LinkedIn has rolled out a new user interface (UI) in the last month or so in the UK, and several people have been in touch to express their disgust. Everyone hates change in the platforms they love, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Here are my reasons why I think the new UI is not that bad, and may, in fact, be better in the long run.
The New LinkedIn UI is Responsive
LinkedIn has been due an update to its browser based website for some time. The previous interface was tired and dated, and didn’t work that well on mobile devices – and whilst more than half of us now use the mobile app to access LinkedIn, sometimes you still need the browser version.
The new browser layout is responsive so it works much better on different screen sizes. The graphics have also been brought into line with the mobile apps, so we now have little icons for the menu items, and they are arranged in a much more sensible structure as well. We also have a Facebook-style messaging system which, whilst a bit frustrating at first for us old wrinklies, is planned to replicate the interface many more savvy users would have on other platforms.
What works for me with the new messaging system, is that you can message someone from a range of different places and the message thread appears bottom right in your browser window as you move around the site. This is practical and consistent - we’ll get used to it soon enough. The messaging system has also introduced some other interesting features worth investigating.
Profiles are more Sensibly Organised
One major change is how peoples individual profile pages are organised. No more rearranging sections yourself, the layout is fixed with your summary text at the top followed by activity. Whilst this no doubt makes the running of a site with nearly half a billion members a little simpler, it certainly makes life easier for people visiting profiles.
Much of the detailed information on your LinkedIn profile is now hidden behind drop down concertinas, particularly the summary information and some of the sections on awards and recommendations. It’s worth having a look at what your profile looks like now, and make sure the information you want to be easy to find is there on view.
Search isn’t Really Dead
Those of you who have been to my LinkedIn for Specification Sales workshop will know how valuable the advanced search features on LinkedIn are. If you’re trying to find the right person in an organisation, LinkedIn really is an excellent tool. However, the advanced search system has almost completely gone in LinkedIn’s new UI.
You’ll be forgiven for thinking that you can’t search on LinkedIn effectively; but you’d be wrong. LinkedIn has made its search features more rational and much simpler for the average user, but behind the new interface are a few extra techniques that can help you continue to use LinkedIn to find people. It’s just a question of learning where they are and how to use them.
Groups are Already Dead
I’ve been talking about the challenges of LinkedIn groups for some time. Last autumn LinkedIn rationalised groups and made them all either unlisted (secret and not indexed so you can’t find them) or standard (wide open - so anyone can add any of their first level connections to the group).
As expected this caused considerable distress to LinkedIn group managers. In an ironic twist, a LinkedIn group set up by LinkedIn help staff to help group owners and moderators was deleted after it became a place for us all to moan at LinkedIn about how they had made running good groups virtually impossible! But not before some improvements were made to the process of adding people and moderating posts.
That said, I still feel that since the Microsoft buy out LinkedIn doesn’t love its groups and doesn’t feel there is a place for them in its business plan. This seems to have been reinforced by the way LinkedIn has moved its Groups menu item deep into the menus as a separate element of the ‘Work/Products’ menu item.
On the whole I recommend organisations hoping to set up communities online not to rely on LinkedIn groups, as the way the work with email has turned them into graveyards for many group owners.
The Motive Behind it is Sound for Us
Putting the individual issues aside, it’s always wise to step back and look at what the overall picture looks like. What does it tell us about what LinkedIn has planned, and does the general trajectory look sound? I think it does.
LinkedIn’s own press release about the changes states that they aim to ‘Put Conversations and Content at the Centre’. Whilst they look at this from the perspective of the job candidate who finds it much more logical to use the UI to find and communicate with potential employers, we can look at this approach very favourably from the point of view of a referral based industry like construction. Take a look at the video below:
LinkedIn is aiming it make it easier for use to create, find and interact with people and information. This can only be a good thing for those of us in construction who want to achieve the same.
Where is LinkedIn going Next?
The geeks at LinkedIn are always changing things, and this was already happening on a rather piecemeal basis in recent months. We must accept that all the platforms we use change over time, as we do, and get used to rolling with the punches. Imagine if we all still insisted on rotary dials on our landline telephones? Things are moving on and there are plenty of benefits in the new package.
Now that Microsoft owns LinkedIn, we can all speculate about where the platform may go next. There’s clearly a potential direct connection with Microsoft Dynamics, MS’s own CRM system. There’s also the huge power of Outlook and how useful it would be to be able to find someone on LinkedIn automatically after they have emailed you. There are third party plugins that allow you to do that now, but now the code for both elements is in the same stable, making the connection seems that much more likely.
I’m optimistic for the future of LinkedIn for construction professionals. It remains the best place to find people in our industry, and long may it continue.
Come to the Workshop
If you’re in construction product sales and would like to learn about how to use LinkedIn to help you communicate with and sell to architects, I’m running a LinkedIn for Specification Sales workshop on 20th April at the Building Centre in London. We’ll be covering the new UI as part of the session and taking some of these ideas into practical application in your work.
Su Butcher works with construction companies to enable them to integrate social tools and other Internet activity for business benefits. Trained in Architecture at the University of Liverpool, she has extensive experience working with architects in business. Su is currently working with The Building Centre to deliver a series of Training Workshops.