OMG. LinkedIn does Facebook... again!
The new UI is more like cards, they ditched patterned background for a subtler gray, they've introduced quite a few context specific actions, design is flatter, assets are cleaned up ... and more.
While we could whine about the Singularity that seems to be staring at us, we could also look at different perspectives and take some useful things home. My article is focused on the second approach.
1. You don't have to reinvent the wheel
Absolutely. I'm still trying hard to find the meaning of "intuitive"... but if it means introducing familiarity to the users, the new wall/ newsfeed/ home of Linked in seems to be doing its job well. If Facebook has 1Billion + users who see this kind of page everyday, it would rather be too adventurous to change the pattern (and especially when Linkedin is making its presence stronger by the day, by way of adding field personnel more then revamping its UI).
2. More than one social network can exist (and make money, too)
If there is enough for its users to stick to it. There was time when we discussed Linkedin's future, given that it will not be too difficult for Facebook to venture into professional networking (that was a good 5 years ago). It sounds like pointless discussion now, given that we are spending enough time on Linkedin and we are growing with it and vice-versa. In fact, there may be room for few more, large scale social networks for people to consume, if there is enough juice for users to extract!
3. Improving UI need not necessarily improve UX
We all know UI and UX are two completely different domains, still a lot of us interchangeably use them. This is another opportunity to tell the difference: Yes, there was a pleasant surprise when I saw my new newsfeed, but that lasted only a few hours. I'm now back to the chore of trying hard to search and find the right person, helplessly trying to find the receipt for the ad payment I made a month ago, going all over the place to see where on Earth my recent posts are... and many such small things that total up to a "not so nice" experience. That experience hasn't changed (at all) with the new crisper cards, flatter design and that cover image on my profile that no one needs.
4. It takes a lot of effort to revamp the UI (however incremental the change is)
It seems so (or may be, Linkedin's UI team is grossly understaffed). You will notice flatter, outline buttons on the wall, while they are still 3-dimensional at most of the places. While at some places, contextual actions appear on click, they appear on hover at other. Text input fields have at least three different styles and layout grids are not logical. At this pace, it will take at the very least, another year for Linked in to get consistency in the behaviour (and by that time, there may be compelling reasons to again change the look)! Its a tough task for Linked in. I wonder then, how companies with far limited resources manage it!
5. As you grow, you lose user focus and gain business focus
Its a reality we ought to digest! It seems to me that much of the UI tweaking got in place to serve advertisers (more than end users). There's nothing right or wrong about it, but it seems that the new ground force that is driving real numbers have a bigger say in key decisions (including UI). As the time flows, we will probably see a new perspective in management and it may result in a larger user focus... this balance keeps tilting and that's the beauty of it. End of the day, it will be difficult to achieve a equilibrium (everyone is not Steve Jobs).