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How a simple design decision made Pinterest a household name

May 7th, 2012

In the two years since launching, Pinterest has grown incredibly quickly to become the third most visited social network in the US, only behind Facebook and Twitter.

One of Pinterest’s most recognizable features is its layout. Photos seem to spread out like they were individually placed on a light board. But the layout is not the secret to their success.

So, what did Pinterest do differently? They featured social interactions.

On every Pinterest page, social interactions — repins and comments — take up just as much space as the content itself. Profile photos cover the website, showing conversations are alive and ready for you to join. It’s easy for users to contribute to the discussion as well, because users can log in using their Facebook or Twitter accounts. The design decision to feature the social interactions makes Pinterest feel like a vibrant community in a single glace.

Other networks choose to hide these interactions from the end user. Tumblr has plenty of social interaction across their network, but it’s not showcased. Take a look at the screenshot below:

This particular post has 154 likes, comments or reblogs. That’s a lot of activity for one photo, but the social activity is concealed. Users need to click-through to the post itself to see how readers are responding.

A recent report from comScore shows user engagement rate exactly equal between Tumblr and Pinterest, which means Tumblr isn’t necessarily doing anything wrong. The two networks serve different purposes anyway. Instead, Pinterest’s example shows how social media can be used to their advantage.

Where does social media belong? Front and center, not buried and hidden.

It’s rare to come across a business website that forgets to remind us to “Like” or “Follow” them. On many websites, the opportunity for social media has been compressed into a button. Social widgets are tacked onto web pages almost as an after thought.

It takes a truly integrated approach, like Pinterest, to do social media well. And when websites facilitate conversations, users respond.

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