If you haven’t already lost countless hours to it, you may not know that Pinterest is like an online scrapbook that brings images together from across the internet.
Users set up their own ‘pinboards’ then add images to them using the site’s bookmarklet (a button you can easily add to your browser). You can also browse other people’s boards and pins and follow them to create a personalised feed of (largely) lovely things, which you can comment on, ‘like’ and repin to your own boards.
In January 2012 ComScore data showed that Pinterest had become the fastest standalone site in history to get more than 10m unique monthly users in the US. It’s big in the UK too, with about 200,000 users so far, 74% of whom are women.
Pinterest succeeds because at its core it’s really simple
It fulfils a need that people have online – “I want to store and catalogue the lovely things I find on the web, and to find other lovely things”. Pinterest’s success lies in the fact that they’ve addressed this need in a very visual way.
Pinterest uses design as its full solution, rather than a bit of spit and polish at the end
It uses imagery as its main language. There are no lists of links here, just a constantly evolving collaborative collage that builds to form a moodboard of your own tastes across a fantastically broad range of areas…
Let’s take a closer look at the way the site’s put together
The individual items that are pinned form the building blocks of the site’s content, and they’re not delivered willy-nilly. There’s a very deliberate column structure, which serves several purposes. It allows images with potentially no aesthetic or thematic connections to sit comfortably next to each other; they inherit commonality by all being locked to the same width.
There is also a healthy amount of border space around each pin and between the columns
So despite the mass of different imagery, each item has breathing space. The images can be as long as you want, so an image in portrait orientation will get more space than a landscape one.
This leads to a site that continually leads the eye down the page
It encourages the user to keep on scrolling. And the more you scroll, the more pins are added to the bottom of the page, creating an apparently endless stream of loveliness.
The ease with which you can like a pin or re-pin it to your own boards keeps the content flowing through the site, and means that it’s an easy thing for a user to keep adding to their boards.
The simple bookmarklet tool makes it’s really easy to add to your board
So you see something you like, you simply hit the button. And adding detail is equally easy too… What is basically a little form is put together with cracking attention to detail; no standard dropdowns or buttons, everything is considered. When you start typing your description the “Describe your pin…” text fades out slickly, as the “Pin it” button fades up from grey to red. These subtle touches give a sense of the underlying quality of the site.
I believe this focus on design, not just as the icing on the cake, but as one of the fundamental tools to solve a problem has been a key part of the massive success of Pinterest. And this puts it at the forefront of the trend of increasingly visual social networks.
What’s more the site puts an interesting spin on how we build digital relationships. You can follow people through a shared love of ‘beautiful things’. See something they’ve posted you like and with a click you can keep up with their pins. You don’t need to know them, nor ever make contact with them (aside from a ‘like’ or ‘repin’) but you can share in the fruits of their finds.