A quick usability review of Pinterest

21 Feb

Our CHI course let us take an early dive into the world of user interfaces with a simple exercise during the first class. Our assignment was to evaluate the usability of Pinterest‘s interface by letting other students perform -seemingly- simple tasks. For each task, we took informal notes on the effectiveness (was the task completed?), efficiency (how well did the task go?) and satisfaction (did the user enjoy the task?) of performing the tasks. Each student had to be both evaluator and evaluatee at least once. Rather than separating theory from practice, this little experiment gave us an immediate raw experience of how usability is a complex issue with many facets. Next we will discuss some of the tasks performed and our results. Some tasks were very similar to those executed by other groups as well. It will be interesting to compare the results!

Task 1: Pin any topic containing a picture of Lego bricks on one of your boards.

  • Effectiveness: The task was completely performed.
  • Efficiency: The user needed only 5 mouseclicks to perform the task. There were no repeated or unnecessary actions done by the user.
  • Satisfaction: The user seemed to browse pinterest’s with a breeze though he stated not to be familiar with the interface at all.

Task 2: Send an e-mail to Pinterest’s customer support.

  • Effectiveness: The task was completely performed.
  • Efficiency: The user needed a substantial amount of mouseclicks and time to perform the task. He also needed to read certain parts of the site to know how to locate the correct sections. Some actions had to be repeated to complete the task.
  • Satisfaction: There were moments the user was confused about what to do next. It’s unclear whether Pinterest tried too hard to be helpful (the help center is huge!) or if they didn’t try enough (please don’t bother us with your e-mails).

Task 3: Pin any topic of user XYZ on one of your boards.

  • Effectiveness: The task was completely performed.
  • Efficiency: There were no repeated or unnecessary actions done by the user.
  • Satisfaction: The user already knew what the tricky part of this task was (namely, when searching for something, you have to search for ‘pinners’ and not for ‘boards’) but he seemed to remember it well.

Task 4: Make it so a certain pin on the Pinterest homepage will no longer appear for you.

  • Effectiveness: The task was completely performed.
  • Efficiency: The user tried some unneceassary actions before the task was completed.
  • Satisfaction: The way Pins are laid out on the homepage seems to suggest a customazible tile interface with simple delete, move or edit functionality but this is not the case. You have to open the pin and unfollow the original author of that pin. This results in the removal of ALL pins from that author. This is not always desirable.

Our little test yielded ambigious results. The effectivity was 100%, but the user was challenged sometimes to achieve this score as indicated by a mediocre efficiency and satisfaction (disregarding the bias on task 3). Of course this shallow evaluation is by no means an in-depth review of Pinterest’s good, bad and ugly. Nonetheless we already experienced two fundamental concepts about interface design mentioned during the class:

  • You can’t achieve 100% usability: it’s a trade-off between many factors (in this case we commared effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction)
  • You don’t need a large crowd to discover a large amount of issues with an interface (or, to discover what isn’t issue).



7 Responses to “A quick usability review of Pinterest”

  1. jorisschelfaut February 22, 2013 at 00:48 #

    Perhaps your findings about effectiveness of the user interface relate to Jakob Nielsen’s results on user satisfaction and performance metrics, as can be found here: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/satisfaction-vs-performance-metrics/

  2. erikduval February 24, 2013 at 17:36 #

    I wonder a bit about how you choose the tasks you used in the test: are these the most important, relevant, frequent, … tasks for Pinterest users?

    • tommpiot February 24, 2013 at 21:28 #

      Considering we only had 2 minutes to come up with them, the chosen tasks aren’t exactly selected in a profound way. We chose tasks we thought were “difficult” at that time, hoping to see our testers struggle, thus revealing usability issues. Task #2 was copied directly from another group because we had some spare minutes and needed another task quickly to fill the time (so chronologically, it was task #4).

  3. srousseeuw February 25, 2013 at 12:44 #

    Nice first blog! It’s fun to directly see the theory in action; the different tasks each with their Effectiveness, Efficiency and Satisfaction.
    But what if you had to choose just 1 task to execute by a user now you know these parameters? Why specifically this one?

  4. gillvandenbroeck February 25, 2013 at 21:20 #

    Good first blog, I like that you evaluated effectiveness
    efficiency and satisfaction rather than just evaluating just one.

  5. vincentgoovaerts February 25, 2013 at 22:41 #

    It’s rather remarkable that your test user also had problems finding the proper way to mail the support team because we have made the same observation. This indicates that it might be a problem that will keep arising for other people and should be taken care of.
    I’m glad that you also did the test of pinning something from a specific user. In our case, the person didn’t immediately notice the option to select pinners as search results instead of pins, which you label as the “tricky part”. On the other hand, your test person already knew how to do this and the test went smoothly. Thus, it looks like it’s also a common problem that might need some further investigation.


  1. First #chikul13 week: pinteresting | CHI course 2013 - February 24, 2013

    […] as one of the student blogs noted: “this little experiment gave us an immediate raw experience of how usability is a […]

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