every now and then can reap good things. It's like PepsiCo's (NYSE:PEP) new packaging for its line of Wow! snacks; they're now known as Light. Same Olean fat-free product, different skin; it can make all the difference.

More on AOL and Yahoo!:

David Gardner recommended Time Warner for Motley Fool Stock Advisor subscribers. Want to see which other companies he's highlighted? Check it out for six months without risk.

Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned.