3 Ways Pinterest is Changing Website Design

There’s no mistake about the meteoric growth of online social pin board site Pinterest < http://pinterest.com/> and how it’s impacting the way social networks share what they love. The advertising site Athenna notes in January 2012, “Pinterest is currently one of the fastest growing websites, with Hitwise reporting that it was the 60th most visited site in the US last week, and visits growing impressively from 10 million at the start of the year, to 17 million”

The design of Pinterest breaks with common website conventions in two major ways. First of all, the grids on the site organize content in vertical pin boards. Secondly, the pin boards are not governed by a reverse chronology timeline like Facebook, Twitter, and most blogs where the latest content rises to the top regardless of user preference. Rather, users of Pinterest determine what goes where on their pages.

The popularity of Pinterest has sparked a major shift in website design that we are seeing today in three major ways.

1. Pinterest Depends on Non-Linear Website Design

Sarah Kessler at Mashable spoke to several designers who noted that Pinterest uses a masonry lay out rather than a floating lay out. “‘At a pure level, there’s an advantage if you ave set [sic] of information that benefits from people accessing it in a non-linear fashion,’ Vinh says of the layout. ‘For most people, they saw it on Pinterest and want to be almost as cool as Pinterest.’”

The first examples of the masonry Pinterest lay out came from website developers who used the jQuery Masonry lay out plug in that “arranges elements vertically then horizontally according to a grid. The result minimizes vertical gaps between elements of varying height, just like a mason fitting stones in a wall.”

Rather than reading through content according to chronology, this lay out groups content into blocks according to category where users can quickly scan a large amount of information.

2. Pinterest Rethinks How We Organize and Present Content

The design of Pinterest suggests that many people may browse the web differently today, relying more on tags and categories than before. Another difference with Pinterest is its emphasis on visual elements rather than text-based tags or saved chunks of text—a familiar element for Delicious users.

John McElhenney writes, “We no longer browse websites, travelling down some architected sitemap and taxonomy towards the goal. NOPE. Google is our index, and search is our rapid retrieval and navigation system. Except Google isn’t all that good at remembering or organizing our stuff.” Pinterest’s block, image-dependent interface is providing a new way to structure and organize content online.

3. Pinterest Prioritizes Images Over Text

While websites used to live and die based on the quality of their written content, with images coming in handy for an improved user experience and slightly enhanced SEO, Pinterest is refocusing websites on their visual elements. High quality images < http://www.iexposure.com/2012/02/08/how-to-optimize-images-for-pinterest> that present intimate experiences, products in use, and tell a story in one shot are now mandatory. A brand stamp on a 300 DPI image at 3×5 inches is ideal for sharing on Pinterest. Without a stunning image to share on your website, you’re dead on arrival with Pinterest.

Besides revamping how users share content on social media or interact with brands and products, Pinterest is also popularizing elements of web design that, to this point, have been neglected. As users become familiar with reverse chronology, the masonry lay out, and websites that thrive on high quality images, designers will be called on to rethink how they organize their new websites.