Is LinkedIn’s Mobile App Redesign Too Little, Too Late?

2 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Is LinkedIn’s Mobile App Redesign Too Little, Too Late?.

The social network, or “Facebook for your professional life” as many have called it, gave its mobile app now publicly available to iOS and Android users a sorely-needed facelift. NASA’s Voyager was a spacecraft that was built to go farther in space than any previous efforts and became the first craft to enter interstellar space. Though the company boasts more than 396 million users, LinkedIn LNKD 2.76% hopes the new design will inspire members to use the application more, and will resolve many of their complaints about the product. Codenamed “Project Voyager,” it offers a dramatically revamped experience, along with LinkedIn’s continuing focus on helping you with your professional journey.

I reluctantly use LinkedIn for online networking, but I haven’t had the company’s app on my phone for some time — which probably makes me a good test case for this new version. Like Facebook, LinkedIn’s new app is centered around a central feed, which shows you updates from people in your network and content they are sharing on LinkedIn.

The company is taking the next steps in better understanding the mobile generation and has built an app that does one thing really well: helps you stay informed about your connections. Similar to Facebook’s News Feed, the app filters which updates you’ll see based on what you’re most likely to be interested in — and the company says the feature will get better over time as you use the app more.

It now has a menu at the bottom, so users can flip through the app’s five tabs: “Home,” “Me,” “Messages,” “My Network,” and “Search.” Though every section has been revamped, some of them truly felt like a different—even better—experience. “My Network”—which now houses connection requests, along with a button to search for and send these new requests—puts the focus on what’s new with your current LinkedIn connections. Another major upgrade is the messaging tab that displays conversations in much more of a casual ‘text-y’ private message feel format than the traditional email feel of LinkedIn messages. Not only is it more aesthetically pleasing, but you’re able to opt out of seeing certain kinds of content — because, let’s face it, who wants to see everything that the at-times tenuous contacts you have there post.

The updated app also includes the newly-refreshed messaging features and an overhauled search feature that LinkedIn says is 300% faster than the previous app. Whereas the previous version seemed to be a hodgepodge of different components strewn together as company made acquisitions or incorporated new services and advertisements, here, everything is in an intentional place. The ‘Me’ tab is a simple location where users can work on their own professional brand and the search feature is quicker than before, 300% faster, according to LinkedIn. But the fact that LinkedIn’s app now looks modern and pleasant to use might not matter—not if that doesn’t convince most people to start using it more often. As you go through the onboarding process with the app, you’ll be prompted to select specific topics, subjects, and influencers you want to know more about.

You won’t find things like a connection’s work anniversary, what group someone has joined, new skills they’ve added, or whether someone has a birthday. That’s not a big surprise since LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, talking at an event previewing the app, said that “the inbox is out and messaging is in.” Neater though it is, the fundamental problem is that LinkedIn is the last place I go to for serious communication, as I said when LinkedIn messaging got upgraded. It’s actually about news you care about, whether you’re into photography, app development, venture capital, artificial intelligence, or whatever else. Also notable is the inclusion of content provided through LinkedIn’s influencer program and curated via Pulse — it doesn’t feel forced, as it did with the old version. Jourdan Urbach, the CTO of social video platform Ocho, even bluntly asked LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman why LinkedIn’s design is so unresponsive and confusing during a question-and-answer session at Fortune‘s Brainstorm Tech event in Aspen, Colo. last summer.

The area is where you’ll see all the activity around your profile, including who has viewed your profile, what has happened with your latest posts, who has endorsed you, and more. But even now that we have a much better app, if LinkedIn’s users continue to avoid logging in, updating, and actively using the service none of its updates will matter.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed tapping on and flipping through the prettier app over the past two weeks, my real gain from LinkedIn would come from access to up-to-date profiles of potential connections, coworkers and others. It’s neat but, once again, my ‘network’ is so noisy and it remains hard to separate the wheat from chaff and see the updates I want/need without needing to cycle through all of them. I’d love to see LinkedIn apply some big data magic to attempt to prioritize my contacts here, or at least let me train it about the kind of data that is valuable to me. The interface is more conversational, like what you’d expect with Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and other instant messaging services. “It was really hard to get to the messaging part in the old app,” said Jonathan Redfern, LinkedIn’s vice president of product for its flagship app. “You couldn’t really use it like a messaging app, so bringing messaging to the forefront [in this new version] is showing where on LinkedIn people can go to chat.” Previously, the interface was rather plain, making it seem like you were sending an email, as opposed to the rapid-fire conversational style that the mobile age has become accustomed to. I’ve heard others complain that they don’t bother checking their LinkedIn messages because they’re mostly spam and, until recently, awful to navigate through.

If you’re already sold, the cards feature is nifty in so much that it makes it easy to congratulate a contact on a new job by making it more visible. Jones on his one year ‘anniversary’ at “self-employed.” One useful element of the network tab, though, is a feature that allows you to sync your calendar and, ahead of a meeting, the app will provide a snapshot of the person that you are meeting, such as shared interests and contacts, to help you find some common ground. In a search for “VentureBeat,” the app displayed not only the company page, but groups that were similar (the VentureBeat company page was first because LinkedIn knew my profile lists VentureBeat). The release of this updated app is thanks to Weiner’s dual responsibility as CEO and head of product, a role he inherited following the departure of Deep Nishar in 2014.

As LinkedIn’s public face and leader, it’s his job to demonstrate that the service benefits the Economic Graph and that there’s value in using the professional social network. Since Weiner’s tenure as product lead began, the company has been rolling out a multi-app strategy to optimize the app and show users the real value that it can provide them. Redfern said that Weiner has brought forth a “renewed focus on the member.” “We started to unpack [LinkedIn’s] product portfolio and look through it from the lens of the member’s value proposition,” he said. “We got a crisp insight into what the flagship app should do for the member.” The recent changes in the app were informed by the use of research data. Redfin explained that, because 70 percent of LinkedIn’s members are international and don’t use email the way those in the U.S. do, a new messaging format and user interface was needed.

To put things into perspective, the current iteration of LinkedIn’s mobile app was launched more than four years ago, thanks to the work of eight engineers. In this scenario, the “sun” is the company’s flagship app, around which everything revolves, and which represents the center of your professional universe. From there, you have different “planets” orbiting, including the likes of Elevate, Lookup, Groups, services for recruiters, salespeople, and much more.

The goal of this revamped LinkedIn app is to educate you on all the things you’re interested in, while also providing you useful insights in advance of any meetings or connections you’re going to make. It’s a good start and will help to unify everything for LinkedIn, but will it provide enough clarity to allow professionals to be more effective in their networking?

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