LinkedIn’s new UI proves it doesn’t know its value to users by@swami.rohan

LinkedIn’s new UI proves it doesn’t know its value to users

Rohan Swami HackerNoon profile picture

Rohan Swami

Product Manager

I was well on my way to writing a post about conversion funnels until I saw LinkedIn’s new UI. Opening up LinkedIn gives my mind a good 30 second break. It’s perfect because I get distracted for a little while, but don’t get tempted by too much content like videos on Facebook. Once in a while, I send messages. In short, it’s value to me is that it doesn’t have too much value.

Anyway, I was welcomed to the site with a whole new UI, which has subsequently been heavily criticised. The surface level problems are clear:

  • The radical change is jarring to users. Heavily breaking a user’s existing use patterns frustrates them as they ‘re-learn’. This is fine for websites with infrequent users such as e-commerce stores where most users are seeing the UI for the first time, but not for regularly used sites like LinkedIn. 
    Facebook does a fantastic job of gradual, incremental changes. Trending topics, for example, has been gently introduced in the top right, but expect it to take prominence in your News Feed eventually.
  • Page load times are way too slow. Users have nothing to look at other than a load screen when they first reach the site. Convention is now to have assets gradually appearing so that the user’s brain has something to process until the desired content arrives. 
    Like bread when you first arrive at a restaurant.

Users will eventually get used to the new UI, and the engineering team can fix load times. But I’m frustrated because this UI is a clear sign that LinkedIn is taking a backwards step in delivering value to its users.

Moving network activity to notifications

Anniversaries used to be a feed on the top right, a user would need to click ‘Skip’ to see more.

Most LinkedIn users have 500+ connections, meaning that users logging in once a day will have 1.5 to 2 notifications waiting for them on average. Previously, notifications were limited to views on one’s profile which usually come up once a week.

The key takeaway here is that LinkedIn lowered the value of a notification. The convention for a notification is to notify you of something that involves you. But LinkedIn has put a big red number at the top of my screen, just to tell me that time has passed.

Worse still, this now has equal value as other notifications. Someone sharing their opinion on a post that I wrote or tagging me in a post containing useful information is now given equal visual attention as a distant member of my network reaching 2 years of employment at a company I haven’t heard of.

It’s a slippery slope for a product when they are trying to grab your attention to show you nothing. Sure, sending a notification will result in more people viewing, congratulating or liking others’ work anniversaries. That’s great for engagement metrics. But every single time you ask for a user’s attention and don’t compensate them with value, you’re decreasing the likelihood of them giving you attention next time.

Forcing you on to profile pages

Previously, hovering your mouse over a linked profile in your feed would show a larger photo of the user and their current role, this information is now gone.

This feels like a hack to force me on to profile pages. Knowing someone’s current role adds context to activity on my news feed, now I need to go to a profile page to get that context.

It’s another attempt from LinkedIn to drive engagement. We spend more time on profile pages, which creates views and in turn notifications for them, fuelling this cycle of meaningless engagement, entirely devoid of value to anyone. Without creating value for a user, engagement is merely a vanity metric. In spotting parlance, we simply refer to this as ‘stat padding’.

Where is the value in LinkedIn?

I’ve been critical of LinkedIn thus far, but I really do believe it has the foundations for a lasting business.

LinkedIn has managed to bring the resumes of the entire global workforce online and made accessible to everyone, it’s potential is immense as a recruitment tool. On the recruiter side, LinkedIn can capitalise on that by continuing to incentivise businesses to post job ads and recruiters to use it to connect with candidates.

For the user, LinkedIn has become a useless feed of motivational posts and memes. It’s not too late to bring content to users in the way Snapchat has. Because the user’s resume is online, LinkedIn knows far more about them than Snapchat knows about its’ users. I still have hopes that my LinkedIn feed will be full of informative content from credible publications and my network’s opinions on them.

Deep insights and engagement with an affluent user base is an opportunity that LinkedIn can’t squander if wants to last.


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