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Facebook and LinkedIn UIs Still Smell Funny

Is it just me, or are the major social network UIs still counterintuitive and in some cases getting worse? I find myself going on scavenger hunts for common functions in LinkedIn. Ryan and I recently discovered dozens of users waiting to join our LinkedIn groups because we were unaware they had applied. There are no email notifications and it takes four clicks just to discover new members waiting to join your group. LinkedIn's UX designers are asleep at the wheel.

When showing Facebook to new users I find even computer literate people have a hard time doing the most basic functions such as uploading a photo. Do you go to the "Photos" subtab displayed on "Home". No. You have to go to a tab with the same name in "Profile". After you are familiar with the site the reasons for this become clearer, but why not add a quick "add photo" cross link in the home > photos area? Many (most?) new Facebook users require a tour before they can make good use of the site. This is a telltale sign of poor UI design. Term confusion is also a problem. Now we have applications and boxes. Great.

Finally, why aren't you able to easily segment different types of connections (friends, family, business, etc.) and quickly see what they see when viewing your info, updates, media, etc.? The sites's new lifestream approach isn't very customizable and its hard to determine who can see what updates. A good UI would provide intuitive control over the window you provide into your life for various types of connections.

On a related note, why is Facebook trying to kill social widgets? Relegating widgets to the boxes sub-tab gives users less control over how they express themselves and makes the platform generally widget unfriendly. Yes, I know you can go to the boxes sub-tab, click on the tiny pencil icon and select "Move to Wall", but unfortunately most people have no idea this feature exists. Many popular widgets apps have seen their once impressive traffic numbers plummet to a trickle because its hard to figure out how to prominently display them.

Its amazing to me that the world's most popular social networking sites still have such poor UIs.


Ikayzo - Design • Build • Localize | Web • Desktop • Mobile

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Comment by Daniel Leuck on October 23, 2008 at 3:52am
LinkedIn Announces $22.7 Million Infusion From SAP, Goldman Sachs, ...

LinkedIn has a lot of issues including a poor UI and failure to seize opportunities in Europe and Asia. That being said, they were a first mover in the US where they are doing just fine. As the market leader in business SNSs they have created a huge barrier to entry and are sitting on $100M in funding. Unlike most other social networks they actually make money and unlike most young web companies flush with cash they have resisted premature expansion. They will weather the storm.
Comment by John on October 22, 2008 at 10:13pm
Linkedin dominates the US business networking market. They are profitable and are very valuable to business people looking to sell, partner, recruit, etc. Moreover, they have a huge barrier to entry because of their large and concentrated business membership.

The overall user experience can be painful at times but I doubt they are going anywhere. Plus, since they have such a strong position, the pressure to improve their UX is limited.

I am not defending them but I think it's rational.

As for facebook, they are too busy dealing with their ongoing defections. As Marc Andersen once said, companies do not have retention issues, they have winning issues.
Comment by Larry Melia on October 22, 2008 at 5:31pm
Hey Dan,

I’ve noticed the same thing. I believe many of these properties are a bunch of hype and whatever advertising revenues they now claim, could dry up very soon, with respect to the global, financial meltdown. I do not see a “linkedIn” being around independently within six months. What might survive is something bought-up by a Google or somebody; otherwise, they will be out-of-business.

My 2-cents.
Comment by Viil on October 21, 2008 at 10:28am
Its amazing to me that the world's most popular social networking sites still have such poor UIs.

I'm guessing they are focusing on other business goals than usability, which is a dangerous path for any social application.
Comment by Mika Leuck on October 20, 2008 at 5:55pm
Mixi's UI looks like it was built in the 90s. They need to stay up to date.
Comment by Truman Leung on October 17, 2008 at 8:15am
Perhaps too many cooks spoil the soup, so to speak.
Comment by Nate Sanders on October 17, 2008 at 3:43am
I don't have much concrete to say other than that I completely agree with you. After the somewhat recent change, Facebook became distinctly less intuitive to me. I haven't used LinkedIn that much, but I certainly recall poking around trying to figure things out that I felt I shouldn't have had to.

Your point about the four clicks thing makes me think that UX could benefit from analysis tools that show every action/page/etc in a tree with nodes labeled with their minimum depth.

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