The Potential of Pinterest

Posted on Jan 12, 2012 in community, experience design, Strategy

i like pintetrest

A friend and I were discussing our mutual love for and activity on Pinterest. The funny thing was that her experience to the site was limited to a mobile app and mine to a ‘desktop’ web experience. So, our experience and perspectives were quite unique. She showed me how she scrolls through images of pins from people she follows almost like a RSS reader. She asked if on the web one could search by keyword for specific things. Yes, I told her…and so much more.

I’m using Pinterest for:

  • mood boards for projects
  • online file cabinet
  • style profiles for distinct sectors
  • portfolio preview
  • inspiration discovery
  • curatorial ‘driving range’

It solves a lot of problems I have with traditional tear sheets. Since so much of the inspirational visuals, objects and stories I find are through the internet, I want to be able to file the visual in a relevant system, save the source and be able to quickly access it later. I also want to be able to leave notes, assign it multiple attributes, share it with friends, etc. I also love that all of these visual references don’t have to take up precious hard drive or shelf space.

What could make Pinterest better?

The benefits and bugs (in the Pin It button) are obvious. How will the Pinterest team improve in phase 2? Let’s start with a few tips on navigation.


Navigating the pinterest home interface is very simplified. This left me with a “where do I start” complex when I first joined.  The “repining” feature means that you seem to see the same pins repeated. If there was some way that that didn’t happen. I wish there was a more efficient way to navigate to specific boards of the pinners I follow. The menu could be organized by boards or pinner (or I could choose) and I wouldn’t have to rely on memory frequency of their pinning activity.

Click on board. Now I see a gallery style list of pins. The great feature is that I can “like” and “repin” things without having to click/enlarge/navigate to another page. Though, the images are quite small (thumbnails) and when ‘scanning’ it’s easy to miss details. So I click to enlarge and am taken to the next page. Now I want to flip through the pages now (internal navigation) instead of having to use my browser back button or click on the Board to return to the thumbnail page.

Public v. Private

I wish you could make some of the boards public so that I could create client mood boards and collaborate with people who didn’t have their own Pinterest account but still needed to have access and potentially contribute to the board.

Discovery / Anxiety

The Pinterest experience couples the elements of discovery and anxiety in a similar fashion to listening to the radio. You are excited by the new information you come across (music on the radio) but imbued with slight or major anxiety that you might never find the artist or learn the name of the song or add it to your own collection.

“I must look at all the pins on the board for what if I never return to this board again!”

The truth is, like blogs and twitter, that you only have so much time in your day and not very much time to scroll back in time. Where Pinterest is better than twitter is that the organizational system allows you to categorize and search. The content isn’t necessarily time-sensitive (like twitter) so you don’t feel completely behind if you only discover some awesome board 5 months after its creation. But like blogs, you don’t always have time to scroll through months of content. You must rely on your own memory and librarian skills and wait for Pinterest to improve the search features.


Pinterest is in its early days…but in a couple years I could pin thousands of images and have hundreds of boards. What will the archive system look like? Do you organize  posts by year? Is there a pin threshold on certain boards. Do you archive boards that you are no longer using but don’t want to dump (like email)?

Pinterest is not all that social

I learned about Pinterest from a couple of friends (it’s invitation only). But that’s the last time I really interacted with them on/through/about Pinterest. Sure they follow my boards and I follow some of theirs, but with many of my real life friends, the following seems more obligatory rather a result of a genuine mutual interest.  The people whose pins really get me excited are faceless internet avatars often in other cities, countries and continents. I wish I could reach out to people whose boards are really inspiring me and ‘make new friends’. Could it have a location element to it? If I could locate people in my area, I could eventually use it as a professional networking tool. E.g. Hey, your pins display an excellent level of taste and reflect a great eye for trends and color and it would be great to collaborate on a project together! As for my real friends who do follow me on Pinterest, they are getting to better know my procrastination (or organizational) habits, for better or worse.


Bravo Pinterest for the great start. Keep UX a top priority and focus on simplicity!