Linkedin just gave its desktop UI the full Beverly Hills makeover. This wasn’t a nip-and-tuck or a light rhinoplasty. It was a shave-some-bone-and-redistribute-some-toochis-fat overhaul to make the professional social network look like its frenemy, Facebook.
It is a welcome upgrade to a kludgy design that even company co-founder Reid Hoffman once conceded “needed work.” The site is cleaner, faster, and a whole lot easier to navigate.
You’ll see the biggest change on the homepage. The link to your profile sits at the upper left. Your newsfeed cascades down the middle, just below an entry field for sharing articles, photos, and status updates. To the right, exactly where Facebook places its trending topics, LinkedIn added a section called “What you need to know now.” It’s above an ad card that’s in more or less the same spot as Facebook’s ad card.
The blatant cribbing is smart. People know how to use Facebook, but even Hoffman once called the old LinkedIn “confusing.” Amy Parnell, the company’s senior director of experience design, was more charitable when she said it had “too much noise, too much cognitive load.”
“It was hard for people to understand what to do,” she says. “The goal with this design was to simplify and create focus.” The best way to do that was give users an experience they already understand. “We’re a social network, Facebook is a social network. The types and interactions and behaviors you see on the platforms are similar,” Parnell says. “From a design perspective, you don’t want to create a whole new paradigm for how you interact with that model. If someone were to create a new email application, you would expect it to look and feel like email, and for it to leverage interaction patterns that are standard to the industry.”
So Facebook is email now? “That’s kind of a cop out,” says usability researcher Gabriela Marcu, of Drexel University. But only kind of. Outward appearances notwithstanding, LinkedIn’s redesign hews to the platform’s prim, businesslike sensibilities. “They’ve done a lot of work beyond the homepage, and they’ve absolutely done it in their own way,“ Marcu says.