Imagining a New Way to Meet New People
Get Together is a new way for professionals to network by transforming online connections into real-life relationships. I worked on this conceptual product proposal with two other designers, Christiana Lai and Hannah Kim. We are not affiliated with LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a useful online tool for connecting with individuals you already know but there’s no way to meet new people. In response to this gap in the market, Shapr and Bumble have launched competing products to help users expand their networks. With 546 million users, LinkedIn is currently the most popular professional social network but in order to stay relevant, it needs to address this issue.
Design a LinkedIn feature to help users expand their networks in a meaningful way.
During this phase, we conducted interviews with young professionals to understand how they network. Using an affinity map, we plotted our observations onto a timeline, grouped them into themes, and from there extracted three insights.
As the competition for opportunities increases, who you know has become as important as what you know. Professionals recognize this and want to build relationships with relevant people but social media and networking events have their limitations.
Even though it’s easy to “connect” with someone online, one of the most meaningful interactions remains meeting in person. With social media, online connections are effortless to make but unless both parties are interested in meeting, users end up with a lot of superficial relationships.
Since events are in person, attendees are better positioned to engage with each other in meaningful ways. However, the barrier to entry is high. Many interviewees expressed reservations about “real-life networking” and choose not to participate unless they have a companion.
To build a better solution, we looked at the pros and cons of LinkedIn’s current product as well as Shapr and Meetup, a direct and indirect competitor. We focused on how people use these tools to expand their networks and whether it’s online or in person.
LinkedIn is a popular and familiar company so any new feature would be an extension of its existing product and won’t require extensive user acquisition and orientation.
There’s no way to meet new people. Users can search for people but building a relationship requires the other party to be interested enough to accept the connection request, respond to the message, and make time to meet.
Shapr helps users expand their networks by matching mutually interested parties, making the likelihood of messaging and meeting much higher.
This model of networking mirrors dating apps. Employing the same user flow (swipe, match, chat) makes the experience feel unprofessional and blurs the line between personal and professional.
Events are better for engaging in meaningful interactions and Meetup helps users discover relevant events based on their interests.
The online experience lacks a robust social aspect. Users can only interact with each other in limited ways before an event and can’t connect after an event without using a separate social network.
We crafted two user personas to guide our design process. Emily is a young professional trying to switch careers. Frederick is a more experienced professional looking to expand his network and provide advice to beginners.
Emily (24, Architecture Intern)
Emily is interested in breaking into the tech industry. She wants to learn more about the different roles available, get advice on next steps to take, and meet someone in the same boat.
She has tried searching for and reaching out to people online but responses have been limited. She has also come across a few interesting events but is anxious about going alone.
Frederick (28, Product Designer)
Frederick just moved to a new city and is looking to meet more people working in his industry. He also wants to improve his leadership skills by helping younger designers with their careers.
He could use LinkedIn to search for people but that requires a lot of effort and wants something easier. He also doesn’t have any way to convey his willingness to help others.
Get Together helps professionals meet new people. We accomplish this in two steps. First, users with mutual interests connect online. Next, they are encouraged to meet in person by attending an event together. This creates an actionable activity after connecting online and relieves any anxieties about “real-life networking” by providing everyone with a companion to go with.
Adhering to LinkedIn’s design system, we housed this feature inside the Dashboard. Making Get Together an opt-in feature means users who choose to use it will enter with the intention of meeting new people, which should discourage empty connections.
When accessed for the first time, the user is asked to fill out their preferences. Designing the “Interests” section was particularly challenging because we needed to communicate to the user that it not only encompasses the traits they have but also the traits of the people they want to meet. We also ask for experience level and location to ensure the results are relevant to the user.
If the user has two or more years of experience, the mentor option is enabled and turning it on adds a badge to their profile. This indicator allows young professionals to see who’s available and gives more experienced professionals the opportunity to show they’re willing to help.
Discover People is the core of Get Together. This hub is where the user finds people and starts building a relationship. As mentioned earlier, interests, experience level, and location are used to surface relevant results and those most similar to the user appear first. We chose to display multiple people instead of using the “swipe, match, chat” flow to keep it professional.
The profile contains information specific to Get Together and it’s where we start promoting events as a way to meet in real life. We assist the user with making plans as much as possible by providing suggestions based on mutual interests and prioritizing any event where the other party indicated they were interested in attending.
Tapping “Start Conversation” opens a chat with a panel displaying the same suggested events as previous screens. This not only keeps them top-of-mind but also provides the user with a convenient way to view more information about the event or share it with the other party.
Discover Events is the complement of Discover People where the user finds an event first and then a companion to attend with if they are anxious about going alone. We guide the user towards receptive parties by prominently displaying people who have responded “Interested” and prioritizing those most similar to the user.
Considering the importance of events, the next step is ensuring there’s enough of them for different interests by building a tool for use to create their own events. We also want to strengthen the social aspect by integrating the groups feature so multiple users can stay in contact.
Working on Get Together has been an interesting exploration into how networking, an inherently social activity, has both changed and stayed the same in the face of technology. The most well-known example of such technology is LinkedIn, whose mission is to connect the world’s professionals. By most metrics, they’ve been successful but we believe helping users connect with people they’ve already met is only half the solution. The other half is helping users discover people worth meeting.