I’m a fan of LinkedIn. I have watched that business grow and what they’ve accomplished is nothing short of amazing. When they first came out, you thought “hmmm.. online resumes, cool!”. Now it is the place for anything remotely related to professional activities. It is where employers go to find potential candidates, entrepreneurs connect with each other, people increasingly go to get anything about their professional lives – from news about other professionals to general water-cooler-discussion-worthy news.
I often use LinkedIn as an example for how to successfully introduce the user to simple functionality and add functionality in bite sizes. Once users get used to what they have, they’ve slowly and steadily added other things and educated the user on how to use new functionality. It has worked rather well – okay, they’ve had to roll back on some stuff and double down on some other stuff. They’ve had their own series of features they’ve phased out (the answer forum or publisher pages come to mind from recent days). But, let’s talk about what appears to have worked out.
First you put your resume on LinkedIn. Next, you connected with people you know. Then you got introduced to people you want to know. LinkedIn introduced jobs and subscriptions and got stronger ties between recruiters and possible candidates. You got your next job because someone on LinkedIn saw your profile and contacted you. LinkedIn pushed the privacy limits with public profiles and got you more visibility. You got to see who’s interested in your profiles and it got addictive. Recommendations were introduced to fuel professional introductions. Fast forward to the current state and we now have endorsements, where we can proactively certify someone to be knowledgeable in something. Here is an interesting visual history of LinkedIn. This is all great – 225 million users in 200 countries is worth talking about!
LinkedIn has made it into my frequently visited sites and it is almost the only network, where I choose to receive updates on my primary email address. By comparison, my Facebook, Twitter and other network emails go to an address I almost never check – I don’t get those emails on my phone and I rarely ever login to those accounts even on a laptop. I go to them when I feel like it – at a pace that I feel is sufficient to keep up.
Lately, LinkedIn has been pushing its luck a bit too far. First, the number of emails I get from LinkedIn has exploded. I started having filters, but thanks to GMail’s new “social” classification, my Inbox is back to being sane!
But, more importantly, I’m bothered by the amount of real estate that LinkedIn thinks I should get on my screen for something I’m explicitly looking for. The screenshot above probably explains itself. I think LinkedIn endorsements is a great idea. It is not mature right now and in order for this feature to bring value to employers, it has ways to go. But, it is definitely in the right direction. That said though, does it have to be in my face every time I try to look up someone’s profile?
That screenshot is the profile page of someone I pulled up – when it comes up, the actual information I sought has the least real estate on that screen! Seriously? Between endorsements, ads and other recommendations that LinkedIn wants to throw at me, the profile I actively sought out gets a fourth or less of the available real estate! Thankfully, it doesn’t do that on the phone yet – but, where is this going?
This is the age of continuous experimentation. But, I wonder, just how much it is okay to push the users? I think there is a point in user acquisition where the barrier to entry for a new comer as well as the cost of quitting for the user are both rather high. And for the most part, this is what brings complacence to LinkedIn or Facebook or anyone else in that state.
But, I’d have to imagine that user experience is still the top priority for these companies. So, I have to believe that either data points to these abominations still producing good user experiences or that the metrics by which user experience is measured are all messed up. But, more on that later. For now, I’m not really sure how long I will still visit LinkedIn “frequently”. My use of Pulse (now part of LinkedIn) rapidly declined after they shoved the Highlight feature on me, forcing me to highlight every time I wanted to share something. My tolerance for such unwanted stuff is low – especially when the service isn’t indispensable to me… So, I guess we’ll see if I do really feel LinkedIn is indispensable!