Making the World of Social Networks Comfortable
- Social networks are used by millions of people all around the world who spend a lot of time online. We conducted a research to assess usability of the most popular business social network – LinkedIn. In our research we tried to answer following questions: How user-friendly are the social networks?
- Are they intuitive?
- Do they let their users concentrate on a content and not on attempts to find the needed section or button.
How do we start to assess usability of a website?
We simply imagine ourselves in the shoes of a tired user who just wants to get what he came for quickly and without hassle. We concentrate on the places that cause confusion, discontent, take a long time or may simply be misunderstood. We then compile a report on the problems we’ve found and propose ways of improving them. All of the defects in the report are given a priority rating, which can aid in developing the best plan to fix them (You can find an example of such a report at the end of this article).
So, the idea is quite simple: a user registers, fills out his or her profile and tries to find a job.
Let’s open the front page. What I see is what I consider to be quite an attractive design with a headline telling me that registering would only take 2 minutes. Wonderful!
I’m glad to see a relatively small amount of text fields, although the usual “Repeat your password” one is missing and since when I write in my password, it’s covered by asterisks, and it’s quite possible to make a mistake. When I press “Join Now”, I instantly receive an unpleasant surprise – I need to go through eight more registration steps, which can’t be skipped at the press of a button.
When I finally register, I am sent to a page where I can edit my profile and am given more steps, this time to fill in my profile. If the user wants to do this by hand, they open edit mode. The screen is covered with edit buttons – a separate one for each field.
We see two ways to fix this:
Life is made still more difficult by the fact that when one field is open for editing, you can’t open another unless you press cancel on the first one.
- When a user enters edit mode, all of the fields should be open for editing. That way, there wouldn’t be any extra “Edit” buttons – anything can be edited at any time.
- Remove the “Edit Profile” button on the main profile page but add an edit button for each separate category. This would let users fill in their profiles by logical pieces without having to make unnecessary clicks. This choice is easier to implement.
- Now I’ve filled in my profile it’s time to go find good employment opportunities. Using the search feature, I open job openings that include the keyword “QA”.
The search resultscertainly need to be improved. Out of 25 offers I saw on page one, only five had “QA” in the title. This means that I have to sieve through a large number of pages before I find something interesting.
When using LinkedIn, users get the feeling that it was made by several completely independent development teams. Different pages have different button styles, page models are different and it’s difficult to find any sort of coherent concept.
For example, a user discovers that LinkedIn buttons have three colors depending on their function (grey, blue and yellow). He opens a new page, starts looking for a spot of blue and doesn’t find it. Now he has to spend extra time finding the button that actually has a different design. And when he opens another page, he has to start over.
Additionally, sometimes the same functionality is implemented in different ways. Sometimes it even happens on the same page. Here is an example of the implementation of information privacy settings on the Edit Profile page. The first screenshot is when a user updates his photos, the second is when he changes his personal information and the third is when he sets the privacy setting of their Former Name.
And that’s just a tiny part of the usability mistakes when working with LinkedIn (A brief report can be found attached to this article).
Usability testing is needed, so when users log on to a social network, nothing will distract them from working with it. This is why such tests should be an essential part of development, be the product a social network, a web or a mobile application. This is the only way to ensure that users are completely at ease.
In the table below, you can see the shortcomings of LinkedIn outlined in this brief usability testing report.
|General Issue (GI)|
|GI-01. Language selector is hidden||Serious|
|GI-02. A lot of links in the footer||Medium|
|GI-03. Used different style for buttons||Critical|
|REG-01. Confirmation password field is missed||Serious|
|REG-02. Too many steps before starting||Critical|
|REG-03. User asked for password for his email||Critical|
|REG-04 Not friendly text in alert||Low|
|REG-05. User asked to type email twice during registration||Serious|
|REG-06. User can’t use corporate email||Serious|
|REG-07. Extra step in profile setting process||Serious|
|REG-08. Ask for payment before using||Serious|
|REG-09. Indistinct information about account plan||Serious|
|Profile Page (PP)|
|PP-01. More steps after registration||Serious|
|PP-02. “Edit Contact Info” located in separate section||Medium|
|PP-03. A lot of edit buttons||Serious|
|PP-04. “Edit” buttons placed differently on the page||Medium|
|PP-05. Moving between blocks is hard||Critical|
|PP-06. Extra request to log in||Critical|
|PP-07. Hints are difficult to read during adding skills||Medium|
|PP-08. Button doesn’t work||Medium|
|PP-09. Extra click to take info||Medium|
|PP-10. The same functionality looks different in different places||Medium|
|PP-11. No data pickers for dates||Medium|
|Main Page (MP)|
|MP-01. Uploading contacts list from outlook doesn’t work||Critical|
|MP-02. Navigation is not informs where user is||Critical|
|MP-03. Navigation is overload||Serious|
|MP-04. Extra description in dropdown window||Medium|
|Search Page (SP)|
|Two search pages||Critical|
|Search result doesn’t correct||Critical|
|Duplicate of advanced searching||Medium|
|Name of the buttons is changeable||Serious|
|“Reset” button opens popup||Medium|
|There is no ability to type keywords||Critical|
Critical – This usability problem will make some customers unwilling or unable to complete a common task. Fix urgently.
Serious – This usability problem will significantly slow down some customers when completing a common task and may cause customers to find a workaround. Fix as soon as possible.
Medium – This usability problem will make some customers feel frustrated or irritated but will not affect task completion. Fix during the next “business as usual” update.
Low – This is a quality problem, for example a cosmetic issue or a spelling error. Note: Although this is a minor issue in isolation, too many “lows” will negatively affect credibility and may damage your brand.