One reason Pinterest is successful, I suspect, is that it taps into a very effective interface that has been on the rise.
We are used to the list interface:
We see it in e-mails, blogs, and the status updates of most social media. We are used to it from menus and most print media. It is a logical organization of information. It comes with one major limitation: We have to wade through what we don’t want in order to get to what we do.
Lately, though, we’ve been seeing more of this:
And now this:
Getting to what I want happens more quickly. More organically. I don’t consciously register the stuff I’m not interested in. My eye simply moves toward the things I am interested in. Or, at least, I can disregard the unimportant stuff more efficiently.
This, too, has its limitations. A picture cannot convey the nuance—in all instances—that words can. But I would like to see an attempt, at least, to take this interface to a lot of new places. Like e-mail. Or journalism. What benefits could come from an undifferentiated layout, where you simply see a series of images (or slightly annotated images) or icons, and your eye simply scans to form its own map and its own set of priorities? With e-mail this could be especially tricky and chaotic, since how do you match the image to the content? Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you match the image to the sender. I think you might actually get a lot of mileage and good user experience out of that interface. And I’ll bet you I’d get through my e-mail a lot more quickly.
In any case, I think part of the success of Pinterest has to do with it being one of the first to take this interface to social media. You could argue Flipboard is doing the same. I think another reason you’ll see this catching on is that user interfaces in general may be moving towards a Minority Report-style interface that simply hovers in front of you wherever you are, appearing upon command (I see Google glasses being one small step toward one implementation). A grid-based pictorial interface works much better in that paradigm than a simple list.
What do you think?