An Open Letter to the LinkedIn User-Experience Team

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In this open letter to the LinkedIn User Experience Team (or someone else who is willing to read this) I highlight a few irritations a have concerning the website.

Dear LinkedIn,

I am not a designer. I am not a user-experience expert. I am a programmer. And a very happy user of your website and services. Well, mainly your services. Your website seems to miss just that last bit of quality to fulfill the users need. Please allow me to highlight some of these flaws and feel free to improve your website using them.

Responsiveness is soo 2013

You are in a very lively environment. A lot of new developments take place every week and a lot of new techniques of methodologies are the way to go. You can ignore a lot of them, but it should not harm to follow the movement of responsive design.

I am usually working on a 15” Macbook Pro, and with its 1650x1050 pixels the screen it is not that exotic anymore. I like the screen width. It allows me to arrange a multiple of windows and still be able to read the content of the window. And when I am using just one single window, I love it when it takes every pixel available and submerge me with information.

Your site does not do that. It sticks to the 646 pixels of the main column and an additional 318 pixels for the side bar. Do I have a bigger screen to show more information? You don’t care. Do I have a smaller window to keep reading updates? You don’t care. You still want me to show the additional side bar. But does it has the same value as the main column?

Please make use of the space when it is available and figure out your priorities when you are in the corner of my attention.

Animate it!

One of the movements (of the late ’90s) you do seem to have picked up, is the animated menu. Perhaps you realise that your visitors want every pixel available to use for information and thus you want that enormous black menu bar out of the way as fast as possible. Because do not forget, we are talking about 29 pixels here. Sure you trade them in for a nice animation of an appearing and disappearing menu bar.

But is that extra animation (read: distraction from the content) really worth the save of those 29 pixels? If you think the menu items are that important you present it to me every time I scroll up, then just keep them there. If they actually are not that important but you like to give them a place, move them out of the way. Place them somewhere else. But do not use that annoying animation the present them every time, over and over again.

Lets be honest; it used to be worse. At least you now have a threshold on the amount of upward scroll, so you do not present it the instance I scroll up. And this is not the first time I complain about it. I should also thank you for listening to me earlier and fixing this issue (although partially). But you could have credited me.

And just a month later:

Oh, you want to read that?

Let shift our gaze a but higher, to the notification area, the icons and dropdowns. They are broken. No really, broken.

The first notification I usually receive of any new messages of your platform is a plain old e-mail. An other thing I like; it keeps me in control of what to do with it. I also like it when I can reply to an e-mail. Just like Twitter allows me. And Facebook. And any company that wants its users to be happy. You just want an other pageview. You really want me on your site so you can show me more ads and that is okay because meanwhile you give me a perfect messaging system. Not.

I should take a bit of the rant here, because while I was writing this post I got a nice reply from LinkedIn via Twitter. Maybe they will implement it?

Lets assume I just visited the site when a new message was waiting for me in my inbox. I can see that by the small red badge over the Messages or Invitations icon. You want me to read the new message. I want to read the new message. You know I want to read the new message. Then let me read the new message.

If you really want me to read the message, then please make sure I can read it fast. Do not wait with loading the content of the dropdown menu when I actually hover over the icon. Make it there ASAP! I understand you don’t want to load the content of the dropdown menu every pageload, but just do it when there is stuff you want me to read. Or at least do some smart fetching, for instance when the cursor of my mouse is within a 300px range of the icon. But do something.

Ok, so I have waited until the messages in the dropdowns actually appear. Now you present me with, per message, a richly 64 pixels in height and 230 in width. That is no so much! There is a reason why the message preview of Gmail takes almost the total width of the site. People love to read. And people tend to move their mouse pointer to what they read (ok, totally ungrounded argument, but I like to do that). So please do not replace every bit of the body of the message with some big clumsy “Reply” and “Delete” buttons.

So I do hit the “Reply” buttons. Lets see where that takes me.

Pile of papers

It takes me to the perfect messaging system you provide me as an alternative to e-mail! Although it is not perfect. Far from perfect.

First of all, the space you allow me to type my reply in: 150 pixels. What’s with the pixel minimalism? Why not use the full height of the page to let me type in?

An other very annoying aspect of this page is that all the previous conversation text is just there, like plain old e-mail. I know I said I like e-mail, but only if it actually is e-mail. There is no reason why you mimick e-mail while it is not. And if you do mimick it, please use threading. Or just consider each message as is, standalone. But not this long piece of text.

When I am directed to the messages inbox, I do see each message as a separate identity. But there is no need for that. Why would I want to pick out a specific old message of a thread? When I click on a message, which also has a successor with the same origin, I only see that old message in the new window. Not the new one. But I do want it.

There is just a strange antique feeling over all the messages. Like a bunch of papers on a desk. Not a feeling of now.

But at least you are consistent with the difference between Messages and Invitations. In the well beloved notification area you have two icons. Two dropdowns. And in the Message Center you provide two nice tabs to switch between in my Inbox. And in the folder ‘Sent’. Surely also in ‘Archived’ and ‘Trash’, do you? No, you don’t. There apparently is no need for the distinction anymore, and so are the tabs gone. Strange.

Lets go back to the front page.

Lets get technical

Something quite important for you, LinkedIn, is getting people connected. It is your core business. Core functionality. So you have the sticky “People you may know” card on the side. Nice! But it is broken.

I really don’t want to keep going on about the animated menu bar, but you really make me mention it again. After reading a few updates in the main column, the “People you may know” card keeps me company in the right corner. That title is pretty important. You don’t want me to loose that out of my sight. But you do obfuscate it when I scroll just a bit up; the menu falls over it.

That is not what I would do with a functionality that is that important for the site.

And while we are looking at it; this card is broken in Firefox. It flickers. Very, very annoying. When you allow me to get a bit technical, replacing the class absolute-sticky with fixed-sticky seems to fix the problem.

And about the source; is there really any reason why so much of the Javascript is in-document and not minified? If you are so concerned about minimalistic loading (hence the separate fetching of the messages) why not do that with all the Javascript? There is no need for a user to be able to read the documentation you have with each function, like addClass and hasClass.

Conclusion

Dear LinkedIn, I will not believe anything else than the people who work at the UX teams are brilliant. But I can not understand how such flaws on a website with the scale of yours are possible. Perhaps I just address here the very hard problems, but they seem to be all of little effort. If these arguments all sound new to you, please LinkedIn, hire me. You have my resume.

Update: The LinkedIn webcare team is fast and very nice:

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