New LinkedIn Profiles - Under the Bonnet (Hood)

Last week LinkedIn revealed that profiles will be changing again, this time they describe it as the most significant change to profiles in their history so I thought I would take a closer look to see what we can expect.

These profile changes will gradually spread throughout the network over the next 6 months or so. As you would expect LinkedIn staff are the first to get the new design so I have used their profiles to investigate further.

My overall impression is very positive, it seems the aim here has been to simplify the user interface and make it easier to engage with other users. This is largely an encouraging move from LinkedIn although some aspects of this strategy have reduced and possibly even removed some previously useful features. The danger with simplification is that you can end up 'dumbing down' the tool and in some respects LinkedIn have been guilty of that on this occasion.

1st Tier

Here (right) is an example of a 1st tier connections profile. The first thing you notice is the picture which is much bigger (over 50%), as yet we do not know whether this will alter the size/pixel requirements for a picture but it is fair to assume that low resolution shots are going to look much worse in the new profile.

Otherwise the layout has not changed significantly from the previous change earlier this summer. The layout is cleaner and somewhat simplified but this means that we no longer see how many recommendations someone has and we have to click on the 'contact info' box to see their website links, Twitter link and email address. In addition we now have to hover over the triangle next to 'Send Message' to see the other things we can do with this profile (See below)

The other significant change is that the activity section which was previously in the right hand column has now moved into the prime position right at the top of the profile, this is much better and should encourage more engagement.

The circular graphic on the right is a visual representation of your connections network. The default is set for which companies they are connected to and this can be changed to school, location or industry. This looks pretty but I'm not sure it will be of any great use to us!

As you scroll down the profile you come to the employment section (I assume that the order of the sections will still be something you can adjust) as seen here on the left. This section looks a lot better with the company logos (taken from the company page) showing and forming a link to the company page. In addition they have massively improved the look of recommendations (despite rumours that 'Skills" were taking over from recommendations) which I am really pleased about. The profile photo of the person that wrote the testimonial shows together with the first few lines of the recommendation.

There is another pretty graphic in the right column which shows what you have in common with that person i.e. location, interests, skills and groups. This is much more useful and potentially highlights things that you may wish to discuss with them - again making engagement easier.

Both this and the network info graphic are not just visible for 1st tier connections but can also be seen for 2nd tier connections which makes them even more useful.

Every profile (person) link that you see in a profile now opens a new summary box when you hover over the name so very easily you can see more information about the person who wrote a recommendation or someone from the 'People also viewed" section (see below)

As we scroll down further we see a much cleaner layout again for the Skills, Education and Honors / Awards sections, note how the further education establishment title is a link to the Alumni section of LinkedIn. By clicking here I can see a list of users who went to this university/college and where they live, what they do and where they work. This isn't a new feature but worth highlighting because it can be very interesting. In some respects these types of links have become less obvious, in the old design we became used to knowing that anything in blue was a link. With the new design these links are black until you hover over them.

As mentioned earlier, the recommendations section has been improved, both under the employment section and here under the specific section for recommendations. I have recently changed the way I show recommendations in my profile, because the link (showing the number) at the top of the profile has been removed. I now advise people to show up to 5 recommendations (get as many as you can still but only show the best or most recent ones) and move them towards the top of your profile.

As you can see here on the right of this section you can toggle between a view showing received and given recommendations and there is a link to recommend the individual yourself - this however is not quite what it seems in that it is merely a link to the sent recommendations section (usually found under Contacts>Recommendations). There is no link to directly recommend someone or ask for a recommendation here so that looks like an area for improvement.

The best bit!

The most significant change to functionality and potentially the most useful feature is the ability to search someones connections. We have always been able to click on the number of connections to reveal a list of their 1st tier connections (provided their settings were at the default level - visible) but this has traditionally been of little use when someone had many hundreds or thousands of connections. The list was in alphabetical order and could take hours to go through when looking for someone.

Now we can search by keywords and filter the results in an advanced search - fantastic! By clicking on the connection number at the top of the profile (see highlighted in the first picture above) you are taken to this section further down the profile (see below)

The red arrow points towards the link to search this list by keywords, you can also she how many shared connections you have with each of these individuals and the 'NEXT' link in the bottom right corner still allows you to go through the full list if you wish. Interestingly the list is no longer in alphabetical order and as far as I can tell, seems to be fairly random.

When you click on the magnifying glass a search box opens where you can type any words or phrases you are looking for. In this case I have typed 'Sales Director' (the gap meaning it will need to find both words in the profile although it does appear to automatically prioritize the full phrase by listing those first).

The search reveals that 207 of their connections meet the search criteria and next to this is the link to move the result into an advanced search listing (see arrow). When I click-through to the advanced search I actually only see our shared connections (i.e. first tier only) which must be a glitch. This is easily remedied by selecting 2nd tier from the filters in the left hand side panel to reveal the 193 that are of most interest to me (see below)

This really is a very useful feature. Being able to precisely search through a connections list of connections is, in my opinion, invaluable and will be very helpful in many aspects of using LinkedIn.

2nd Tier

The differences are minimal with a 2nd tier connection, the info graphics are also showing at this level which provides us with more information then we are used to seeing, the 'how we are connected' section (see left) is now shown in a neat looking graphic - again this is mainly cosmetic but definitely an improvement' and there is now a link to ask for an introduction.

3rd Tier

As I have detailed previously 3rd tier have annoyingly been removed from visibility (from a keyword search result) and these changes are the same in the new design (below)

We do also see the 'How You're connected' graphic and also the info graphic on the 3rd tiers network but not the one that shows the things you have in common.

Outside Network

No changes here at all really, apart from those already covered. The name is not visible or the work experience & education summary although we do see a picture for outside network results now, which was a change made in the last re-design.

The bad news!

I'm gutted to announce that one of my favourite features, Tagging of 1st tier connections, looks like it may have been 'canned' - Tagging is a really useful feature, especially as you grow your network. I have spent much time and effort tagging my contacts and I always hoped that it would be a feature that could be used in many other aspects of LinkedIn (ie targeted status updates) but the powers that be may have decided that tagging is no longer a useful feature. From the profiles I have viewed it is not possible to tag a connection from within the profile, I'm hoping that you may still be able to tag from within the connection page but I do fear the worst.

RIP tagging, it was good while it lasted.

It would also appear that 3rd party applications have disappeared from these new profiles. I checked the profiles of many Slideshare staff who (as they are part of the LinkedIn group) all have the new design and none of them were showing the Slideshare app on their profile. This concerned me so I contacted many of the companies who currently have LinkedIn apps. Some didn't reply while others seemed unaware of any change however Wordpress replied saying "We understand that LinkedIn is planning to discontinue its InApp platform with the introduction of the new profiles" LinkedIn themselves stated; "We're working on new ways to integrate 3rd party content on the new profile & we'll have more info to share in the coming weeks"  Which isn't saying a lot and doesn't really provide much comfort.

My guess is that Slideshare will return (otherwise why acquire them?!) but other apps will disappear - especially those that encourage the reader to move away from LinkedIn (i.e. Wordpress, Blog Link, Box).

I am struggling to see how these negative changes can be sold to us as 'enhancing the user experience', it's also annoying the way they love to tell us about new things but say nothing about features they have removed, it just makes it seem like you are being conned somehow.

So there we go, I have played with these profiles a fair bit and hope I haven't missed anything important, please let me (and other readers) know if I have.

I think LinkedIn is actually starting to look pretty funky and modern now which has to be a good thing and if these changes mean that users do start to become more engaged then we will all benefit.

What do you think?