- editor rating good
Interesting way to explore the Web visually based on interests. Lets you save or share images easily. Free.
Difficult to navigate at times. Google Chrome browser not well supported. By-invitation only. Some areas of interest are not well populated with content.
- Bottom Line
Pinterest gives Internet users another way to discover and explore visual content. The virtual pinboard concept has been tried before, and Pinterest executes the idea fairly well.
The relatively new website Pinterest (free, by invitation only) takes on the challenge of creating yet another way to explore and discover content online based on your interests. More specifically, Pinterest focuses on the visual—images primarily and some videos—rather than articles, text-based blogs, music, or podcasts. It’s a near clone of Pinspire, except that Pinspire is open for anyone to join.
The premise of Pinterest is you create “pinboards,” which are nothing more than categories, to which you can then “pin” images that you find online or via other Pinterest users. Your virtual pasteboards become little collections of visually stunning images, with notes if you attach them and links back to the original source from whence the images came. A layer of social interaction sits beneath the whole site, as you can follow other users, or just specific boards they create.
While pinning content that other Pinterest users have posted works great, you can also add content you find elsewhere on the Web using Pinterest’s bookmark bar button. When you set up an account, the site will walk you through installing the button based on the browser you’re using at the time. It worked well for me in Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer, but failed time and time again in Google’s Chrome.
The Lay of the Pinning Land
Pinterest, which also has a Pinterest iPhone app, differs from other sites that support alternative ways to finding content online other than simply surfing the Web largely because it’s so visually focused. The iPad app Flipboard, for example, is somewhat visual, too, but also highly interactive, making use of the iPad’s supported gestures very well. And Flipboard concentrates on magazine-like content from the Web, folding text into its layout liberally. StumbleUpon in many ways is quite similar to Pinterest, giving you categories of interest to explore, but you won’t find anything like its signature roulette wheel Stumble button in Pinterest.
Springpad, another service that lets you save images and Web clips to a virtual pasteboard, is pretty close to Pinterest in theory, but the latter is actually fun to use and pretty to look at, which Springpad quite frankly is not.
How to Get and Use Pinterest
First, as mentioned, you’ll need an invitation to join Pinterest at this time; there is an open sign up that purportedly puts you on a waiting list, but who knows how long you’ll have to wait to get it. The only way to get an invitation is to know someone else who is already on the site and have them invite you via email, Facebook, or Twitter.
With an invitation, you’ll be able to establish an account with the requisite username, email, and password. During this short setup, Pinterest will help you install a bookmark button that you can use to “pin” interesting things you see online.
Next, you can choose your areas of interests from a reasonably diverse list that’s provided, which includes architecture, design, education, gardening, history, women’s apparel, pets, and more. The interests that you select will determine what kind of content you’ll see when you first hit the homepage for logged in Pinterest user.
Third, you can create boards, or more refined subcategories, where you’ll pin things you find. I created a board in the category Design called Kitchen and Dining Design where I’ve been clipping images of tables, cabinetry, and interior décor that I might one day use when I have $10,000 burning a hole in my pocket to redesign my kitchen. Another board I made is called Places I’d Like to Go under the category Travel & Places where I’ve been clipping images of dream vacation destinations.
Finally, when you have a few interests selected and boards roughly named (you can always edit their name, description, and category later), you’re put on a Pinterest page that invites you to explore images that other users have uploaded. Fascinating and beautiful stuff appeared on my page, which was heavily spattered with DIY crafts and photos of amazing design projects, both architectural and interior. The crafts materials seemed very Etsy-like to me, with knitwear galore. I tried to break up the style by adding “Sports” to my interests, but somehow pictures of homemade figure skating outfits and iron-on Tinkerbell decals still popped up.
Everything you pin becomes searchable, which may be one of the nicest features. If you clip a bunch of images for an idea or future brainstorming, it’s very useful to be able to search all those visual scraps based on text you entered into the description field.
Difficulties with Pinterest
Difficult to navigate at times, Pinterest has the ability to pull you into a narrowly focused area: Find an image you like > click on the user > click on one of the user’s boards, and by the time you get three or four levels deep, it’s hard to back out. The easiest option is to hit the main nav bar and jump way back out to an interest.
I’d like to see a breadcrumb trail at the top with hyperlinks back to the most previous pages visited, in nested order, the way some shopping sites do. While surfing around Pinterest, I kept finding myself hitting the back button two or three times where I would have preferred to simply jump back via a link.
The content is also focused much more on crafts, home design, and fashion more than anything else (it almost looks as if a lot of Etsy vendors signed up around the same time and constantly “repin” one another’s items to help drive business). Day-by-day, the content changes, however, but it’s nothing so wacky and diverse as a site like Canvas, for example, which seems to have a bit of everything.
Pinterest’s Soft Side
Pinterest has a few kinks to iron out, but it serves its purpose of helping people visually explore the Web and save images they like into little virtual pasteboards better than other sites that try to do the same. The content leans toward crafts, jewelry, interior design and décor; the palettes of a lot of images are often the same. If you can’t manage an invitation, try Pinspire, which is very nearly the same site.