22 May 2006

Front Door Syndrome

Ever on the lookout for god and bad ideas in software user-interface design, here is one on LinkedIn really blows me away. Its a classic case of what I term Front Door Syndrome.

Front Door Syndrome is a website misfeature most often designed-in by web designers who come from the conventional advertising or conventional media world - a world where there really is a Front Door - a single point of entry.  Somehow they try to keep hold of this idea in the web, where it really doesn't apply at all.  They forget, or never absorbed the fact, that every page in a website is a Front Door.  And, in a world of such abundance that the only realistic way to navigate to content we seek is through search, every page is guaranteed to be used as a Front Door: A First Point of Entry into a website.

We've all seen those sites; if you're lucky its just a big page saying "Welcome to Fubar.com.  Click <here> to enter."  If you're less lucky it is a great ugly Flash animation.  Personally I never get further - my mouse finger has reflexively clicked me away to somewhere safer and more pleasant in the 'net.

So what has this to do with LinkedIn?  I searched for the name of someone I knew long ago, and their name turned up on LinkedIn.  I clicked the link from the search-results page to take a look whether this page really belongs to the person I was looking for.  Something like http://www.linkedin.com/pub/1/801/801 (I'll use my brother's LinkedIn page to illustrate, firstly to protect the unwary, and secondly because I know he won't mind some publicity). 

Go ahead - click the link.  I'll wait here for you....

...Good!  You're back.  If you're using a decent browser you can have both pages open on different tabs so you can see exactly what I'm about to tell you about.  But I digress...

On the destination LinkedIn page, there are a couple of links enabling non-members of the LinkedIn network to Join Now.  Very good.  Very viral.  But I am already a LinkedIn user.

Where is the link allowing me to log in?  Where is a link to a login page?  Nowhere.

No wonder LinkedIn is seen by geeks as a tool purely for spammers and fools.
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