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Recently, a distant relative of mine, who is starting his undergrad studies this year, reached out to me for a few tips on creating a good LinkedIn profile and how best to leverage the platform for his career. While helping him with the task, I got to experience LinkedIn experience after a long time. And it seemed to have evolved a lot since the last time I experienced it a long while back. And as I went through the journey, I experienced delight, intrigue, confusion, and frustration along the way.

So, I thought, it’s worth to do a teardown of the whole onboarding experience. But this time, I went through the experience from the viewpoint of a professional looking to start a profile on LinkedIn as that would relate to most of the people in my network.

But before I jump into the teardown, I want to highlight a few guiding principles that I use to evaluate any onboarding experience:

  • Clear value proposition as soon as the user lands on the page
  • Get the user to experience the core value of the product as fast as possible
  • Don’t ask for too much information in the beginning. Show the information in the right place and at the right time
  • Get data — through user or browser — to personalize the onboarding experience
  • Nudge people to fill details that are critical for long-term engagement with the product

This is not an exhaustive list, and are just the guidelines. Therefore, some of the decisions you might end up taking might deviate from these but still make a lot of sense in the context you’re operating in.

As I enter in the browser, I land on this page.

Joining Form seems to be short and asks for only the most relevant details. But what does tagline “Be great at what you do” mean? How does LinkedIn help me being great at what I do? How broad can “what I do” be in the context of LinkedIn?

Is the LinkedIn trying to position itself as a network for everybody irrespective of the profession or type of job you’re in — white-collar, blue-collar, pink-collar, entrepreneurs, contractors, actors, musicians, contractors, consultants, etc. If that’s the case shouldn’t it reflect in the photos on the page? This is intriguing to me as I see a conflict between the tagline and photos — most of the images convey the message that LinkedIn is for white-collar jobs.

I’m sure Linkedin must have tried hundreds of A/B tests to optimize this page, and I wish I had more information/context behind this decision.

Filling in all the info and clicking on “Join Now” takes me a personalized welcome page.

Welcome page after clicking joining the network

Does the welcome message mean that I’ve already joined the network and this step is just to provide additional details to make the experience even better? Has the account already been created? I don’t know, yet. If the account has already been created, how do I know that how far I’m in the onboarding flow — how many steps have been completed, how many levels are left, etc.?

This page gives me some more glimpse of the value proposition of LinkedIn that was missing from the Landing Page — build a profile, connect with people you know, and engage with them on topics you care about. But I find it too broad to fit almost every social network — Facebook, Twitter, etc. What is it about Linkedin that I won’t get on other social networks isn’t clear to me.

I like the fact that this page has pre-filled information about my Country and approximate Postal Code based on my IP. It’s intriguing why it’s asking for this information so early before anything else. Let’s find out by clicking on Next.

On the next page, once I enter my title and the company I work with, I see interesting information pop up on the right side about: how many people with same job title are in my location and how many people from my company are on the network.

Tips showing me the value on joining the network

Ok, now I get it why the country and the postal code was requested on the previous page. Once I enter my title, it tells me how many people with similar job title are in my area. I also get to know how many people from my company are on the network. This is a nice hook to convince me of the value in joining the network and reduce the number of drop-offs in the flow. I love it!

Now that it makes me aware that I’ve many people with the similar job title and people I might know in my organization it doesn’t waste time and in the next step asks me to sync my Gmail account to see if I’ve people in my list who’re already on LinkedIn.

Sync Gmail contacts page with security tool-tip

This is THE critical step and raison d’etre of any social network. The value of a social network is zero if none of your friends/connections aren’t on it. I like the fact that LinkedIn shows a security pop-up on the right to give comfort to the user about the security of their data.

But, for now, I don’t want to click sync my Gmail account and click on that “tiny” skip option that sees what happens.

Pop-up warning on skipping the Gmail sync feature

So, LinkedIn wants to make sure that I’m not missing this step and shows me a pop-up warning — “LinkedIn works best when you’re connected to more people.” As a last resort, it even gives the user an option to import contacts. Let’s skip and see what happens.

List of recommended contacts from my organization

This is good! Even when I stayed away from adding connections at every step, this page suggests me people who work at my organization that I can add to my network.

Though, I’m not sure on what criteria it picked up and pre-selected 15 contacts. Apart from my real profile, I know only one person on the list. LinkedIn already has information about my location and my title at the company. Can it use that information to make these recommendations better? I don’t see a single person from the product group in my organization.

Let’s skip to the next page.

I like the tool-tip suggesting any photo representing me should work. It just takes away a lot of emotional friction of presenting your best professional image that would prevent the user from uploading the picture and leaving registration flow in-between. Keep in mind that this step is a very critical step, as you’ve just sent an invite to your contacts in the previous step. Aren’t they more likely to accept your request when they see your picture along with it?

Another point worth pointing out is that this step is separated from the rest of the profile information (comes after I send invitations to join) that I filled earlier. The image upload step is probably one of the biggest — if not the most significant — point of drop-offs in the flow. Adding it before you send invitations might impact drop-offs and engagement severely. These are the kind of trade-offs you’d have to make and having a clear goal in mind about what you’re optimizing for helps you navigate the decisions.

In the next step, I skip the option to download the app on my phone and land on a page where I can choose my area of interests and content related to that will fill up my feed. Which is good and a standard way to fill up the timeline so that the user doesn’t see an empty feed when she lands on the home screen.

Hashtags page to follow topics of your interest

But here is the funny part — I chose #productmanagement, #strategy, #artificialintelligence and for all the hashtags, it recommended the same accounts to follow. That doesn’t make any sense. I’ve never seen Bill Gates talking about product management on LinkedIn. Where is Google in #artificialintelligence suggestions? Why is Triathlon Coaching in #strategy? Why is Infrasoft Technologies coming in all three recommendations? Never heard of them.

Anyways, let’s click on continue and proceed.

After finishing all those steps, looks like, I’m finally on the home page. I like that LinkedIn is still trying to ensure that I enter start date to my job, add people to my network, and download the app on my phone.

Let’s go to the profile page to fill in the rest of the details. Interestingly, LinkedIn has gamified the profile building process. It shows my Profile Strength as a Beginner. As I complete my profile, I’ll move from Beginner to Intermediate to Expert level.

I love that the profile building is a guided experience ensuring that I fill in all the essential details. A timeline of my current work experience — sorry to nitpick, but why is it showing these details when just entered my start dates at my current job in the previous step, which college I went to, add a photo, add skills, etc.

I like the fact that LinkedIn not-so-subtly tells the user why particular information is useful for your profile. For example, a profile with the photo gets 21x more profile views will nudge the person to upload the picture.

Gamification of Profile Builder

Let’s fill in my education details and see if LinkedIn can help me add my classmates and alumni to my network.

After filling in my education details, I click on Find Connections card and I see people who graduated/or are still studying from my alma mater appearing in the recommended list, which is what I expected. But, but I didn’t see any of my classmates made to the initial list. I already shared my graduation dates with LinkedIn; I wish I could see my fellow classmates first on the list.

There is so much more I want to talk about, but I would stop here.I think, I’ve covered the most critical aspects of the onboarding flow and don’t want to bore the readers with every minute detail.

Overall, LinkedIn has a decent onboarding experience. There are some places where I wished for more, but It does a good job in handling the first-time user flow and show value in joining the network.

PS: Thanks Alfonso for suggesting the edits.

Image Credits: LinkedIn

LinkedIn Onboarding: A Critique was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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