Usability Report:

LinkedIn Students App

Three of my classmates and myself developed a usability report for the LinkedIn Students app. The purpose of the test was to assess the app’s functionality. The test was conducted with a combination of screen recordings and on-site user observations. A test group of eight graduate students assessed the features and effectiveness of LinkedIn Students. The application test was broken down into three different scenarios and tasks, this separation provided the individual users with the opportunity to focus on each scenario in its entirety. Additionally, there was limited distraction because of the short time frame between performing the task and answering the survey questions.

Date: Fall 2016     Skills: Qualitative and Quanitative User Research, User Interviews

Note: This research was conducted in Fall 2016 and the app may have seen signigicant changes since then.

Purpose of Study

LinkedIn Students application is targeted towards undergraduate and graduate students. The purpose is to provide the users with daily information that will allow them to think about what job market they would like to enter. Users are able to add what school they attend and what degree they are pursuing. From there, they will receive recommendations about possible jobs in their respective field. They can also see what alumni graduated from their program and what roles they currently possess.

We chose to study this application because while it is a great idea for a student tool, it does fall short in certain areas of functionality. When we used it, we found that the LinkedIn Students app (the child) does not always connect with the LinkedIn app (the parent). We also thought that there are several user experience issues that make the app unnecessarily difficult, particularly during the setup and browsing features. The navigational tabs were hard to understand, and the home screen was confusing because of the “swiping” layout. These are flaws that we noticed. We tested to see if other users were also dissatisfied with the design, the navigation, and the functionality.

A user experience test was conducted and a coordinating survey was provided to define problems that users had while interacting with the application. The test looked at how well the application expressed its information, and how much the user retained information. The study also strived to pinpoint areas of confusion in relation to icons and navigation. Eight tests were conducted over three days.

Research Method

The study was conducted using the “Think Aloud” approach.  This method was chosen to enhance the scope of the usability test, allowing data collection to be both broad enough to assess the application and remain tailored to individual user experience. Testing rooms included a dual-screen-Mac and the users were instructed to bring their cell phone.  The users’ cell phones were hooked up to the computer and we recorded the users’ voice and screen actions via computer. There were three people present in the room: the testee, the tester, and a note taker. The additional computer screen provided a 32-question Qualtrics survey, which was a combination of both qualitative and quantitative questions. 

The study analyzed the LinkedIn Student application, specifically, how users interacted with the three specific scenarios and tasks: the application setup, initial browsing, and the ability to change the user’s profile information to customize search results. These three different scenarios were chosen to break the application up, aiming to reveal the specific areas of confusion within the interface. With setup, browsing, and editing profiles in different scenarios and tied to different questions, the testers were able to more easily see specific points where the users collectively struggled in each of those categories.

First, the specific scenario was read, then the user completed the task.  Once the task was completed, the user immediately answered corresponding Qualtrics questions to be sure that the user’s feedback was fresh and was not confused with later scenarios and tasks, making them timely and candid responses.

Results

Scenario 1

You are about to graduate from a Masters Program and you have started searching for jobs. To find a perfect job, you've been searching for a resource that will help you easily match to jobs in your field, prospective employers, and ideal locations You have a Linkedin account and have found the resource Linkedin Student.

Task 1

Create a Linkedin Student Account, follow the instructions. Browse through your selections and see what else the app offers for today.

100% of participants completed the task, but only 25% found it very easy to complete. Additionally, 37.5% found the task somewhat easy to complete and 25% found it somewhat difficult. When asked what could make the process easier, participants responded with the following:

  • "Don't make me put new information in when I sign up. It should have known my information and choices from my original linkedin account and not asked me to complete new steps that I had answered in my original LinkedIn account. "
  • "The actual tasks were easy, but why put my through that if the info was already correct?"
  • "MAKE LESS OPTIONS! I don't understand why they need me to write a review about their app when I really haven't used it yet. "

Scenario 2

You have set-up your Linkedin Student account. Now you need more targeted results. 

Task 2

Update your degrees and add locations where you want to search for a job.

After completing task two, 75% of the participants felt the task was difficult or had neutral feelings about the task. However, 50% of the participants found no difference in the results given when they added more information.

Scenario 3

You have already narrowed down your search results, now you explore the app.

Task 3

Save an article to read later. Follow a person. Save a job, a company, and a role. Find all saved items.

Only 50% of participants were confident that they had saved all the items that they needed to save, and 65% of participants felt they could find the items after they had been saved.  In addition, 62.5% of participants found the task difficult to complete.

Overall Findings

  • 65% of users felt the icons were very difficult or somewhat difficult to understand
  • The ability to delete jobs the user does not want was considered important by 87.5% of users
  • The ability to decline roles the user is not interested in was important to 62.5% of the participants
  • 75% of participants felt it was extremely important to be able to connect with other users through the Linkedin Student App
  • 62.5% of participants felt that the Linkedin Student app needed to connect with Linkedin
  • 50% of participants felt that they should be able to find items saved on Linkedin Student on Linkedin

Findings

Overall, Linkedin Student was confusing for each of the participants. The users were often unsure of their actions and they did not know if they were completing the tasks. During testing, many strong, generally negative, emotions were expressed. Most of the individuals found they did not know what information the application was giving them, especially with unclear terms such as the difference between a “role” and a “job".

The setup process had one major issue; selecting a degree was often difficult and confusing for the users. Many did not understand why they had to confirm their degrees because they logged in with their LinkedIn account, and the information already appeared to be saved. 

The most testing errors occurred on the home screen.  Users felt it was hard to browse, and some did not progress through all of the different swiping options. One participant especially thought that the home screen was just spam and never went back to it. 

Most of the participants did not understand the icons; they often ignored them, thinking they were not clickable.  A few users also noticed that the icons were inconsistent from page to page.

Recommendations

  • The Linkedin parent site should be clearly linked to the Student application. Many users felt that they should be able to find everything they saved and be able to connect with the people they found on the LinkedIn site.
  • The home screen should be redesigned to better fit the conventions of an “up and down scroll” newsfeed as opposed to the “swipe side to side” function. By changing the home screen to a standard newsfeed, users could have an easier time understanding the progression of presented information.
  • Headings for each of the five daily recommendations should be larger.  At the time of testing, the headings are the same size as the body text, and they are buried within the border of each article.
  • Information being overlooked or unseen was a common problem on the application.  The users often did not click on provided information because they did not realize they could. By creating more obvious buttons such as “learn more,” and making them stand apart from the white text areas, the hidden information could be easily seen.
  • Consistent icons for each screen would help clarify the possibilities and proceedings of the application.

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