Why all the interest in Pinterest?

In this guest post, Tony Prysten explains why he thinks the new social platform Pinterest is here to stay

Pinterest is a social bookmarking site on which users can share, curate and upload images. It looks and feels like an online pinboard. Launched in closed beta in 2010, its growth since becoming publicly accessible has been rapid. It hit over 10m unique visitors in January, and it’s becoming a key source of referral traffic on the web.

Funny how something I saw a while back as a neat little way to put together a few moodboards has now exploded and become the next massive thing on the internet.

Initially I did think it was pretty cool. But I was far too quick to write it off as something chicks would use to plan their next handbag purchase. Even when I first signed up, I failed to see the potential. Maybe a few recent ‘next big thing’ burns mixed with a “nothing will be bigger than facebook” blindness had me on the skeptical side.

Pinterest screenshotIf you want to know what it’s all about, this slideshare is a great place to start.

Founder Evan Sharp (a designer) says he created Pinterest because “I was always collecting images on the web in folders on the desktop of my computer, but it wasn’t a very good system for remembering where things came from or who made them. We wanted to create a place where you can go to upload or collect things on the web and simply organize it the way you want to.”

A quick glance at my desktop tells a similar story. I have folders for brand inspiration, web design inspiration, photography, ideas, pure awesomeness, architectural interiors, exteriors, furniture, garden ideas… all of which sit on my well cluttered desktop. So this product was made for me.

But I like my folders of stuff. I go to them when I am going through my design process. I know where stuff is and I really don’t care if people like them or share them. I even care less where they came from or who made them. They are my inspiration, not my content.

So once again, I wrote Pinterest off as a place for a few mood boards and bits and pieces, not a credible place for me to collect all of my inspirational stuff.

Then bang! Pinterest explodes. I have some followers. I slap a few pins down, pick up a few re-pins, but I still don’t really get it. I had yet to realise that you can add a ‘Pin it’ link in your toolbar, stupidly believing I need to copy and past the URL of every image, etc into Pinterest. That ain’t gonna replace my awesome desktop folder drag-and-drop system.

Then a conversation in the studio gets my attention. “Fills a need” and “solves a problem” can be heard. Importantly, heard coming from the mouths of people who are quite obviously not girls planning their next handbag purchase. I’m intrigued now. Especially when it gets described as a visual bookmarking tool that is “easier than keeping a tumblr”.

Pinterest will be different things to different people. For me, it may be a while before it replaces my desktop of cluttered folders with thousands of images going back years. Instead it will immediately be more of a replacement to the forgotten bookmarks where, being a visual guy, I can reference a site by what something looked like.

For producers of content it is yet another way to get more exposure of great (and not so great) stuff. For product industries like fashion, homewares, bikes and so on, it’s a game changer. It’s only natural that people build style boards and then seamlessly follow through with a purchase. Progressive retailers are already pioneering in this space such as Styld.by

Just as Twitter and Facebook introduced a new way of viewing content, I think Pinterest has the potential to redefine the way people may view the web. It could have a significant effect on website structure with people wanting or expecting to see more scrolling grid-based sites that give a viewer a real spread of content rather than being pushed into a particular direction. Giving priority to more ‘pinned’ content will also be a way forward.

So will it stick around? Well, I made the call that Google+ was a load of rubbish. This was based on the fact that I was a) too lazy to migrate all my Facebook pics across and b) couldn’t be bothered using two social networks that were pretty similar, and c) too sentimental to let go of years of Facebook content.

As for Pinterest, it really does ‘fill a need’. It’s new. But more importantly it’s easy. For me it replaces a bookmarking system I wasn’t using. People (not just designers) are pretty visual, so a tool that allows them to organise the things they like and want to reference in a visual way is here to stay.

And of course any internet tool that shows cats doing things will always be a hit.

Tony Prysten is creative director and co-founder of Igloo Digital Pioneers


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