By 2014, the LinkedIn desktop homepage had seen so much incremental iteration and feature additions that the current state of affairs was bloated, busy, and–in many ways–broken. When we took a step back, we realized that the homepage had become a gateway to nearly every corner of the site, which resulted in an unfocused, confusing, and frustrating experience for our members. We set out to rearchitect LinkedIn's front door around our three core strengths – identity, network, and knowledge.
After my work on the SHIFT concept team wound down, I moved to the homepage team to share learnings and begin executing against our vision to drive greater discovery, engagement, and empowerment for our members. Two other designers had invested heavily in early strategy and wireframing for the new homepage, but by the time I came on board, the original team had largely been dissolved. I took the lead on iterative wireframes, visual and interaction details, and implementation.
Historically, LinkedIn's homepage served as a metaphorical air traffic controller, directing members to nearly every corner of the site rather than driving value through a more strategic, focused feature set. Previous redesigns hardly touched the content – leaving members to navigate a noisy feed and a complex right rail.
In short, homepage tried to be everything for everyone, causing member feedback consistent with the following member quotes:
As part of this project, we sat down with members to glean qualitative insights about feed consumption.
Recognizing that the homepage serves a wide audience, we aimed for a diverse breakdown of participants: 2 Networkers (500+ connections, top 10% of social engagement), 2 Readers (top 5% of content engagement), 2 Job Seekers (JobSeeker subscribers), and 3 Lapsed Users (no recorded visits in the past 30 days).
We used card sorting techniques to determine what was relevant to each user, as well as static mocks to explore page layout, update categorization, and information density on a deeper level. We designed static research stimuli that reflected real data from our participants to get open, honest feedback from each member.
Determine what each member finds valuable, and deliver it in a delightful, high quality experience to maximize the frequency of engagement.
Based on our research, we doubled down on two related principles:
The result was a massively simplified product that more clearly articulated the value of LinkedIn and provided members with a more focused, guided, and actionable experience. Ultimately, the new feed design resulted in a 47% increase in total clicks and a 4% increase in total page views, with members reporting that the redesign was easier to navigate and significantly more streamlined.
Below is a deeper overview of how we reframed the UI around our core value props:
Research helped us better understand that users are hungry for information that directly relates to them. For instance, they want to know who's viewing them, how people engage with their content, and how they stack up against their peers. We responded with a flexible identity module at the top of the homepage to highlight the most relevant information for a given user – profile views, social stats from recent activity, and profile ranking data, as well as guided profile edits, notable InMail messages, and new job recommendations for job seekers. The most significant metric wins came from the "Who's Viewed My Profile" and "Who's Viewed My Post" entry points, with unique actors up 27% and 67% respectively.
There's a lot of value in users building and engaging with their professional networks, but prior to this redesign, distributing birthdays, work anniversaries, and job changes throughout the LinkedIn feed caused almost universal frustration. Users either didn't derive value from these updates–and thus didn't want to sift through them in the feed–or viewed them as valuable opportunities to nurture their networks, yet had to trust that the serendipitous, ephemeral feed would deliver them on time and as needed.
To help solve this problem, we consciously grouped network updates and delivered them in a concise, interactive module at the top of the right rail. This gave members a reliable place to respond to important changes among their connections and nurture their professional relationships. After launch, we found that the new design drove a 2X increase in network interactions and a 26% increase in unique interactors.
Below the props box, we maintained a display ad to meet existing monetization requirements but removed all other entry points, promos, and recommendations. This resulted in a massively simplified layout and brought unprecedented focus to the primary feed.
Members engage with the LinkedIn feed to stay informed, discover and follow thought leaders, and get daily news and commentary about professional areas of interest. We wanted to double down on these goals with a cleaner, leaner, more focused feed experience. In addition to establishing clearer hierarchy within each feed update, we designed a more digestible news module at the top of the feed, reduced the volume of "robotic" system-generated updates, and prioritized news and content over recommendations. Ultimately, members found the new feed design to be much more engaging; feed interactions and unique interactors increased by 86% and 18% respectively.
While we user-tested a variety of feed layouts with intentional white space, rich carousels, and multi-column layouts, we heard loud and clear that members view LinkedIn as an information resource and a tool. Density is a function of efficiency–aesthetics are nice, but people need utility.
While the focus on identity, network, and knowledge resulted in major user experience and business wins, simple modifications to the top-of-funnel sharing experience also drove significant engagement.
Prior to this redesign, members were largely unhappy with the quality of content in the feed, yet most users didn't actively share on LinkedIn. Additionally, members had low awareness of the LinkedIn publishing platform designed for sharing long-form posts – posts that contribute toward establishing expertise and building professional character.
Our hypothesis was that by bringing more prominence to the share entry point and highlighting different types of shareable content, we would drive awareness of and engagement with the sharing and publishing platforms. We replaced the open text field from earlier iterations of the homepage with three simple, action-oriented buttons–"share an update," "upload a photo," and "publish a post." This simple change powered a 17% increase in on-site shares, a 38% increase in total posts drafted, and 37% increase in total posts published.
This redesigned homepage lived for more than two years, before it was time for another change.
In 2016, the entire LinkedIn.com flagship desktop experience underwent a massive site-wide redesign and re-architecture. However, member needs and perceptions around homepage remain largely consistent with our findings from this project. So while the strategy has shifted and the designs have evolved, much of this thinking informed the latest iteration, especially with regard to identity and sharing.
Sometimes the best user experience isn't the prettiest; instead, it's about making things useful. During research for this redesign, we heard loud and clear that function trumps form. We wanted to create a beautiful interface, but we had to balance that with the task-oriented behavior of our members.
You can't accurately design without real data or exclusively with elegant stock photography. As designers, we have a responsibility to look beyond the best-case scenario.
With this project, it wasn't until we infused our concepts with real user-generated content that we began to see breakdowns in our designs. For example, blurring low-res profile photos behind foreground text sounded good in theory, but everything gets a bit muddy when most of the images on a webpage are fuzzy shades of beige, tan, and brown.