Designing a simpler, more inclusive Linkedin Home & Sharing

Alex
7 min readJul 4, 2021

Behind-the-scenes design thinking of a re-imagined $26B social network

Finding my market fit

With over two years of experience at LinkedIn, focusing on Home and Sharing. I’m excited to share my journey and showcase some of my work. LinkedIn, known for its corporate vibe, presented unique challenges and opportunities to humanize its UI, content, and interaction design, which I was eager to contribute to.

Linkedin SF — 222 Second st office, 17th-floor terrace — San Francisco

Flagship consumer is the core of LinkedIn

During my tenure at Google, I developed a passion for designing scalable and sustainable product UI, contributing to the growth of products through systemic and standardized design. Around 2019, LinkedIn sought to modernize a similar space to broaden its audience reach.

Ultimately, I became part of the consumer product team within the Content Experience Org, working across the Home and Sharing pillars. I collaborated closely with teams such as Conversations, Infra, Live, Video, and Stories, collectively focusing on content creation and enhancing engagement and trust across LinkedIn. The following outlines the broad scope of the work I engaged in during that period.

I’m the one in the hat

Lowering the barrier to sharing through research, collaboration & systems design

Often confronting the challenge of professionals navigating content sharing while upholding a professional image — a concern not mirrored on platforms like Facebook or Twitter. This encapsulates the central problem statement for LinkedIn users.

Members are afraid of putting their reputation at risk. How can clarity and confidence ease these fears?

Early planning days

Listening to users & scaling up — while creating a more flexible framework over time

I straddled Home and Sharing, acting as the sole designer for the sharing pillar for 2+ years. This role included desktop, iOS, and Android, where I partnered with product and engineering to co-lead a scrum team focused on improving how members and companies post content on LinkedIn. Pain points we addressed included:

  • The existing experience is cold and corporate, with legacy design patterns eroding focus and trust.
  • Lack of clear guidance contributes to a lack of confidence, worsened by poor ADA compliance.
  • Business challenges include addressing technical debt and engineering maintenance, standardizing design systems, and fostering growth in content creation and creators, along with navigating updates in sponsored revenue. Addressing these aspects is crucial for enhancing both the member experience and the business’s overall effectiveness.

Working across Content Experience

I concentrated on the core of LinkedIn engagement — the Home feed, where users share diverse content. This involved audience settings, sharing photos, videos, and job postings. My collaboration extended to the Conversations team for communication elements like comments and reactions, while also engaging with the “Infra” team to align architectural design principles and goals with design systems and user engagement 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, on board and involved each step of the way.

Home feed redesign

During my time with the Home team, I led the redesign of the mobile feed experience, focusing on addressing member pain points and applying new design principles. This work served as a reference for other LinkedIn products, emphasizing a mobile-first approach for efficient testing, validation, and scalable implementation. Working with the Feed MVP team, we validated a new design language and began the redesign with iOS, collaborating closely with leads, engineers, and researchers.

A mobile-first MVP Strategy focused on validating a new design system with user research

This included taking a newly vetted design system (Mercado) and stress testing it against a series of qual and quantitative experiments. This meant exploring and defining principles based on member pain points, research, and ramp milestones.

Using research, competitive analysis, and extensive prototyping, we introduced a new card and canvas feed design.

Driven by principles and research, our approach prioritized warmth, inclusivity, and simplicity. We revamped color palettes and content design for a more engaging experience, streamlined UI for accessibility, and simplified design systems. Focused on common feed pain points, we standardized UI, enhanced accessibility, and improved navigation. Using sponsored updates as a benchmark, we scaled these improvements across Android and Web platforms.

Supporting pain points included:

・Clearer content design
・Design system tech debt and ADA compliance
・Moderating feed conversations
・Allowing pages to share faster
・Evolving a legacy design language
・Flexible frameworks for partner teams like Services and Jobs

Early thinking helps to influence strategy

Working with partners, Infra & Design Systems to develop Figma component libraries to streamline our iterative process at scale.

Validation through Mixed Methods Research & experimentation

Our focus on usability involved rigorous testing of labels, screen readers, and member engagement, ensuring adherence to enhanced accessibility standards. We used tools like Principle, Figma, and production code to prototype and reinforce the brand, striving for a warmer look and feel through revised colors while maintaining content elevation.

Most users felt the new feed design was warmer & easier to engage with

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.

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.

Paving the way for a modernized Sharing 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.

Informed by competitive research, we focused on boosting member confidence through refined guidance and improved copywriting in various Sharing scenarios. Our strategy included a holistic assessment of data points’ impact on broader projects and pillars, aligning with overarching business and member goals.

Transitioning away from custom components, we embraced a design system to address pain points and guide future work, prioritizing mobile to influence desktop experiences. Our commitment to accessibility involved adhering to standardized criteria for landscape and portrait functionality in sharing across diverse orientations.

In the end, a clearer, simpler & more accessible UX helped members complete tasks with trust

Implementing clearer descriptions and consistent navigation patterns significantly improved product understanding and overall user confidence, serving as a guiding principle throughout our workflows, with successful testing in pop-up and lab studies. However, within LinkedIn’s extensive structure, marked by checks and balances, maintaining velocity became a challenge.

The dynamic landscape of accessibility, standardization, and diverse use cases made it challenging to find dedicated time for in-depth experimentation. Engaging in the LinkedIn mentorship program allowed me to strike a balance between daily responsibilities and educational efforts, providing guidance not only to junior designers but also to those seeking to expand their skill sets. Topics covered included process and product thinking, effective communication, stakeholder management, and file organization.

The design gang

We grew in members & content creation via modernization & new tools like moderation, polls & improved content design

We revitalized corporate engagement through a share box overhaul, leading to significant growth in a challenging metric. Initiated the development of comprehensive Figma Kits/libraries at the pillar level, widely adopted within the design organization. Actively mentored fellow designers in collaboration, infra/systems design, and product planning, providing both formal and informal guidance. Demonstrated an inclusive approach by catering to individuals with diverse working styles, disabilities, and interests.

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.

I was fortunate to contribute to a diverse range of projects, and the enhancement of several key features and components within LinkedIn. Notable projects included the Sharebox Guider, Visibility Redesign, Main Feed Page Sharing, Web and Mobile Sharebox Redesign, Feed & Feed Sharebox Redesign, Polls, Comment Controls, Sticky Visibility, and the implementation of WGAC AA support, each playing a crucial role in refining and optimizing the user experience on both web and mobile platforms.

Press

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
Linkedin Polls on Tech Crunch

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