Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Pinterest: Examining the User Experience


So, Pinterest.  Heard of it?  Probably.  Using it?  Well if you’re reading this from the UK, it’s unlikely you’ve done much more than had a quick browse, or maybe repined the odd thing.  However if you’re reading this from over the other side of the Atlantic, you’re likely to be one of many who’ve contributed to their 4000% growth over the past year – especially if you’re a woman.

But what exactly is it about the site that’s caused this level of growth and excitement?

Firstly, What is it?

Getting fed up with numerous files and folders Evan Sharp formed Pinterest, in order to “create a place where you can go to upload or collect things on the web and simply organize it the way you want”.

At its simplest level, users can “pin”, and aggregate individual pieces of content to a “board”.  Pins on other users’ boards can be “repinned” (placed) to one of yours, or you can “like” or comment on the pin.

To find content, you can select a topic, see what’s “popular”, or search by keyword.  Alternatively you can look for potential gifts by selecting a price range to browse.

Why it’s good

Pinterest appears to provide users with a more sharable and varied means of personal amplification than other social networks, whilst building in graded degrees of personal gratification (that “feel good” factor) at all levels of the user journey. 

Straight from the get-go, standard and video searches immediately result in content for users to engage with.  As the person builds their profile by pinning, repining, liking, commenting and following, each action has the potential for a reciprocal action, most of which amplify the user’s presence on Pinterest and increase the user’s enjoyment of the site.

Similarly to Twitter, it’s this constant creation, sharing and enjoyment of “pull” content that has played heavily in it’s growth, every action spreading in a Google+esque Ripple.  I.e. Only one person has to upload content for numerous people to consequently find and share it, with each link feeling positive that their content was deemed interesting/funny enough to interact with.

It is suggested that this is happening, not just because that’s how you interact with the site, but because users have the confidence to do so.  What’s meant by this is that with 80% of pins currently being repinns, users generally aren’t accountable for the content pinned on their board.  This removes the fear of anything more than superficial judgment from an action - i.e. Sarah will be less bothered about people disliking the picture of some pretty flowerpots that she repined, than if she knows the photo album she created will be pushed out on all her friends’ Facebook walls or on their Twitter feeds – a worry that’s beautifully displayed by the Facebook post-night-out-detagging ritual.

This is reinforced by the fact that (as previously said) the pin/repinn isn’t pushed onto anyone.  Conversely to Facebook, it’s the content that creates the profile/person, not the other way around.  This, alongside the fact that consumers are given choice and selectivity over the content they view - in a way other social networks don’t - is another huge factor in Pinterest’s rise to fame.

Everyone has different interests, and most importantly, different interests that they share with different people.  Allowing people to follow singular boards of others enables a Circles - type effect and lets consumers segment their interests, and ensure they see content that’s relevant to them on an individual level.

Whilst the potential for “going viral” is somewhat hampered at the moment by the majoritatively tame subject matter, that the relevant content is organically growing creates the potential for more niche, semi-viral incidences.  E.g. A Fantastic pic of a new Thompson holiday destination that a celeb went to, whilst unlikely to go viral in its traditional sense, could well get wide and fast reach through people interested in holidays, celebs, or nice landscapes.


Whilst at the moment, the 200,000 uniques in the UK are dwarfed by the 12,000,000 in the US, Pinterest’s engaging, relevant and gratifying user experience and organic growth is likely to ensure an impact over here.

Whilst who’s currently using Pinterest and the way they’re using it here in the UK is vastly different to in the States, that’s a topic for another time.  But rest assured, if you don’t currently have a Pinterest account, you should, as otherwise you could become uncool very, very soon.