LinkedIn Launches Revamped Mobile Apps, But Noise Remains A Big Problem

2 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Engaging with your professional network is now easier with LinkedIn for iOS.

LinkedIn, the professional social network that we love to hate, is hoping to entice you into using it more on your phone after it introduced revamped versions of its iOS and Android apps. The new design — the preview of which we wrote about in October — is “more intuitive, smarter and dramatically simplifies your LinkedIn experience” so LinkedIn claims.

Codenamed “Project Voyager,” it offers a dramatically revamped experience, along with LinkedIn’s continuing focus on helping you with your professional journey. Now, the professional networking company has officially released the update that brings about the redesign and brings LinkedIn for iOS to version 9.0. Primarily, Voyager is about decluttering the somewhat confusing previous version of the LinkedIn app and giving users simple, actionable experiences that don’t require rooting around in random menus. 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.

There are clear designations set up by the company: the ‘Home’ news feed that provides relevant information when I first tap in, the new informal ‘Messages’ platform, the ‘My Network’ tab that keeps me updated on people I know or may know, and the important ‘Search’ function. The company claimed recently that it has cut down on the volume of emails that it sends out to users, and, in that spirit, it has revamped the main feed inside its mobile app. Onstage at the company’s 2015 Talent Connect conference, chief executive Jeff Weiner described Project Voyager as the “dashboard for your professional life,” and — looking at the finished product — he’s not far off. 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.

And with the new app launcher feature, it’s incredibly seamless to launch into other LinkedIn apps for dedicated and deeper experiences, like Pulse, Groups, Job Search, etc. 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. Focusing on your so-called professional brand, Me is where you can see all of your stats, letting you see who’s viewed your profile and who’s commenting on or sharing your posts. LinkedIn actually excels at providing a suite of purpose-focused apps — I’m a fan of Job Search, in particular — so Voyager acts as a landing spot without feeling bloated.

It’s definitely a bigger undertaking than Facebook’s spin-out of Messenger, but given the situational purposes of LinkedIn’s app suite, it’s helpful to remember exactly what the company offers. Voyager, for its part, does make the app stickier and more attractive to the average user, but it still lacks the kind of tools that would really make the mobile experience pop in an intriguing way.

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. The new Messages tab signifies LinkedIn’s move away from its old email-like InMail functionality and into a new communication tool whose quick and easy conversations more closely resemble those held in today’s popular messaging apps — while still keeping the focus on your professional contacts. 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. 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. 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. 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.

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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