Take a look at some behind-the-scenes thinking of a re-imagined $26B social network.
Getting [in] — & finding my market fit
Hi there, my name is Alex and I just ended my 2+ year tenure at Linkedin as a Sr. Product Designer working primarily across Home and Sharing. I’d love to tell you a little bit about my journey and highlight some work.
Linkedin is often known for being a bit on the corporate side. With lots of opportunities to humanize its UI, content, and interaction design, I saw all of this as a series of new challenges –– and wanted to contribute to it.
Content experience — the core Linkedin
Designing flexible and sustainable product UI (at scale) was something I grew to love during my time at Google, helping products grow through systemic and standardized design. Backtrack a couple of years ago, Linkedin was looking to modernize the same space, in order to reach a wider audience.
A few onboarding detours placed me at the center of the consumer product (Content Experience Org), working within the Home and Sharing pillars and collaborating closely with Conversations, Infra, Live, Video, and Stories. These teams focused on content creation, as well as improving engagement and trust across Linkedin. Below is a bit of a broad stroke in terms of the work I focused on while there…
Learning to lower the barrier to sharing through research, collaboration & systems design
Professionals often find themselves in a tight spot for public broadcast. Sharing content is the core of social network, yet often relies on heavy thinking and a professional reputation. Whether it’s starting a new job, looking for work or asking for career advice, linkedin finds itself in a unique position that other networks (Facebooks, Twitters) don’t, resulting in this core problem statement:
Members are afraid of putting their reputation at risk. How can clarity and confidence ease these fears?
Listening to users & scaling up — while creating a more flexible, accessible & warmer framework over time
I was fortunate to straddle the line between Home and Sharing, acting as the sole designer on the sharing pillar for 2+ years — including desktop, iOS, and Android, partnering with product and engineering to co-lead a scrum team focused on improving how members and companies post content on LinkedIn. Example pain points we took sight of include:
- Strict, cold, and corporate
- Warring and unclear, legacy design patterns erode focus and trust
- Lack of guidance hinders overall confidence
- Poor ADA compliance
- Tech debt & eng maintenance challenges
- Standardization across design systems
- Content creation and creators growth (content shared vs content sharers)
- Sponsored revenue updates
What’s Content Experience?
The conversational backbone to Linkedin.
- Home is where most content consumption is done. It’s a feed of updates from connections, followers and companies. I spent a portion of my time with this team.
- Sharing is how that content gets there. This is where members set their audiences as well as share various forms of content eg photos, videos, jobs and much more. These two are closely coupled throughout every experience, and this is where I spent most of my time.
- Conversations is how the network communicates. Commenting, reactions etc all make those posts go round. I worked closely with this team but was not dedicated.
- Infra bridged architectural design principles, goals, and guidance. And work together with design systems and engagement-focused teams.
Often using the Double Diamond method to discover, define, and deliver at various stages of design thinking. This helped keep stakeholders and partner teams aware, onboard, and involved each step of the way.
Home feed redesign
My time on the Home team was more focused on modernizing the mobile feed experience. I did not lead all Home efforts, just the feed redesign. This meant looking at member pain points from the existing Home UX and applying our new design principles to the areas with the most patchwork needed and ultimately setting a foundation for other Linkedin products/pillars.
With a simplified mobile-first approach, we were able to test, validate, and scale-out effectively. The Feed MVP team consisted of a small group of leads, engineers, and researchers focused on validating a new design language. You can think about the effort as an under the hood scaffolding and over the hood visual design refresh — starting with iOS.
This included taking a newly vetted design system (Mercado) and stress testing it against a series of qual and quant experiments. This meant exploring and defining principles based on member pain points, research, and ramp milestones.
How it started v. how it’s going
Using research, competitive analysis, and extensive prototyping, we introduced a new card and canvas feed design. Below were top considerations converted into UX principles:
Warmth and Humanity, Inclusivity, and Community.
- Lead with humanized principles. Driven by research, we used the above principles to guide us through the process.
- Warmth & humanity — focusing on a new color palette, illustrations, and humanized content design.
- Inclusivity and community — focusing on cross-platform, accessible UI patterns while still elevating engaging, actionable content.
- Simplify our stacks. Design and engineering could benefit from a simplified system, helping elevate content and recede unnecessary UI noise. No more custom components (shout out to Oscar for all his work on this too!).
- Focus on top pain points. Support and stress test common feed cases and pain points — such as standardized UI, accessibility, and navigation patterns.
- Ramp up, learn, scale-out. Use sponsored updates as ramp benchmark, and align with partners on planning. Let feed influence navigation, notifications, and jobs. Scale-out across Android and Web.
To streamline our iterative process, we developed tools & working Figma libraries.
Validation through Mixed Methods
- Usability. Do labels and screen readers work? Can members still engage with content as or better than before? Revised accessibility standards through component sizing, contrast ratios, and screen reading was important to cross check.
- Look and feel. Prototyping with Principle, Figma, and production code ––reinforce brand through accents while elevating content. Have we achieved a warmer feel through revised color?
Participants felt the new feed design was warmer, simpler, and easier to digest content
Working with researchers, we developed and executed virtual interviews to test multiple variants for usability, accessibility, and ease of use. Resulting in a starter kit for other pillars to learn and execute from.
Paving the way for a modernized Share experience
My time on Sharing was the most tenured and impactful. It allowed me to shoot for a vision that I knew was attainable but would likely face a few snags along the way. This meant working closely with design systems, infra, and partner teams like conversations, pages, media core, and events.
Competitive research and years of lab studies drew us to several conclusions to aid in this process given the following opportunities:
- Guidance creates confidence. Infrequent and frequent members are often too scared to post something that could hurt their reputation. Working with content design to enhance copywriting across Sharing cases (e.g. visibility, content types, and edge cases).
- Holistic picture. How do these data points affect other projects/pillars? What’s the end business and member goal for such a vision? How does this tie back to our strategies?
- Leverage a vetted system. No more custom components. How can we leverage an incoming design system to top off these pain points, and for future work to tastefully take place? Since mobile market share was growing so quickly, we decided to lead with mobile and let it influence desktop.
- Reflow & Orientation Support. Working within a standardized WGAC AA criteria and across pillars, how can sharing open up to more members with proper landscape and portrait functionality?
Resulting in a cross-platform and scalable framework for new partners and content
A stable and well-supported end-to-end sharing flow was key to bringing it all together, and allowing for future products to co-exist, such as Polls, Stories, and Events.
Improving guidance and spec work through pillar specific Figma libraries
It was important to source the right components for each pillar, given all of the modernization efforts. Sharing developed a flexible Figma library to ease this process. This included atomic components, interactive variants, and a ready-made UI kit for partners to leverage.
Research told us that clear content design and consistent, predictable UX aided in trust and confidence
Adding clearer descriptions and consistent navigation patterns really helped with product understanding and overall confidence. This acted as guidance throughout our flows, which tested well during pop-up and lab studies.
Takeaways, mentorship & more
Linkedin is a large company with a lot of checks and balances. I found this to be insightful and safe, yet a dent in overall velocity. With the ever-changing world of accessibility, standardization, and use cases — it can be hard to find downtime to really trial one’s work without that weight more streamlined.
As part of the Linkedin mentorship program, I enjoyed and found myself in between the daily hustle, and educating others. This wasn’t gated to just junior designers, but to lateral designers looking to expand their toolkits. This often included but was not limited to:
- Process & product thinking
- Communication & stakeholder management
- File hygiene & library development
Onward & upward 🚀
To close this out, I want to thank my colleagues, friends and leads for helping me grow as a designer and at the same time helping me gain a few friends along the way. Shout out to the Infra and design systems teams for their collaboration on feed, and props to my core design team who I love and adore working with. Even bigger props to my immediate Sharing team — Howie, Hemant, and Doug for powering through for as long as we did.
More Linkedin accomplishments, sitewide impact & targeting a wider audience
We grew content creation +XX% y/y via modernization of sharing and new content creation tools (introduction of LinkedIn polls, home feed redesign, re-imagined sharebox experience)
- Reignited companies posting via an overhaul of sharebox, resulting in the exponential growth of a notoriously difficult metric
- Spearheaded new pillar-level Figma Kits/libraries, utilized across my design org
- Formally and casually mentor other designers on collaboration, infra & systems design, and product planning
- Catering and listening to people with new working styles, disabilities, and interests.
- Sharebox guider
- Visibility redesign
- Main feed Page sharing
- Web and Mobile Sharebox redesign
- Feed & feed sharebox redesign
- Comment controls
- Sticky visibility
- WGAC AA support
In the news
A note from Ryan Roslanksy on the overall modernization design effort
Thoughts from our engineering lead on building Mercado
USA Today Spotlight on Linkedin’s new design