LinkedIn Endorse vs Recommend

By | October 3, 2012

One feature I like about LinkedIn is how you can write a recommendation for someone. Basically, you sing their praises and it ends up on their profile. I have 36 recommendations for me and 58 recommendations I have written for others. Writing recommendations for excellent people makes me feel good and I think does a public service. The key element of a recommendation is that it takes time. You have to think and take the time to write.  Therefore, the value of the recommendation is higher because it is not trivial to do.  That time builds up a modicum of trust.

Recently, LinkedIn has just rolled out a new feature called “Endorse”. This is similar to to “Recommend”, except it takes zero time or effort. When I look at a profile of someone in LinkedIn, I now see something like this at the top:

The problem with this UI is that it is too easy and a little confusing.  The workflow of “Remove things you think shouldn’t be here, and THEN click endorse” is not obvious.  I almost clicked endorse before I realized I had to remove things I didn’t agree with.  Plus, when you click endorse, the screen goes away and it’s totally unclear how to undo what you just did.  After the screen goes away a new screen appears.

Besides giving me some strange JavaScript bugs when I tried to make the choices disappear or show more, the whole interface was too easy.  I clicked endorse and saw they replaced a contact with another contact.  They were making it too easy.  I realized quickly that these endorsements were worthless.  They took no time or effort and therefore had little value to the endorser.  Because of this, when I am recruiting people for UX, I have to ignore this bit of data.

Sometimes, in UX, you need to slow down the experience.  You need to let the user embed value that can only come from time spent.  I have done this many times in the past to great success.  You have to know when it’s time to make it easy and when it should have an effort or time tax.

This new LinkedIn feature was conceived with good intent, but executed with poor design. They need to change it so that an endorsement must come with more metadata and a little more effort.  Data like “How do you know they are good?”  or “Are you an expert in that field?” or “Can you include a recommendation for that endorsement?”.  We can’t have people endorsing other people when we have no clue as to the expertise of the endorser.

This feature is riddled with UX holes.  I hope they can improve it because LinkedIn has become one of the most important websites in the world.  I am not trying for hyperbole, but I use LinkedIn as the defacto source of truth for all employment history.  You may say that it is a bad idea to do so, but as John Lennon said, “I’m not the only one”.

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