In my experience, LinkedIn's updates tend to be a double-edged sword - they improve some aspects, while making others worse, concurrently. This happened most recently with Groups - Groups on LinkedIn have long been a problem, over-loaded with spammy comments and irrelevant updates. LinkedIn sought to fix this, updating the terms and filtering options, but in the process, they also removed various control options for Group admins, upsetting some moderators. On balance, LinkedIn's updates are more good than bad, so you'd have to consider them progress in a wider sense, but generally, this is how I view LinkedIn updates - they look all good, but they're likely impacting some other element, and upsetting some user groups as a result.
This week, LinkedIn's unveiled its re-vamped flagship app, re-imagining the LinkedIn mobile experience and presenting your LinkedIn content in a new, Facebook-like format that'll likely hold much appeal to many users. But of course, there are some negatives to the re-design.
Here's how it works:
LinkedIn's new mobile app is an entire re-build, which, according to LinkedIn has:
"...taken everything you love and more to develop a mobile experience that is more intuitive, smarter and dramatically simplifies your LinkedIn experience. We know time is scarce, so we made it as easy as possible for you to connect to your professional network and stay informed about the conversations and content most relevant to you."
As you can see from the main image, the new app has a tool bar at the bottom of the screen that separates your LinkedIn experience into five core areas.
Each element within this set has been upgraded:
- Home is your main feed and remains similar to what you see in the current version of the app - a listing of all the updates from the people you follow in your network. LinkedIn notes that "for the first time, as part of a lightweight onboarding process, we're going to ask you what content you're interested in, and over time you can also unfollow things that are less valuable to you." So, similar to Facebook, LinkedIn is working to align the content your shown more to your individual preferences, based on feedback and actions.
- Me, according to LinkedIn, 'represents your professional brand'. The 'Me' tab gives you stats on views on your profile and updates, as well as notes on people who've interacted with or mentioned you in their posts. You can also update your details using, LinkedIn says, 'the most intuitive way of updating your profile that we have ever had.'
- Messaging, as you'd expect, is your LinkedIn inbox, which is now more aligned to the recently re-formatted LinkedIn e-mail system, focusing on a more message-based approach, with threaded comment trails and the ability to add in emoji. Whether emoji is relevant to LinkedIn, I don't know, but the option's there either way.
- My Network co-ordinates the updates from your connections, enabling you to stay on top of the latest job movements, posts and announcements. This is also where you'll find the 'People you may know' listing in the new app. Users also have the option to synch their calendar in order to get relevant updates via the app - for example, if you've got a meeting coming up and the attendees are listed, LinkedIn will prompt you to look at the profile of the person you're meeting with, highlighting details on what shared connections or shared interests you have, all listed via the My Network tab.
- And Search is the last element. LinkedIn says the new search functionality is "300% faster, and a lot smarter", enabling you to quickly and easily find info via the app. This is important - as noted in the previous point, where LinkedIn's app could come into its own is in its ability to provide you with quick, relevant updates on the fly when attending meetings or meeting new people. The new search field updates possible matches as you type, so results appear before you've completed your query, streamlining the process
The new app looks great, and the presentation, as noted, is more in-line with Facebook, which is not such a bad move - Facebook's the most widely used social app, therefore more people are familiar with how it works than any other format. But still, there's something not quite right about the new LinkedIn app. While I can't find anything they've taken away, as such, there are some downsides to take note of.
First off, the app is a little slow. This may be my mobile - I'm running an older, but not ancient, iOS device - but I found the responsiveness to be not-so-great. When switching between tabs, the system took a moment to load, for example, and the Search tool took a second to come up, but once it had loaded it was generally pretty responsive. It's possible that this is not an issue with later model devices, so it may not be an problem of any significance, but worth noting either way.
The other issue, which is really a wider LinkedIn issue in general, is noise. As noted by Jon Russell on TechCrunch, the new app had the opportunity to re-define the user experience and become an essential part of the networking and business process by providing more relevant, focused data and insights, which it hasn't really done.
"While [the new app]'s a step forward in terms of design, I can't help but think that LinkedIn is missing a trick on the utility side. It could add more context or meaning and become a very useful app for the business community."
I agree with this, especially considering the intuitive and intelligent algorithms being utilized by Facebook and the efforts that platform has gone to to build a more relevant and engaging user experience. Even if LinkedIn were to only use such filtering via the app, the opportunity's there for them to create a truly engaging, important tool that aligns more specifically to each users' individual preferences and behaviors, and highlights the most relevant info as a result. Of course, LinkedIn could still do this - they do note in the announcement that they're working to refine their content streams based on user feedback, but it seems like they're a step behind on this, and that such efforts could be significantly more valuable in the context of LinkedIn's professional network focus.
But really, this is more an observation that a criticism - the app itself seems pretty good, it's relatively functional and is certainly easier to navigate than the previous version. But when you consider that despite the massive increase in app use, consumers, on average, are only ever using five apps at a significant rate, there's a real need to differentiate your offering in order to break into that vaunted group, to integrate your app into people's daily routine and make it an essential part of their process. It feels like LinkedIn should be well-positioned to do just that, but maybe they've fallen a little short with this one. The experience will obviously differ from person to person, but it seems like it's a good move in the right direction, though ont that could be much more.
LinkedIn's new app is available now via download or upgrade.