The Impact of Pinterest on Design

The Impact of Pinterest on Design

It’s been over five years since the launch of the addictive photo sharing website, Pinterest. And the impact that it has had on visual and interaction design continues to live on today. Over the last few years we’ve seen a significant increase of tile based, intentionally disordered, and visually rich designs.  The hope and intention with this design is that users will get lost in the maze of tiles for countless hours.  With its massive, seemingly overnight success, it doesn’t surprise me to see many products taking inspiration from Pinterest.

Having said that, it’s important to note that this style of design will not be successful for every product.  Understanding when it is appropriate to use this type of design is important.  So if you are about to design or launch a web based product and are considering a similar design approach to Pinterest, here are three questions to ask yourself and your team before you start:

  1. What will your users want to do most often with your product?

Before you begin making important layout design decisions you should have a thorough understanding of what your users will primarily want to do with your product.  The most common scenario where a ‘Pinterest’ design would be most successful is one where a user takes a ‘lean back’ approach to accomplishing their goals.  In other words, what this means is that a user may not have a specific item they are searching for and would rather browse or peruse through available content, clicking only on items that interest them.   This is in fact, a rather rare use case that only applies to a small proportion of web products out in the wild.

If your users will have more specific goals, you may want to consider a more orderly design with sort and filter abilities so that users are supported when completing their goals.

  1. Will it be important for your users to be able to orient themselves when navigating through your product?

If the answer to this question is yes, then you may want to consider including a design that extends beyond the ability to sort or filter a mix of content on a single page.  In the scenario where a user will want to browse or search through a particular content area, you should provide an information architecture that will allow your users to quickly navigate to the content area that interests them most.

  1. Does having a visually rich interface help or hinder your users ability to accomplish their tasks?

Sure. Visuals can make designs look more appealing but they could also potentially get in the way of user task completion if they become too overwhelming or distracting.  Align with your primary user scenarios and determine whether having an image heavy design would be useful.  Also take into consideration where the images/visuals will be sourced from. If the content is to be submitted by users you could potentially end up with low quality or even repeated images, which will impede the overall experience of your product.

What are your thoughts on the impact of Pinterest on design?  Please share in the comment below.

Lisa Min is Senior Experience Architect at Akendi, a firm dedicated to creating intentional experiences through end-to-end experience design. To learn more about Akendi or user experience design, visit www.akendi.com.

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