Why LinkedIn Decided to Clean Up Its Most Critical Asset

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. (TheStreet) -- Professional social network LinkedIn (LNKD) is putting a prettier face on its homepage in the hopes of enticing its 332 million members to spend a little more time renovating their professional identities.

The new homepage design, which will begin to be rolled out to members on Thursday, is not about splashy changes but rather a cleaner look that puts the most important information up top, and nudges a person to act on simple to-dos that could prove of larger value later in life. It's about getting all of the little details right, product vice president Joff Redfern told TheStreet, so that members increase the number of actions they take, like connecting with more contacts or consuming more content. 

Must Read: LinkedIn CEO Says Sponsored Content Is Company's Fastest Growing Business Ever

Details matter, because as Redfern pointed out, "[the homepage] is the front door for our company" and LinkedIn's most heavily trafficked page. The company doesn't break out traffic for the homepage, but saw, on the whole, 28 billion page views during the third-quarter.

Anything the company can do to convince users to return on a regular basis is part and particle to increasing advertising revenue. In the third quarter, LinkedIn's Marketing Solutions business -- a.k.a. its ad business -- brought in $109 million in sales, representing just 19% of revenue for the quarter. CEO Jeff Weiner, however, said recently that Sponsored Content, or the native ads members find in the feed on Web or mobile, is the company's fastest growing business.

The most obvious cosmetic changes to the LinkedIn homepage are the new "My Dash" and "Keep in Touch" boxes that sit at the very top of the page, but the company has also tweaked its feed to hopefully present users with the most relevant stories possible.

My Dash, as the name suggests, is a dashboard section. The area, towards the top left of page, is meant to provide a snapshot of things members shouldn't miss, which in LinkedIn's view equate to signals of your professional health and include a tally of who's viewing your profile, the view count on a status update, or your rank among your peers. Here, members can also make quick edits to their profile and find jobs that may be of interest.

The also-new Keep in Touch box sits alongside the dashboard and gives members an instant glimpse of what's happening with their contacts, such as a change in job or a work anniversary. Each connection update is presented in a card-like format and users are able to "Like" or comment with a single click, with the card then being replaced by another one.

"We want to help members stay in touch with their network," Redfern said of the thinking behind the section. "One of the things that was happening with our old homepage was that these really valuable updates from people you care about weren't always be surfaced in a way in which it was front and center for me as a member."

Both sections could do wonders to boost member activity on the homepage. After all, why not take the extra second to "like" an old co-worker's promotion? The end game, then, seems clearly about upping engagement and giving people more of a reason to return to LinkedIn, even when not in the job market. Though the professional social network's registered user base totals more than 334 million, its monthly active audience is much smaller at 90 million people. By comparison, Twitter (TWTR) and Facebook (FB) have active monthly audiences of 284 million people and 1.35 billion people, respectively.

As for the all-important feed, Thursday's homepage revamp also cleans up the appearance of status updates and introduces algorithmic changes meant to surface better stories for people on a person-by-person basis. Members should also notice a much less cluttered right-hand sidebar.

"We've really tried to double-down on the feed as the spine of the homepage," Redfern said. "It carries the same information, but better because of the simplicity."

Early results from private tests are positive indicators that the new homepage will work to get a member more involved on the site. Those using the redesign have more than doubled the rate of the network interactions they take -- by "liking" a status update, for instance -- thanks to the Keep in Touch box, Redfern said.

So while members may visit the homepage Thursday and not immediately take note of the changes, the company can still reap the rewards of a more engaged audience so long as people start poking around a bit more.

Must Read: How Social Media Is Threatening AT&T and Verizon And What They Can Do To Fix It

--Written by Jennifer Van Grove in San Francisco, Calif.

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