As many of you may have noticed, the programmers over at LinkedIn have continued to be busy little bees — and have started rolling out a major interface change over the preceding weeks.  This update is a fairly substantial one, involving the addition of multiple new features, as well as a significant overhaul to the navigational structure of the system.  I only just had this new interface show up on my account, myself, but I’ve had numerous clients report seeing it over the past few weeks — so if you haven’t yet seen this change on your own system, I suspect you will shortly.

Long story short, this overhaul seems centered around two key components.  For starters, LinkedIn seems to be attempting to simplify the usage and navigation of the system in many respects.  To this end, they’ve moved the main “search bar” to the top center of the screen, which makes a lot of sense to me, since it’s been far too easy over the years for people to overlook this feature — and to fail to notice how powerful it can be to run searches for People, Companies, Groups, Jobs, and other useful data on the system. Additionally, they’ve shuffled around the menu choices substantially, grouping things under a new set of five main tabs called Home, Profile, Network, Jobs, and Interests, and have made the Settings menu, Help menu, and other features more prominent on the top right side of the screen.

If you want a complete rundown on all of these interface changes, I’d encourage you to quickly read LinkedIn’s official article on the subject here or watch a short video you’ll find here outlining all the different layout changes that have been instituted.  For the most part, I think all of these changes make sense and that most of us will prefer them in the long run, once we get used to the difference.  They seem pretty logical and intitutive.

The less obvious but much more significant change Linked has instituted, however, relates to the way one’s Connnections on the system are organized.  Since the site’s inception, the Connections feature has been a one-dimensional affair where you could simply pull up a list of everybody you’d connected with on LinkedIn and see some basic information about them.  It was essentially an online Rolodex, for lack of a better way to put it, without any fancy bells or whistles.  Now, however, the site is attempting to become the one-stop-shop for ALL of your contact management needs, allowing you to import and synchronize personal contacts from numerous other places outside of LinkedIn such as Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook — and adding a raft of new organizational features such as online calendar integration, the ability to take notes about people, set reminders for following up with them, and the like.  It’s pretty wild.  Click here for a short video that discusses all these new capabilities.

The reaction to all of these changes?  It’s been a mixed bag, like anything else, but without question these sudden adjustments to the system have produced some pretty unhappy campers among many users of the site — free and paid alike.  For example, there have been numerous reports about the new “Contacts” feature having bugs in it, in addition to people simply disliking the new approach, in general, and getting ticked off that they can’t shift back to the old one.  If you want to see some of the immediate feedback that these changes have generated, you find a thread of reactions here on the LinkedIn help menu.

Personally, I haven’t had any issues with any of the new features so far, and actually find certain aspects of them to be kind of nifty, like the ability to sort your contacts by a “lost touch” option that will tell you the people in your network you’ve gone the longest without interacting with.  But in fairness, I only recently received access to these new features, so haven’t tested them out in a hardcore capacity quite yet.  Time will tell if the LinkedIn brass did the right thing or not by springing these unilateral changes upon all of us with very little warning — and without an option to stick with the status quo.

As always, feel free to chime in with your comments, thoughts, and observations if any of you have had the time to play with the site’s new functionality a bit and have an opinion on it.  As for me, guess I’d better carve out a few hours in the coming weeks to update my LinkedIn training materials with these new capabilities and some updated screenshots…