LinkedIn Peer Network
A 6 day design exercise for LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a place where people can connect to people they know, in order to share professional experience and opportunities. Professional networking can begin at any point, even in school. Increasingly, students are relying on their mobile address book, and not their email address book, to manage their contacts.
Design an experience that helps college students discover and connect to their classmates, without relying on email.
I conducted an online survey to gain insight on how my peers use LinkedIn and connect to one another. This allowed me to reach students beyond my own university, from different backgrounds, majors, and ages. A few highlights are on the following pages.
I interviewed my peers to have more in-depth conversations following the survey. Here are a few highlights:
"I mostly add my classmates because they could be useful connections in the future."
- Janine, sophomore, Carnegie Mellon University
"My classmates are super smart and talented. They might be helpful in getting a job down the line."
- Raphael, senior, Northeastern University
"I use the 'People You May Know' feature because I don’t have to do any work. I don’t usually think to seek my classmates out on LinkedIn."
- Mina, junior, Hofstra University
Main Research Takeaways
Students add connections, especially their classmates, passively. This is because the main incentive to connect with classmates is the possibility that they may be helpful in getting a job in the future. For many, this is a weak incentive.
Students feel that they are not LinkedIn’s target audience, and think it is mainly for adults.
Students use, and add connections more on the desktop site than on the mobile app.
Persona: Meet Sam
After conducting the survey and interviews, I had a good idea of the typical LinkedIn college student user. Let's meet our persona, Sam.
Sam, a junior at Binghamton University has a LinkedIn account and logs on occasionally to check his notifications. Since he is a college student, most of his connections are his classmates. He thinks they may be helpful in getting a job in the future, but doesn't actively seek to connect with them.
Students are interested in connecting with their classmates on LinkedIn because they believe they could help their careers in the future. However, most do not actively add their classmates because they do not see an immediate benefit.
Students need a way of understanding how connecting with their classmates can be helpful now, and in the future.
While doing research, I came across LinkedIn Students, an app designed to help college students discover career paths and jobs, based on their education, companies that hire from their schools, and their school's alumni history.
I found that, while the app helps connect students with career options and alumni from their school, it feeds into the idea that classmates are not yet useful connections. Additionally, the daily recommendations encourage students' already passive behavior.
Interviews with LinkedIn Students Users
To learn more about how the app addresses students, I interviewed my peers who had used it.
I mostly use the app to connect with alumni working at companies I'm interested in working for in the future.
- Ari, senior, University of Pittsburgh
I like reading about different career options, but often they don't feel relevant to me and what I'm looking for.
- Rebecca, sophomore, University of Pittsburgh
For someone like me, who pretty much knows what they want to do, it's not very helpful.
- Justin, senior, Carnegie Mellon University
I decided that my design would live on the LinkedIn Students app because the app currently focuses on advancing students' careers by connecting them with helpful people like alumni, but ignores the user's own classmates.
Peer Network is a feature on the LinkedIn Students app, that helps current students from the same university connect to each other based on their goals, and how they can support each other.
I decided to focus on a mobile experience in order to expand connection discovery to mobile. In addition, college students are always with their phones, and a mobile experience would allow students to sync their phone contacts.
Brainstorming & Wireframing
I put all my thoughts onto paper and started to make sense of the problem and all of the possible solutions.
I studied the typography, color, icons, and language of the LinkedIn Students and the LinkedIn app, so that my design would fit in seamlessly.
Final Product: Peer Network
Re-purposing LinkedIn Students
Search, Home, and Messaging
In order to further motivate the user to connect with classmates and achieve their goals, I edited LinkedIn Students' search screen, home screen, and added a messaging capability. This is in addition to the peer network feature.
Given more time to work on this challenge, there are a few areas I would like to continue exploring:
How can I further motivate the user to reach out the their classmates and create meaningful, collaborative, and helpful relationships?
How can I further encourage the user to support their classmates?
How might the user input progress they have made on their goals?
How might this app be used after the student graduates? Would it turn into a class alumni network, and continue to encourage collaboration?