Dear LinkedIn: please put my interests before yours
I have a love-hate relationship with most of my digital communities, and LinkedIn is no different. Today’s friction point: reviewing LinkedIn connection requests.
1. Log in to LinkedIn.
(What? You don’t have a LI account? This granddaddy of social networks is a must for anyone who is or might ever be in the job market.)
2. Review your LinkedIn connection requests
Once you’ve logged in, click the indeterminate person to the left of your avatar.
(What? You don’t have an avatar? This is an essential element of your profile if you want to use the network to connect with people. If you’re using it in read-only mode, then the default/naked person is understandable if a little short-sighted. That’s because LI shows your profile to people it thinks might know you, whether or not you are actively seeking connections.)
2a. Click the alert/icon
One of the first things you’ll see after logging in is this: how many messages you have that LI thinks you haven’t read (I’ve read all of these, by the way) and how many connection requests you have.
The numbers adjacent to the iconography act like “alerts”. In any other social network, clicking on an alert leads to information about that alert. And that is how the messages alert works on LinkedIn. But not connection requests.
If you’re the impatient sort, and quickly click on the sketch of a person to the left of your avatar, you’ll be greeted with an “add more people to your network” screen.
In other words, LI wants us to ask other people to be part of the network. It does this by crawling our email contact lists. And it treats a click on an alert as though it were a conscious decision to add more people to our network.
Although LinkedIn asks for permission to grow the network, this screen represents task-interruptus: we’re trying to see who wants to connect with us but LI, instead, has served up a page that says “ask your friends to connect with you.”
Thus, with this action, LinkedIn puts its desire to grow the network above above the customer’s (immediate) wants/needs/desires — to see who has asked to connect.
Note: this is not how the LinkedIn app (iOS) behaves. Click the alert; see connection requests.
2b. Mouseover the icon
If you are patient enough to mouseover the little person instead of click on it, you’ll see a drop-down menu.
The first set of three links is “Invitations” — people who have asked to connect with you. The second set of links is people that LinkedIn thinks you might know. Think of this as “suggested” connections.
This is the same menu option that you’ll see on the mobile (iOS) version of LinkedIn as well.
2c. Click or tap > “See all Invitations”
Although you’ve clicked on “See all invitations” … the page title is “People You May Know.” That was the title of the second set of links on the drop-down menu. So now the two groups have been merged.
See how small (and washed out) the headline is for “Pending invitations”? This is the content that I came here to see.
Which information segment has the greatest visual importance, row one or row two?
And why is the pending invitations systems visually tied to the title “People You May Know” … but all of those suggested connections are not? Arggghh!
Row one is the same three people you have already seen in your dropdown menu. There isn’t a smidgen of new information here. Oddly, their photos are smaller than the people LI thinks you might know.
Row two, on the other hand, represents four people that LinkedIn thinks you should ask to connect with you. The images are larger, the connect button is visible.
Which row do you think LinkedIn wants you to act on?
Regardless, any possible action you might take regarding requests — accept or reject –remains visually MIA. You have to mouseover the person’s image to see the options.
On the desktop dropdown, you can see the check-minus marks only if you mouseover any individual’s request. In the mobile app, the action options are visible in the dropdown (no mouseover action required, because … mobile!).
However, note the subtle difference in the ordering of the action items between dropdown menus and in-page mouseovers.
On the dropdown — whether desktop app or mobile — the first choice in the action pair is reject. On the in-page mouseover, the first choice is to accept. Intentional inconsistency?
There’s another difference between mobile and desktop views: on the mobile app, you can quickly (and easily) tell LinkedIn not to show you that suggested connection again. Just as there is an “x” to reject a connection request, there is an “x” to tell LinkedIn, “don’t show me this person again.”
I don’t know why you would, but if you mouseover a suggested contact on the desktop view, you’ll see a tiny “x” in the upper right hand corner of the photo. This is the kind of “x” that we associate with “hide” or “delete image” not “hide this recommendation forever.”
Note: I have so many connection requests (73 in some these screen captures) because I am, as a general rule, reluctant to hit the “x”, which would deep-six the connection request. Periodically I get in house-cleaning mode and work through all the folks I don’t know and who have nothing to do with any of my fields of work, and I’ll get that number down to something approaching single-digits. Writing this post helped with that task! No avatar > no brainer for rejecting the request. Services that I might need one day (like realty), I’ll continue to leave in limbo.
2d. But I want to “See all Invitations”!
Good luck with that.
In the desktop site, you get to click “see more” over and over again to reveal folks who have asked you for a connection. Eventually, LI will show you no more new rows (at least in Safari). Thus, to see “old” connection requests in the desktop view, you’ll have to act on the more recent ones. However, the mobile app seems to show all requests.
This is direct opposition to the infinite-scrolling that greets you if you want to see just how many people LinkedIn will suggest you should ask for a connection.
Let’s re-imagine that pending invitations page
First, there are clear demarkations between the two types of content.
Second, the section “pending invitations” is now privileged when compared to “suggested connections.” Of course, if someone does not have more than three pending invitations, this is not an issue. But even then, there should initially be only one row of suggested connections when the page loads. And there should be no infinite scroll unless the customer tells you she wants that feature.
Third, there are no hidden actions. Accept, reject or connect (ask for connection) are all visible. Ditto “don’t suggest this person again”. Moreover, the “reject/accept” order of the options on pending requests is the same as in the dropdown, not the opposite order.
To make this page design truly user-centered, however, the “See more” should be “Show all” and that’s what it should do when clicked, since that was the name of the link that got us here.
The LinkedIn application privileges LinkedIn’s suggested connections over connection requests. I think this is backwards.
I understand the importance — to LinkedIn and to its customer base — of growing the network. Metcalfe’s Law (the value of a network grows exponentially) is central to the economics of digital networks, especially digital sandboxes like LinkedIn.
Deliver what you promise!
LinkedIn promises “See all invitations” … and then makes those invitations subservient to suggested connections.
LinkedIn interprets a click on an alert — an alert that tells us we have invitations to connect — as though our intent were to add new connections!
Both of these behaviors are very “company-first” in orientation. And that’s the antithesis of user-centered design.
 We’ll save the agony that is “add people to my network” for another day.
 Metcalfe’s Law image from List.ly co-founder.