It’s been a long time coming, but on 19th January 2017 LinkedIn has finally rolled out the most significant change to their platform’s design for desktops and laptops since the business started. The overwhelming initial reactions across the web have been: “well it’s about time!”. Let’s face it, LinkedIn have been in need of a design revamp for a number of years now so whilst it is encouraging to see a social media platform revamp their look it has been long overdue.
Up until now, LinkedIn seem to have relied upon their focus on business professionals as an excuse for a cluttered and outdated User Interface. If ain’t broke and all that. Afterall, their user growth has been slow but nevertheless constant since 2012. However, does the straight and shallow graph of ‘slow but constant’ satisfy shareholders when compared to the exponential curves of other social platforms? What of decelerating revenue growth in 2016 and a $26 billion dollar acquisition by Microsoft? Well that’s another topic – in this first part we are going to explore the design changes that have been rolled out.*
* Not everyone can see these changes at the moment but LinkedIn have stated that they should have full roll out in the coming weeks.
LinkedIn’s announcement of this design change was via a blog post, stating that the new designs would create a more seamless experience across mobile and desktop whilst bringing communication and content to the core of LinkedIn’s platform.
In addition, there are six key features that have been highlighted:
- A main navigation using tabs that have been distilled to seven areas, including Home, My Network, Jobs, Messaging, Notifications, Me (Your Profile) and More
- Real-time messaging à la Facebook Messenger
- A revamp of their news feed
- A more intuitive and advanced search function
- A higher level of functionality to see who’s viewing your profile and interacting with you
- Improved suggestions to help members’ profiles cut through the noise
Many of these points are based upon the back end structure of the platform. So what about the actual design?
LinkedIn released their mobile app in late 2015 and since then there has been a distinct dichotomy between the mobile designs and the desktop designs. At Yellowball we are big advocates of mobile-first designs and it would appear that LinkedIn have subscribed to this theory. But why leave it an entire year before updating the desktop version, especially when you released the designs months ago? Clearly this design change has come with considerable upgrades to the platform as a whole and would therefore require more than just a reskin – but a whole year?
It is obvious that the new desktop designs have been led by the mobile app. Almost everything is tiled and any unnecessary design elements have been stripped away to leave a much cleaner user interface. The use of tabs and the location of these tabs in the top navigation bar is one of the most apparent design amendments to the platform; another homage to the mobile application and what has become an intuitive method of navigation for many. LinkedIn have certainly succeeded in aligning the desktop design with that of the mobile application – it is just slightly puzzling as to why it took so bloody long!
The Feed is the Centrepiece
As promised, LinkedIn is placing content at the heart of the platform and this is reflected in the new designs. Although the amount of real estate given to the feed has not necessarily increased, it does feel that way. The new designs mean the news feed is located far more centrally, flanked by your profile and an ad box. Furthermore, the content boxes now contain all of the information required for that piece when previously the author’s profile picture was situated outside of the box like some sort of digital limpet. Not a big change, but a change that has a far-reaching impact.
Quite possibly the most influential change that places more emphasis on the news feed content is the reduction of distracting content on the homepage. We did a quick count of the amount of clickable links, adverts and call-to-actions on the homepage (excluding the main navigation bar) and the results are as follows:
- Clickable links: 5
- Call-to-actions and buttons: 6
- Adverts: 4
- Clickable links: 3
- Call-to-actions and buttons: 4
- Adverts: 2
Bigger is not always best. The news feed and cards are a relatively similar size but due to a significant reduction in distractions, a more central feed and a tweak to how the content is displayed has vastly improved the overall objective of the redesign.
Stripped Down Pages
The old desktop version tried to do everything at once. It was almost as if the admins were scared that users would miss a piece of functionality if they did not see it on every page. The stripped down design is most obvious on the homepage but has also been applied to the rest of the pages. As a design agency we are often (almost always) asked to create a ‘clean, intuitive and minimalist design’, especially for websites so it is encouraging to see that LinkedIn have catered to the will of the people.
Wider Grid Format
LinkedIn have also utilised a wider grid format for the design of their desktop website, meaning that the website displays wider on your screen than it did previously. Whilst this increase in width is just over 10%, coupled with a less cluttered appearance the increase in width has a significant effect on the appearance of the website as a whole. In effect they have 10% more pixels to play with. They have still retained a fixed width in terms of but have allowed more space for the elements on the screen, resulting in a far more appealing user interface.
Whenever a website, application or brand goes through a redesign there are usually cries of outrage. Remember when Facebook overhauled their desktop design? There were petitions to revert it back to what would now have been a completely outdated system. LinkedIn have come under scrutiny with critics accusing them of copying Facebook’s design. Whilst it is true that LinkedIn’s new design (and functionality such as instant messaging) could be likened to Facebook’s current format, it could be argued that this is simply the format that social media feeds have and will continue to adopt. You don’t hear such accusations being made of mobile applications who, with limited real estate to work with, follow a fairly standard format. On the whole this has been a long overdue redesign and will only serve to make LinkedIn a more attractive and easier to use platform for both current users and new users moving forward.