On March 19, 2009, without prior notice (at least not to its free members), the entire navigation scheme for the LinkedIn Inbox was changed. If you are on LinkedIn, you will see how simplified the categories for the Inbox on the left-hand navigation bar are now: “Compose Message”, “Received”, “Sent”, and “Archived”. Before, there used to be a category for each type of communication that existed, like “Invitations”, “Group Messages”, etc. So is this a change for the better? And where do I find all of my old categorized mail?
First of all, this is definitely not the first time that LinkedIn has sprung new functionality or a significant change in its user interface on its 37+ million members. Before Facebook changed their Home Page they had prior notification for several days that the change was coming, so it was no surprise when it actually happened. LinkedIn just doesn’t have the same culture of doing this. Furthermore, they don’t even have this included in their “What’s New” section of their official LinkedIn blog when I checked this morning, the day after the changes were made. I do hope in the future that they at least put this information in their blog the same day that they enact the changes.
So is the Inbox change good or bad? Let’s start with the good things. It definitely clears up the left-hand navigation bar, because all of those different categories used to eat up too much valuable real estate there. It also means now there is one central location for all of your email, and it can all be navigated on a single screen for all of your received, sent, and archived mail, regardless of category. Furthermore, all of the mail can be displayed by category by pressing the downwards arrow key that appears next to the “Received”, “Sent” or “Archived” logo. I believe that this is a logical progression in the user interface and will help save time looking or searching for your mail. In addition, on the matter of composing a message, you now have a chance to use the unified “Compose Message” button to send all sorts of messages from one location.
One more good thing I should mention. If you receive more than one invite that you want to accept, you do this by choosing “Invitations” from the downward arrow next to “Received”. As before, you can click the top left-hand box and choose to accept multiple invites all at once. You used to always get an obnoxious confirmation screen before it processed your request, but now this operation has been streamlined and your invitations will be accepted faster. Although it is a small thing, this will improve the efficiency of using LinkedIn by the user AND hopefully reduce the burden that the LinkedIn servers must face a lot. Kudos go out to the LinkedIn Marketing team on this win-win approach.
Now the bad. What could be bad about the new Inbox, right? One thing in particular is that, if you do bulk accept of invites, you used to be able to press the Invitations text straight from the left-hand navigation bar and immediately access your invitations. Now, you have to first go to your Inbox and then navigate to your invitations. So, although the omission of the confirmation of your bulk invite accept is now gone, it will take you one more step to get to those invites.
The worst thing, though, is something that will have significant impact on those who are building out bigger networks. I believe that LinkedIn made a very intentional change to prevent you from being able to confirm the status of your LinkedIn invitations that you have sent out. Specifically, if you were told that you need to enter an email address to send out an invite now because you have received too many “I Don’t Know” responses, you could go to your sent invites, do a search on “status”, find the people who sent you an “I Don’t Know”, and try to rectify the situation. You could also withdraw invitations that “Bounced”.
Pay special notice to what I am about to say and tell me if you understand the rationale behind LinkedIn’s method of implementation. When you arrive at the Inbox screen, the status column appears for your received mail. It also appears for your archived mail. But for the sent mail, the status column is conspicuously missing. In other words, going forward there is no way to track the status of your invitations once they have been sent out! In exchange, if you press on an invitation that you have sent out, it is now easy to either resend or withdraw the invitation, but what value is this to you if you don’t know the status of the invitation in the first place?
And, to add insult to injury, go to the “Connections” screen on the left-hand navigation bar. There is a place in the upper right-hand corner that will display the number of invitations that you have sent out that have not been acted upon by the recepient. Pressing that button still navigates you to all of your sent invitations, regardless of status, and with no status column.
Perhaps, because of all of the hoopla about the “IDK” situation, LinkedIn wanted to protect those who send out IDKs to perhaps foster more people doing this? To be honest with you, the only thing I can say in response to that is (pun intended) “I Don’t Know”.
As always, when LinkedIn makes a change to their functionality, it is always abrupt and mixes the good and the bad. Will the good outweigh the bad here? In my opinion not. But you will have to be the ultimate judge for that. In the meantime, if someone finds a way to track who sent you an “I Don’t Know” in this new scheme, please let myself and the blog readers know! And I am really hoping that LinkedIn will figure out a way to bring this status column back into sent invitations because some people do press this button “by mistake”.
Now, I could keep going about the changes made to LinkedIn Groups yesterday, but I will save that for my next blog post. Stay tuned for the good and bad of that!