LinkedIn reinvents mobile apps for daily consumption

The social network for professionals has dramatically altered the mobile experience to suck members into a personalized stream of business content.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
3 min read

LinkedIn today released completely overhauled versions of its applications for iPhone and Android as part of an ongoing effort to make its social network for professionals a rich, daily destination for consuming content and connecting with others.

The fresh applications, which bear little resemblance to their former versions, sport a colorful and crisp design, a reworked navigation, and personalization features all intended to make LinkedIn for iPhone or Android a vehicle for rabid consumption. The iPhone and Android apps are also now available in 15 different languages.

The underlying design principle behind the new mobile apps is that everything you care about should be just one tap away, Tomer Cohen, LinkedIn's senior product manager and mobile phone lead, told CNET. "We wanted to bring everything to the user, instead of the user having to go fetch the information."

The company has done that, with a cleaner and customizable navigation menu that slides in from the left-hand side of the screen to efficiently direct your attention to whatever interests you, and slides out to reveal a dynamic stream experience.

It's this new rich stream environment, the center stage of the application, that will likely capture the most attention and stimulate more activity on the social network. The stream is comprised of a number of story types, called "cards," that are shown to people based on their browsing behaviors.

Stories include status updates, connection updates, news, posts from the influencers you follow, group posts, job changes, and so forth. If you're a big content reader, you'll see more content than others, Cohen said. Likewise, if you're a job seeker, then the stream will feature more recommended jobs.

And whereas before the idea behind the stream was to present members with small, mobile-appropriate bits of information, now the focus is on helping people easily take actions. "Likes" and comments, for instance, are finally embedded within the stream, which makes these actions far more accessible and enticing.

LinkedIn's new stream also borrows from both Facebook's filtered feed approach and Twitter's unfiltered stream style to present just the right updates for each person, depending on how frequently they use the application. The algorithm powering the stream, which Head of Mobile Products Joff Redfern said blends science with art, selects top stories since your last visit if you're an infrequent visitor. Alternatively, the stream shows all of the most recent updates should you be a more habitual user of the application.

Though now impressive to behold, LinkedIn's mobile apps don't yet possess some of the network's newest features. Mentions, for instance, didn't make this release. Nor did the retooled search experience, which should find its way to mobile eventually.

But if LinkedIn has done its job successfully, the new applications will provide members with an extremely detailed and emotional environment, and will better serve the 27 percent of unique visitors who use the professional service on mobile. The company didn't want to leave this outcome to chance, so for the past three months it provided its employees with a beta version of the application to test.

The result is that LinkedIn collected more than 10,000 pieces of feedback to make a "really great app that is going to pay attention to hundreds of little details," Redfern insisted.