Pinterest has become the fourth largest source of traffic on the internet. Along the way it has created a different vision of what social networking can be. One of the interesting things about Pinterest success, is that unlike many other online companies, such as Google and Facebook, the founders do not have a programming background. Founders Ben Silbermann studied medicine and political science at Yale and Evan Sharp was an architecture student when he began designing Pinterest. The unique nature of their backgrounds has lead to a company that has broken many of the conventional rules about how to be successful with an online business.
• Solve a Massive Problem
Pinterest has been such a huge success because it has solved a massive problem. That problem is how to discover new products when you don’t know exactly what you are looking for. In the past if you were looking for a fathers day gift but you only had a vague idea of what your dad would like trying to find ideas online was difficult. In contrast of you were shopping offline in a mall, as you walk around you can browse and come across unexpected finds. Online the same kind of serendipity rarely occurs. Pinterest users perform this function by curating products from all over the internet and then organizing them by a particular theme. If you want to have a huge success on the scale of Pinterest then you need to solve a similarly massive problem.
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• When Others Zig You Zag
Until Pinterest the prevailing orthodoxy for web design was that website should display their content in chronological order from top to bottom. Pinterest decided to invert this and allow uses to display multiple images at the same time. These images were centered around a theme rather than in order of how recently it was put up. If you want to stand out and create something original you need to test the underlying assumptions about what is the right way to do things.
• There Is No Failure
While Pinterest is one of the fastest growing websites of all time, it is far from an overnight success. In fact the first app that Silbermann and Sharp designed was a failure. This early failure was a shopping app called Tote. One of the key traits of successful entrepreneur is seeing events in terms of feedback rather than failure. Whenever something doesn’t work out the way we planed there are still things we can learn from it and use to push our business forward.
• Create Something Beautiful
When Silbermann was designing the layout for Pinterest he coded 50 different variations of the site. He wanted something that would look perfect. Pinterest is popular with its users because the pinboards that they create look like works of art. If the site was not so attractive it wouldn’t be nearly as popular as it is. This demonstrates how design can be crucial to the success of a site.
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• Make It Intrinsically Addictive
One of the interesting design aspects of Pinterest is the “Infinite Scroll”. You can scroll down the page essentially forever viewing new images. This infinite scroll means that you rarely need to click the mouse in order to navigate the site. It also means that it is very easy to get caught up the world of Pinterest and spend hours looking at images. The “Infinite Scroll” makes for a more pleasant user experience, but it also makes the site more addictive. This illustrates the importance of making sure that your web design supports the idea of people spending a lot of time on your site.
• It’s OK To Take A Job
When Silbermann decided he wanted to join the social digital boom, he headed to San Francisco. However he didn’t start a business straight away, instead he went to work for Google for two years doing customer support. The other cofounder Evan Sharp even took a job at Facebook just as Pinterest was launching.
• Controlled Growth
Pinterest wanted to make sure that it was creating a real community and attracting the right people, so it opted for controlled growth. At first Silbermann and Sharp aimed to attract designers to the site. These early users could then choose to invite other people to join. In this way the site grew along peoples existing networks. Pinterest demonstrates the value of questioning whether growth for growths sake is always good.
• People Are Tired Of Oversharing
One of the assumptions of social networks is that people want to share their personal details and that other people are interested in hearing about them. Pinterest turns this idea on its head and takes the attention away from the person and onto the things that have found that they like. It has created a new way for people to connect not necessarily based on their social networks, but instead on the things that they are interested. Again this shows how questioning the prevailing wisdom of what people actually want can lead to a huge amount of success.
Do you have any successful business tips to share? Do share your views in the comment section, we’ll be glad to hear from you.