How do you help a high school student build
a professional profile on LinkedIn?
A 7 day design challenge from Linkedin
LinkedIn is a place where individuals can build their professional brand, through showcasing their experience and skills on their LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn recently changed its terms of service, to allow high school students to join the site and explore their educational and career opportunities. Completing a LinkedIn profile can feel daunting to a student who does not have much professional experience.
Design an experience that helps a high school student create a profile. They should feel at-ease with the process, and understand the value of building their professional reputation.
Here's a shortcut to my final concept, but read on to see my process, starting from research:
1. Understanding the Audience
I started off by first analyzing LinkedIn's experience from the eyes of a high schooler. I looked into the functions I typically don't use as a college student: University Finder, Field of Study Explorer, University Rankings, Decision Board, etc. I also created a new account as someone below the age of 18. All of these functions are extremely relevant to a high schooler, but a bit hard to find at first. Letting users know of these functions and relating them to their profiles could make LinkedIn more useful to these users and encourage more use in these sections.
After a better understanding of what a high school student might use LinkedIn for, I created a survey to collect information about how they actually use LinkedIn. Unfortunately, I was only able to get 32 responses, and most didn't have LinkedIn profiles. However I was able to understand where their priorities might be in using LinkedIn.
Most high schoolers that responded don't use LinkedIn. From my responses, 44% had a LinkedIn account, and half of them did more than simply creating an account. Several responses were along the lines of "I use LinkedIn because my sister said it was useful." It seemed that users only created a LinkedIn because others told them to, and seldom used it aside from a basic profile.
Of those that didn't use LinkedIn, several thought that it was for business professionals and not relevant to them. Overall, most didn't know about the education and college research on LinkedIn. However, 84% of the responders often researched potential colleges, 78% had an idea of what they wanted to do for a career, and 59% often researched about potential jobs and internships. LinkedIn could be extremely useful to them.
‣ students think LinkedIn is for professionals
‣ students aren't aware of LinkedIn capabilities
‣ creating a profile seems unnecessary and tedious
‣ those who do use it do so because they have peers that use LinkedIn
I took a look at general high school trends in social networks and its affect on LinkedIn in general. Overall, high schoolers tend to be drifting away from the constant profile of Facebook to more micro-profile applications, like Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. This actually increases the impact that LinkedIn may have on high school aged students because of:
‣ their tendency to exist on multiple platforms
‣ separation of their professional and identities, establishing separate connections
‣ shift of school and organization pages from Facebook to a more professional platform/dashboard
However, the attraction to micro-profile applications also means that building out a profile as large as one on LinkedIn can be overwhelming and tedious. Dashboards may also feel cluttered and distracting. By providing smaller clusters of information and completing a profile in guided steps rather than the current model, we can reduce some of the overload of information.
‣ emphasis on university & job research
‣ emphasis on professional connections
‣ inducing a more professional profile
‣ guided steps rather than editing an empty profile
‣ shorter bursts of information
‣ improved sharing of LinkedIn's potentials
‣ professional, but student-friendly feel
2. CURRENT USER FLOW AND COMPETITOR ANALYSIS
I went through LinkedIn's user flow in creating a new profile, once before looking at survey responses and competitor flows, and again after in order to see it from a different perspective..
I found that signing up was easy. The process at first felt a bit like I would have to go through pages and pages of answering mini-surveys about myself. It would have been nice to see some form of progress indicator, especially since it was so short. I loved the language used in creating a profile. LinkedIn felt friendly, but professional.
However, upon confirming my email, I was immediately brought to the dashboard with no emphasis on creating my profile. There were several indicators to make connections, but only a single "add a photo" to start editing and creating my profile. Because the dashboard is so tailored to your profile, I was surprised that I was brought to the dashboard with no mention of creating a profile. I thought the overall design of the dashboard was great, as it keeps the design light while displaying a huge amount of information. I did wish the nav bar had a bit more attention, as functions like "education" or "jobs" are extremely useful.
Once navigating to my profile, I felt overwhelmed by the amount of things to do. It was nice seeing a sort of progress bar, but it seemed like there were too many things to fill out. While editing it is as simple as filling out a form, it is displayed in a way that looks like you need to edit each individual section. This could be simplified by a form earlier on that generates this profile for you. The page also didn't feel tailored to the user. As someone who signed up as a high schooler, I was given the question "Where do you currently work?." Pushing a question that may be more relevant to the user would be useful.
Linkedin's initial profile creation flow:
OTHER PROFILE CREATION Processes
I created a couple accounts on other profile-based sites to see how they tackled profile creation and general user flows. Some places I checked out: Campus Steps, Facebook, Tumblr, Youtube, etc. Here are some of my notes (excuse the messy writing)
3. IDEATION & WIREFRAMES
I started jotting down ideas and wireframing designs. I focused on several core values & goals.
‣ confidence - making students feel that they belong on Linkedin
‣ exposure - exposing students to the wealth of information available
‣ connections - emphasizing the importance of peers & following by example
‣ everything in one place - condensing profile creation steps
‣ showing progress - showing how well built a profile is
‣ professionalism - keeping a light feel, but encouraging the creation of a polished profile
4. CONCEPT: LINKEdin PRofile Builder
LinkedIn Profile Builder is a a feature that helps high schoolers build a profile easily, get connected, and grow a professional reputation on LinkedIn. Instead of immediately taking the user to LinkedIn, it provides a starter form so that when the user finally starts to use LinkedIn, everything is ready for them - they don't have to individually go in and add every accomplishment or organization separately. The user can skip over any section, and once they hit submit, they enter LinkedIn. Several functions are pointed out as a bit of a tour, and the user is ready to go!
The sign up stays pretty much the same, with the addition of indicating student status. By putting this information in first, profile builder can optimize its contents to the user -- in this case, a high schooler. This might mean bringing forward universities instead of jobs, or organization experience rather than job experience.
This immediately takes you to confirm your email in order to unlock all of LinkedIn's capabilities in building a profile.
Build your profile
The user is brought to a welcome page, where they can start building a basic profile. It echoes the general layout of LinkedIn's dashboard and profile, but borrows the more playful and bold visual language of the current sign up process.
I wanted to focus on welcoming the user and providing a set of steps. Using steps allows for a flow where users can keep track of how much they've completed. Having the LinkedIn profile strength indicator encourages completion and reflects the actual LinkedIn profile.
I also focused on reasoning for these sections by titling them "Get ____." Using text like this encourages users to fill out information to hit a specific goal. For example "get noticed" might inspire them to fill in their accomplishments in a more professional way rather than simply jotting down what they've done.
One takeaway I got from speaking to high schoolers is that they tend to follow what their peers and mentors do. Emphasizing connecting users and sharing their presence on LinkedIn can encourage collectively professional profiles. Letting users know that they are connecting to mentors, greater organizations and future career stakeholders early on can also push them to build a more professional reputation on LinkedIn.
The order is loosely based off of the nav bar in LinkedIn, but purposely places connecting with users before adding experience and skills to put the process in a more professional perspective.
After building their profile, users are taken to a congratulatory LinkedIn welcome. It introduces the basics of LinkedIn. They are then taken to their Linkedin profiles which will have all of the information they've just entered.
logo resources from https://brand.linkedin.com/
5. Looking forward
With more time, there are several things that I would love to continue exploring. I think that the education section of LinkedIn is extremely useful and has a lot of potential. It'd be interesting to see how that could be pushed further in the sign up process. I love one of the parts of the page that says "I want to work for ___________. Which university is right for me?" Incorporating more language like this in the sign up process could be really engaging.
I also would like to incorporate more prompts to invite non-LinkedIn friends into the process. There are several points where that can happen, but it needs to be carefully considered to not annoy the user.
Overall, I had a great time with the challenge. I learned a lot about both LinkedIn and about high school students. I hadn't expected things to be so different since I graduated! It was definitely challenging to work with simplifying so many actions into a simple process and how to cater that to a specific audience while keeping it general enough to be applicable to any audience. There are many ways to explore how to make my solution better, but I'm happy with how it came out.