Continuing My Quest for More LinkedIn Improvements
It’s been almost 16 months since my last LinkedIn Feature Request post, and thankfully, the folks at LinkedIn have not been sitting idly by.
No, they still haven’t brought back the Personal Plus membership (or a reasonable $5-10/month alternative) to bridge the gap between the free service and the $20+/month offerings.
And I am still awaiting – with bated breath – for a customized structure of tiered contacts that would allow us to group people in up to, say, 5 categories. Plaxo supports a static 3 groups (Family, Friend, Business) which is infinitely more useful than the flat network that LinkedIn provides, and Facebook gives tremendous freedom to create groupings of your contacts. Either of the two options would be a huge improvement. My earlier post was detailed enough on these items that I won’t elaborate further here.
I am happy to say that some improvements were made in the following areas:
- LinkedIn Groups Functionality
- Facilitating Introductions
- Making Feature Requests
- Searching within Content Areas
The Groups feature has probably gotten the most attention, especially within the past few months. At the time of my previous post, the area of LinkedIn that received most of my attention was Answers. Now, it’s definitely Groups.
Unfortunately, little to no improvement was made in the following areas:
- Tiered Contacts
- Better UI Navigation
- Bookmarking or Favorites
- Contact Management Features
- More Control of the Homepage Layout
- Bring Back the Personal Plus Membership
Contact Management Features
There was a LITTLE something done in the contact management area, with the Notes functionality that can be updated on each of your contacts. I use this feature extensively to keep track of when I accepted an invite, and by what means we have met (whether in person or via some LinkedIn group).
I’m happy that we have at least this functionality, but more is needed. When you think about it, it’s rather silly that LinkedIn doesn’t automatically provide this info to us, since it is information that is germane to the issue of obtaining and managing contacts.
Also, being able to set a few custom responses and introductions (like you can with the Outlook integration component) would help us to move away from the generic greetings that LinkedIn provides by default. Currently, I make use of DropBox in order to synchronize my responses across all systems that I use for accessing LinkedIn, but this would be far more convenient within the application itself.
Better UI Navigation
The UI still needs a lot of work to be intuitive. Very little has changed or improved in this area. Of critical importance is the need for a centralized configuration screen that would allow someone to make changes across a number of areas at a time. For instance, it should be a whole lot easier to change your default email address across a dozen groups. Another example would be the need to allow a person to accept more than one invite at a time, and possibly update the appropriate notes field in a certain way.
It almost as though the LinkedIn developers are afraid of efficiency. Not sure what the deal is there, but technology that is cumbersome is ultimately replaced or ignored, and right now, too many parts of LinkedIn are cumbersome when trying to take action on more than one item at a time, or trying to move between certain areas of the site, or trying to get back to where you were only a few minutes prior.
As an example, just look at how many steps you have to take to leave a group.
More Control over Page Layout
Let’s face it. The LinkedIn screens are cluttered. This is somewhat true of all social networking sites (it’s enough to give you epilepsy!), but the pain of this confusion can be offset by robust controls over what shows up on your page(s) and where. Come on people, it’s really not that hard. How many years will we have to wait to realize the full value of Web 2.0? Technology should free us to become more organized, or, at the very least, facilitate our personal brand of disorganization, not that of the developers.
For instance, I don’t necessarily want to see a list of all of a person’s activities when I visit their profile page. If it has to be there, please allow me to roll up the window so that I can get to the info that I really care about on that page.
And give me options for listing contacts, such as the following, just to name a few:
- By # of Recommendations
- By # of Connections
- By Date of Connection
- By Date of Recent Activity
- By Region
I would be immensely grateful if LinkedIn would provide an application for the Blackberry that has similar utility to the Facebook Blackberry application. While there is a mobile version of LinkedIn, it is not nearly as cool as the FB app.
Discussions (and Answers)
It would be nice to have a signature block that you could configure for each Discussion or Answer. Better yet, make it two: A signature that gets used automatically for new messages, and a shorter one for replies.
Also, why is the default for “Discussions I’m following” in order of creation, oldest first? And why can’t it be changed? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to consider that I would be more likely to want to follow-up on my most recent messages?
Yes, this is a derivative of my overall UI intuitiveness complaint, but it’s a perfectly good example of small changes that would lead to a vastly improved experience.
Hopefully, we won’t have to wait for a year to see the bulk of these requested changes put into place in some shape or fashion. This platform has so much potential, and the inclusion of different features such as Box.net, Trip-It, Events, and Blog.Link, has been incredibly useful. But I’m looking forward to networking on steroids, and the features above have a lot to do with getting to that point.
On another note, although I am still a member of at least a half-dozen other professional networking sites (including Naymz, Twine, Visible Path, and Marzar), I don’t see enough value in them to access them more than once or twice a month. They have lots of features, but not enough members. LinkedIn is still the place to be for professional networking, as is Facebook for social networking. I remain active on Plaxo as well, because of its attention to managing contact information. These three are my primary networking vehicles, and I really don’t see that changing for quite some time, if at all. (You never can be sure, though)
Presently, LinkedIn has the majority of the eyeballs, and trying to recreate my network on all the challenger networking sites is not for me. But there is still a need for LinkedIn to improve in meaningful ways, or they will find that in 18-24 months, someone has cut into their market share with a better combination of pricing and functionality. Let’s hope that they figure that out before it is too late.