LinkedIn has Katy Perry on its mind. But not in the usual I-have-that-Firework-song-stuck-in-my-head way. The pop singer is the namesake, and underlying inspiration, for the company’s largest product design undertaking since its launch in 2003.
As a go-to destination for working professionals, LinkedIn has carved out its focused territory in the social networking space. The site goes largely unchallenged, while Facebook, Google+, Twitter and others battle it out for more of our personal time. And LinkedIn has the numbers to prove it, with more than 175 million users and an 89 percent revenue growth in the last year, according to Q2 earnings.
But the company has not been known for having an amazingly designed site — if anything, it has looked cluttered and always just a bit outdated over the past years. Now, the company aims to change that with Katy.
“We want to make it look like [LinkedIn] is from the year 2012 and not like it’s from 1999,” Senior Experience Designer Marissa Dulaney says. “You have to keep up with the times.”
For LinkedIn, Katy is an exercise in simplification.
“If you look at the average user today, she’s getting a lot more sophisticated, she’s using a lot more tools both for productivity and entertainment,” says Deep Nishar, senior VP of products and user experience. “At some level, we are becoming generation ADD, so we don’t have that much time to focus and spend on things…. At the end of the day, if we have fewer things across which to make decisions, we end up making choices and taking action.”
And LinkedIn’s user experience design team is already working at full speed to “Katyfy” the site across all pages. Recently launched products like the revamped Company pages, notification capabilities, the redesigned homepage, the commenting and liking features on LinkedIn Today, the iPad app and the Windows Phone app are all part of the Katy effort.
And why Perry? As an avid pop culture fanatic, Steve Johnson, LinkedIn’s director of design and web development, sees pop stars as personifications of the state of the world. And right now, he says, there is no star that resonates more with people than Perry. Most people know and can sing a Katy Perry song off the top of their head and enjoy it, Johnson says.
“Fashion changes, people’s perception of value changes, people’s ideas of what’s useful and what’s not changes,” Johnson says. “There’s normally an icon in there that we can all think about — when someone says to me ‘Madonna,’ I remember how significant that was when I was a teenage boy and what the meant — the sights, the sounds, the fashion. That’s why I’m hinging it on Katy.”
But don’t think of this as the Katy Perry of garish costumes; think of this as the Katy Perry of simple but irresistible pop hooks — something people keep coming back to.