LinkedIn Design Challenge

Connect College Students

Individual Project

Duration: 1 week



LinkedIn is a place where people can connect to people they know, in order to share professional experience and opportunities. Professional networking can begin at any point, even in school. Increasingly, students are relying on their mobile address book, and not their email address book, to manage their contacts.



Design an experience that helps college students discover and connect with their classmates without relying on email.

Design Process


Background Research

My background research mainly focuses on secondary research, finding existing research paper or data about college students’ social media preference, and behavior patterns. I also explored and compared the mainstream instant messaging app (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Slack) to identify their functionalities and features of how to discover and add friends, as well as how to keep contact with friends.

Background Research

What are the existed solutions for students to discover and connect to each other?

There are mostly 4 ways students can find and contact a friend



  • Phone call 

  • Text message

  • Instant messaging ( Messager, iMessage, WhatsApp etc.)

  • Email


Even though there existed many ways to contact other people, the young college student is still more willing to share their phone number for texting with their new friends.

Background Research

What are the existed solutions for students to discover and connect to each other?

Search by names

Almost all of the social media allows users to find a friend by searching his/her names, and intelligent recommendation & sorting algorithms will give user effective results instantly.


Scan QR code

The social platform like Snapchat, WeChat, and Messenger already adds a QR code in their app, so a user can use it face-to-face to add new friends. 


Sync email address or phone number

Since most users register their accounts by email address or phone number, so they can easily find their friends by syncing contacts in their phones, but it also provokes privacy concerns.


Search Filter

The platform like LinkedIn encourages users to find people with certain conditions ( such as skills, working companies, graduate schools), so it provides powerful search filter to help user location certain groups of people.

Background Research

What are existed ways that a user can discover and add friends in their social media?

There are mainly 4 active ways of adding friends to build connections on social media,  but many still claim most of their friends on social media are added through “friends recommendation”.


Unlike add friends through QR code, search name, or sync phone contact, I consider “friends recommendation” to be a passive way to build connections. 


Users are naturally willing to choose the easiest approach to achieve a task, so reduce users’ workload of discovering and connecting to their friends should be the first priority of the design.

I believe if I could get access to LinkedIn data, and be able to know the percentage of different ways of users connecting to friends on LinkedIn (e.g. how many through “friends recommendation) would also solidify my background research

Background Research

Instant Messaging App Matrix among College Students

As a very professional-oriented social APP, LinkedIn is mostly used periodically, especially when users are looking for jobs. 


Thus, how to enhance user viscosity for long terms becomes a big challenge.

Background Research

Key findings & Insights

  • In terms of discovering a person (classmate) we know, it is not difficult. But for school students, their social network usually appears as a group (e.g. classmates, departments, or student community), current LinkedIn App doesn’t allow users to build such connections as groups. (even though there’re groups, but hard to understand how to use).

  • LinkedIn as a professional social platform, users use it for certain purpose(finding jobs) and use it periodically, so how to encourage them to come back frequently is challenging.


User Research

The user research contains two parts, exploratory research, and research synthesis. In the first part (exploratory research), by looking ( participant observing), asking and hearing (conducting 6 interviews with CMU students), and trying ( using different existed app), I gained a fundamental qualitative knowledge of how college students using mobile phone to discover and communicate with their friends, and their attitude towards different social media. Then the synthesis analyses the key findings and insight to guide my further ideation and design concept.

User Research ( Exploratory Research)


People prefer to share promising professional opportunities with small groups of people, especially alumni


Most students or alumni share an unstated tradition that they prefer to offer promising professional opportunities to alumni or classmates, thus they are more willing to share this kind of information in a closed group, where only certain groups of people have access to. 


The screenshot in the right shows how an alumnus shares her job opportunity on Facebook CMU design group only couple days ago. Such a scenario happens a lot, and Facebook obviously is not the best place to share professional information, but the Facebook group creates a closed community which only accesses to particular people that he/she wants to share with.

An alumnus shares her job opportunity on Facebook CMU design group rather than LinkedIn

User Research ( Exploratory Research)


Different Students use different social platforms to communicate


Since there are too many existing chatting platforms, students use different instant messaging APPs, thus students aspire one which can effectively include every classmate.


The screenshot shows an interesting but not uncommon fact that people encourage their classmates to get consensus to use the same social media to communicate.

people encourage their classmates to use the same social media to communicate

User Research ( Exploratory Research)


I conducted 6 short interview with CMU students, which allows me to go deeper to understand their personal thoughts. And before I went to the interview, I came up with a Hunt Statement to help me guide my semi-structured interview.

Hunt statement (Objective)


I aim to research college students’ habits of mobile communication to understand how they discover and contact friends or classmates through a cellphone, and how their mental models vary through using email, text message, phone call, as well as through different social media (Messenger, WhatsApp, LinkedIn & slack).

User Research ( Exploratory Research)

Interview Findings & Insights

  • Users mostly add social media friends through a friends recommendation.                                      

  • People frequently use an instant message app due to many of his/her friends already connect to an app.                                                                                                                            

  • People have concerns about their privacy, especially when the system asks their permissions to sync phone contacts.

  • Unlike Facebook messenger, users’ mental model of LinkedIn is very professional oriented, and they are not willing to use LinkedIn as casual chatting tool.                                                              

  • LinkedIn is a place that people prefer weak connections, so normally more connections are better. However, people become more nitpick and cautious when adding friends on Facebook 

User Research ( Exploratory Research)

Quote from Interview

"When we say profession, it distinguishes me from the person  in LinkedIn, and it creates a gap between these two persons."                                      


"I never allow social media to sync my phone contact, especially I don’t like to sync my contact to LinkedIn, because my cell phone contacts are all my personal friends, and I don’t want recruiters to know much about my personal life."


"I sometimes go to my college classmates page to see their recent status, like where do they work; but I don’t necessarily add connections to them on my LinkedIn."


"When I am looking for some time to refer me to a job, alumni are always my first choice"

User Research (Synthesis)

Design Implication & Principle

Design Implication


  • Design should allow college students and alumni very easy to build a connection, which somehow reflects their real-world networking (like base on classmates or school department etc.)

  • Facilitate closer connection among current students and alumni

  • Increase user’s viscosity and encourage more online time in LinkedIn 

Design principle


  • Enhance users’ interaction through easy-built alumni networking


Ideation & Concept

I did a quick ideation for the project, figuring out ways that can address the problems that I found in the research. Whenever a concept came to me, I kept asking myself the question "is the solution meet my design principle?" After the research, my design concept started to become clear, so the ideation and concept definition didn't take much time.

Design Concept

Utilising users’ existed LinkedIn education information clusters users into alumni groups, in order to facilitate communication and forge deeper connections among students, classmates, and alumni. 

Design Concept

key Element

Utilize Users Connections in the Group as Prompt to Encourage them to Join

Use users connections in the group as prompt to encourage users to join


I understand that even a tiny effort that we would like a user to take require prompts or benefits. Moreover, like the Crowd psychology discussed by Socialist Gustave Le Bon, users would more likely to join a group if they see some others also did. Thus, showing the existing connections in the group would significantly help them to decide to join the Alumni group.

Design Concept


The verification page serve mainly for two purpose


  • Since LinkedIn education information sometimes is not perfectly accurate, because a user can only choose a school from a list, but they can’t choose their program. For example, “Master of Design for interaction design” can be also interpreted by “MDes”, or “interaction design”. So the verification helps the system to distinguish these vague and unclear words by clustering users. 


  • The verification also impedes a user who is not from the university to join school alumni group. Because verification creates difficulties for others to intrude the group.



The prototype part contains wireframe and high fidelity user interface, as well as simple interactive and animated user interface. I first made a paper prototype to do a quick user test, and then came back to refine my wireframe a little bit before diving into high fidelity UI.


User Flow


Sketch Prototype

The low fidelity paper sketch severs a simple and quick way to convey my idea, as well as I early stage use test.


Sketch Prototype

Despite the time limitation, I still believe that conducting user test is essential for UX designers. And my past experience makes me believe even very low fidelity prototype still is able to gather useful feedback. Thus, I just used the paper sketch conducted two very quick user tests, which gave me very useful insights to improve my design. 

User Test


User Test

Quick User Test with Low Fidelity Prototype

With very quick user tests, I got some very insightful feedback from the user to improve my design.


  • The prompt for “join in the CMU alumni” should be more attractive, showing the user the benefit of joining in.                                             

  • The verification step should be more specific, showing user the reason for verification                                                                                     

  • There is a jump between the user chooses to join in, and already joined in the group chat. 

Final Delivery

UI Design

Final Delivery 

Concept Video

Final Delivery & Further Thoughts

I attempt to use a storytelling video for final delivery, which goes through all the main user flow. And I also tried to add the persona into the final presentation video in order to convey my idea more vividly.


Though time is very limited, I try my best to go through all of the main design processes in this project. But there's still something I believe required further consideration. 


If I got the chance to further develop the project, I will conduct more user test, and also think through the more complicated interaction process that may happen.