User Reaction Prompts LinkedIn to Rethink Desktop Design

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March 14, 2017
LinkedIn update storm

It’s fair to say LinkedIn’s new desktop design has not been universally welcomed. A petition by a Bristol recruitment manager Mark Jury,  to restore lost features, attracted widespread international support. Numerous articles have been published, on and off LinkedIn, decrying the changes.  LinkedIn themselves created a forum post for feedback on the design which to date has received nearly 3,000 comments, almost all of them negative. Feel free to add your two-penny worth.

Good idea, bad execution

The rationale for the design changes is sound i.e. to create a more consistent user experience across all devices, it should make for an easier and more intuitive user experience. The problem as I see it is that LinkedIn management, perhaps under pressure from new owner Microsoft to improve profitability, has rushed through the changes with too little user consultation and insufficient testing. The result is that the new design has been full of bugs. In addition, ill-thought-through changes to the pricing policy have angered users who are being forced into a premium upgrade to keep their favourite features.

Change needs user consent

Currently, less than 1% of users pay for using LinkedIn. You can’t blame them for wanting to increase this percentage. In some cases, however, users are being expected to pay more (in the case of Business Plus users up to 50% more) to keep features they already have. These users are not impressed when they complain to LinkedIn and receive stock responses like this:

“We’re always looking for ways to improve the LinkedIn experience for our members. This sometimes means removing features that aren’t heavily used to invest in others that offer greater value”.

It creates the impression of an organisation that simply isn’t listening to its users. Many users have canceled their premium accounts. The risk for LinkedIn is that revenue lost by these cancellations could outweigh revenue generated from new premium users. LinkedIn urgently needs to reconnect with and listen to their users.

Is LinkedIn in listening mode?

There are some promising signs. Along with several recruiter and training colleagues I recently had the opportunity to speak directly to the Director of User Experience Research in San Francisco. As a result of these conversations, changes were made. On February 24th, David Flink, LinkedIn Product Director, Search and Discovery published a post entitled “We heard you we are making some changes to LinkedIn Search”  in which he announced several changes including the restoration of some of the previous functionality including additional text field searches, and the return of saved searches.

What’s next?

Is there life beyond the controversial desktop update? Right now LinkedIn is being battered by a deluge of user complaints. Clearly, there is some work to do to repair the situation. However, LinkedIn remains the dominant player in this space and despite the missteps with the desktop update, it is still the most credible and widely used online business venue. 

The good news for LinkedIn and its users is that just around the corner there is a raft of new functionality on its way as the Microsoft product set is gradually integrated. I predict these additional features and extra connectivity will be widely welcomed by users. The storm around the desktop upgrade will gradually die down but Linkedin must learn the lessons.

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