In terms of grabbing and holding our attention, Pinterest’s tiled, wall-of-stuff design has proven incredibly effective--so much so, in fact, that we’ve seen other big sites like eBay and Medium start to adopt similar layouts themselves. The densely packed image grid is here to stay, clearly, and it’s hard to imagine Pinterest departing from it anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, and the site’s new (albeit slight) redesign has a few clever features to keep people pinning. Here are three of them.
One of the keys to Pinterest’s early success was how easy the site made it for users to discover content. Basically all you had to do was log in and scroll. Do-it-yourself bookends! Cute striped sofas! Eggs baked into avocados! It was all there for the re-pinning. But as we’ve seen with Facebook’s recent redesign, keeping a social media site healthy (and profitable) means keeping users engaged, and in Pinterest’s case, that means giving users even more ways to find new stuff. That’s the chief aim of the redesign.
The new discovery tools are all found on the pages for individual pins. On the right side of the page, users will get a series of small thumbnails showing other pins from the same board. Basically, it lets users browse the entire collection of pins, at a glance, without leaving the page they’re on. Below that is a similar mini-grid of pins from the same source--other pins, regardless of uploader or board, that came from the same website. And below all that is another, larger collection headed "People who pinned this also pinned"--a handful of other items from the users who pinned the thing that initially grabbed your attention.
The additions are pretty straightforward--essentially three new portals for zapping you elsewhere, deeper into the Pinterest universe. One shows you content related by type, another by originating link, and yet another by user, each ostensibly offering a slightly different cross section of new content to check out. But what’s most fascinating, perhaps, is the form they take. They’re all tiny grids of their own, taking everything that’s accessible and immediate about Pinterest’s main experience and packing it onto the page for each individual pin. It’s like a Pinterest fractal.
This one’s pretty straightforward: Pins are bigger! There’s less of a border around pins on the main tiled feed, and each image is displayed slightly larger as a result. But images are bigger on individual pin pages, too. Clicking one lets you see the image at a nice, decently high resolution right on the service, without having to hop out to the original link for a better look. It’s the same move we saw Facebook make a while back with user-uploaded images, and it’s a no-brainer. On a very basic level, it immediately improves the experience on a site entirely predicated on visual content. Bigger is better, whether you’re talking about a friend’s vacation photos or a stranger’s nail art.
But it also might have a more subtle effect of changing how users think about the site on a fundamental level. Instead of Pinterest simply being a repository of found content, a service for curating and linking and aggregating, the bigger images make it a showcase for that content. It’s a small shift toward being a site that features products, instead of one that merely lets users scrapbook them, and that will be a hugely important distinction for monetization down the line.
That’s something Pinterest obviously wants to avoid, so they’ve ensured that hitting the "back" button will always take you to the place you initially were at in the main stream. And as websites continue to phase out "pages" that must be clicked through in favor of feeds and flows that can be scrolled through endlessly and frictionlessly, this type of anchored browsing addresses a specific but very real frustration.
Pinterest says users should be getting invitations to try out the new look soon. Read a bit more here.