LinkedIn Is Gearing Up For A Redesign: Bigger Pictures, Anchored Menu (And A Life Less Tweeted)

LinkedIn these days may be the social network that is used most by those looking for a new job (and not the place to read tweets), but the company has long wanted to be seen as the place for a whole lot more, and we’re now getting a glimpse of how it plans to put that into action. LinkedIn has been quietly rolling out a new version of its homepage to some of its 160 million+ users — the first major update in years — with a layout that will put a lot more emphasis on building out relationships, make better use of socially curated news content — and, if things go according to plan, should make the site a lot more sticky.

We’ve had three different people contact us about the new-look LinkedIn, and a spokesperson for the company has also confirmed as much:

“We are always looking for ways to make it easier for LinkedIn members to get more value out of our services by creating simpler, more relevant experiences, so we are currently testing a new design for the LinkedIn homepage with a handful of members,” he told TechCrunch.

Judging by the number of tips we’ve already received on the new look (and those that we’ve spotted discussing it online), it could move from test phase to wider rollout in a matter of weeks.

So what’s on the new site? Many of the same elements are there as before, but in more dynamic ways.

The new menu bar, for example, now on a darkened background, has the same tabs as the existing one, but it will now remain at the top of the page as you scroll down and around. That gives users the ability to, say, create a message or check on news from wherever they are on the page.

Similarly, LinkedIn Today still appears close to the top of the page, but now the images in the feed are much bigger. While this isn’t anything like the Facebook Timeline (for starters there are no photos posted on LinkedIn, except for your profile mugshot), you can see the influence of visually-led redesigns like that being used to engage the user more.

Meanwhile, there also seems to be more functionality in the “people who have viewed your profile” area, with conditional “Message/Connect” buttons next to each person, meaning: if someone has viewed your profile and you’re connected to them you can message them, otherwise, you can connect.

The bigger strategic move at LinkedIn has been towards more simplification. It’s something that we’ve seen in the latest version’s of the company’s mobile apps, and it’s what CEO Jeff Weiner has emphasized as a wider goal for the company. And it’s what LinkedIn appears to be going for here, too.

But those aesthetic improvements are almost certainly going to also be followed up with algorithmic changes, where ease of use will be coupled with content that LinkedIn members actually want to use: whether that is a more relevant selection of potential contacts through “people you may know”, a more personalized lists of stories on LinkedIn Today, or easier ways of creating and sharing content with your contacts.

That last point about people using LinkedIn as a place for their own thoughts and information sharing is an important one. Although the development of a new home page with enhanced content features would have started months ago, it’s timely that its emergence happens to come in the wake of Twitter’s semi-divorce from LinkedIn, in which Twitter has limited its API to prevent tweets from automatically posting to LinkedIn’s social network.

Those tweets, we’ve heard, produced a ton of content on LinkedIn, but not necessarily content relevant to the professional network. That says two things: there is a hole to be filled, and an opportunity to fill it in a way that is better than what came before.

One colleague of mine noted to me: “With Twitter being pulled from Linkedin I realize I have more incentive to post status updates [on LinkedIn].” Well, it could be either that or people pulling away from using the site altogether because of the extra time and effort required. All the more reason LinkedIn needs to get a snappy update out the door post-haste.