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Innovation Agents

LinkedIn's Major Makeover Is Designed To Make You Want To Actually Use LinkedIn

This cleaner, faster desktop version of LinkedIn makes it easier to read news, connect with people, and spruce up your profile.

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Does it feel like the desktop-browser version of LinkedIn hasn't changed that much in recent years? That's because it hasn't, at least when it comes to its overarching look and feel. The site got its last sweeping redesign back in 2012; everything since then has been incremental and evolutionary.

Today, however, the kingpin of business-oriented networking—now officially part of Microsoft—is unveiling a significant desktop redesign. For all that's changed, it may feel familiar: It's a more expansive version of the mobile-browser version of LinkedIn that launched in late 2015, and also brings the desktop incarnation of the service more in line with its apps. (The company first teased this update at a press event last September, and is starting to roll it out to users now.)

"We knew we were going to bring the same product and architecture to desktop," says Chris Pruett, senior director, engineering. "Most of the effort has been in embracing what we did in mobile web."

In terms of features, the new site consists of all the stuff that's already part of LinkedIn, including business people and their profiles; content such as posts and links to articles; job listings; and a messaging service. It's just that the site aims to present it all in a more engaging way that will increase the likelihood that you'll want to visit more often and hang out longer when you do. "We're bringing communications and content to the forefront," says Amy Parnell, senior director of user experience and design. "It's a much more focused experience."

Consistency, Finally

Up until now, LinkedIn has felt less like one site than a loosely integrated collection of them, with a look and feel that wavered considerably from section to section. The new version is much more streamlined and coherent, organizing all sorts of content—from news items to job listings—into streams that look like they belong on the same site.

Under the surface, the company says that the new version is using a reengineered engine built with snappy performance in mind—so it feels less like a series of web pages loading and more like an app. The app-like aspirations are also apparent in the new pop-up messaging window, which resembles Facebook Messenger more than the previous version's email-like interface.

The previous desktop version of LinkedIn, based on a design that dates to 2012

Throughout the site, LinkedIn has tried to make it more obvious why you'd care about an item and what you might do with it—something that, in previous versions of the service, has not always been a cakewalk. "People know they should use LinkedIn, but they may not know why," explains Pruett. "This redesign should help them answer that question."

Calls-to-action such as "Say Congrats," "View Jobs," and "Say Happy Birthday" are now everywhere. When the site tells you about someone's new job, it also notes what that person's old job was—a helpful hint if you need a nudge to recall why you're connected to someone in the first place.

Endorsements for skills like "content strategy" or "reputation management" now spotlight specific contacts who have a real background in the subject they're praising someone for, which could make them feel less like a recommendation mill of questionable value. "We're teasing out the person highly skilled in that particular thing as the primary endorser," says Parnell.

Other nuggets in profiles are now summarized so that they don't devolve into a data dump, even if there are a lot of them. "I have someone on my team who has 50 patents," says Pruett. "Literally, you'd just scroll through 50 patents."

LinkedIn may be a site about work, but its designers wanted the new version to feel less like work. Traditionally, the counter for pending invitations has shown the total count of invites that you haven't either accepted or declined—a figure that can be pretty imposing if you're not a fastidious type. (Mine currently stands at 201—sorry, everybody.) Henceforth, however, it will only show the number of invites that have arrived since your last visit, which should be less intimidating.

As for the classic LinkedIn profile, the company hopes that its more approachable design will encourage users to flesh theirs out rather than leave them in neglected, skeletal form. On the way is an AI-powered feature—originally designed for mobile use—that will compose a summary of your work experience rather than making you write one from scratch.

If the longevity of the previous desktop site is any indication, this one might be around for a while. Pruett says that it's been engineered to allow LinkedIn to get new code in front of users within three hours of the time it's complete, and do that three times a day. The company plans to take that as an opportunity to introduce new features at a faster clip—which means that its impact will be seen as much in the LinkedIn of tomorrow as in the fresher look that's premiering today.

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