Why Experimentation is so Important for LinkedIn

September 3, 2015

Making data driven decisions through experimentation is an extremely important part of the culture at LinkedIn. It’s deeply ingrained in our development process and has always been a core part of Linkedin’s DNA. We test everything from complete redesigns of our homepage, to back-end relevance algorithm changes and even infrastructure upgrades. It’s how we innovate, grow and evolve our products to best serve our members. It’s how we make our members happier, our business stronger and our talent more productive.

Our approach to A/B testing is guided by three key philosophies.

Member First
We live and breathe the philosophy of "member first." With every product we work on, we question whether it’s of value to our members. We use various channels to hear from our members – surveys, interviews etc. – but A/B testing is the only way to get feedback from our members at scale and to ensure that we only launch features that are beneficial to our members. We don’t stop at just using A/B testing to learn what our members like and don’t like, but more importantly to figure out what they will like. For example, through A/B testing, we learned that our members like simplicity so we cut the number of premium products from 12 to four. We also discovered that our members are naturally curious, so we provide them with a value statement telling them why they should complete their profiles.

Business Strategy
As LinkedIn grows, we increasingly rely on good strategies to take our products to the next level, so we focus our time and resources on ideas that give us the best return on investment. A/B testing offers the most scientific approach to assess the impact of any change and to draw clear causal relationships.

We rely on experimentation to guide product development not only because it validates or invalidates our hypotheses, but more importantly, because it helps create a mentality around building MVP and exploring the terrain around it. For example, when we make a strategic bet to bring about a drastic, abrupt change, we test to map out where we'll land. So even if the abrupt change takes us to a lower point initially, we are confident that we can hill climb from there and reach a greater height through experimentation.

R&D Talent
We have a team of incredibly creative minds working at LinkedIn. A/B testing enables us to design, create and build more vigorously by drastically lowering barriers to innovation–the first step towards mass innovation. Because we are able to see how our work translates to real user impact, we’re empowered to take a greater sense of ownership on the product we build, which is essential to driving better quality work and improving productivity. This ownership is reinforced through the full transparency of the decision-making process. With impact quantified through A/B testing, the final decisions are driven by data, not by HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). Clear and objective criteria for success give the teams focus and control, so they not only produce better work, but feel more fulfilled by doing so at LinkedIn.

If A/B testing is what helped get us to where we are today, it is going to play an even more crucial role in realizing our vision tomorrow. To create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, we need to constantly step out of the 'known universe' with a strategy and an instinct. When we are there, we need to rely on experimentation to measure carefully where we are and evolve from there. As we continue to test our way towards our goals, we are bringing people, process and platform closer together – the essential ingredients to a successful experimentation ecosystem – to effectively leverage all the benefits of A/B testing, so we can make our members happier, our business stronger and our talents more productive.