Pinterest Has The Best Sign Up Experience on the Web

Aug 15, 2011 Back to blog is crushing it.  They are a site for sharing what you love by “pinning” pictures of those things to image boards. It’s sort of like they took the best of Delicious, Polyvore, and Tumblr, put their own beautiful spin on it, and created digital crack.  Just ask any 20-something girl in NYC or LA.

I’ve been an avid consumer of Pinterest since March, but I decided to sign up last night, and was blown away by how good their sign-up flow is.

Every entrepreneur building a consumer application should study it. Closely.

Here’s what impressed me so much:

It feels exclusive.  You have to request an invite to join (or be invited by a friend). You are then put on a (short) waiting list.  I’m sure this is partly to manage their growth, but more importantly, the psychology of requesting to join means I’m much more likely to actually complete the sign-up flow once I get that coveted invitation.  Why?  Because it feels like a scarce resource.  There’s no way I would waste it by not finishing all the steps.

The sign-up flow trains new users in how to be good members of the community.  This is huge.  Engineering-oriented teams tend to look at the sign-up flow as a process but Pinterest clearly sees it as part of their product.  And the product of a social platform, like a nightclub, is in the people and how they behave.  Pinterest gets that, and in the invitation email – a place where conventional wisdom would scream “DON’T DISTRACT JUST PUSH TO THE NEXT STEP” – Pinterest actually pauses to set some ground rules:

Pinterest Etiquette: Try to...


Be Nice!


Be Creative. The best pinboards mix products, art, recipes and images from all across the web. Try not to pin everything from a single source.


Give Credit. If you blog about an item you found on Pinterest, it's nice to credit your fellow pinners by linking back to the original pin.

Do you see what’s happening here? Pinterest is assuming you are going to be an active, awesome member of the community before you even click to accept your invitation. Like a teacher with high expectations of her pupils, this has a powerful effect.

They get you started by auto-following people.  Remember when you first joined Twitter and your feed was empty?  Twitter has taken steps to improve that, like recommending people to follow, but Pinterest goes further and auto-follows people based on your interests.  Before I was done signing up for Pinterest, I was already following 15 people and I emerged on the other end of the flow into a site that was alive and relevant to me.  There was a seamless transition into the core experience such that I forgot I arrived there through a sign-up process – there was no arbitrary demarcation between where the sign up “ended” and the product “began.”


And in addition to auto-following people, the sign up process also held my hand as I created my first pinboards.  Again, the flow is teaching new users how to be great contributors.

They check all the other best practice boxes, too.  They integrate seamlessly with your Facebook account so you don’t have to upload a picture of yourself.  Their invitation and confirmation emails are friendly and personal.  Each page in the flow is dead simple and serves a clear purpose.  The last step has me install the browser button, and shows me how to do it with a video.  You get the idea.
Oh, and one more thing.  I actively browsed Pinterest for five months before I signed up, and I think that’s going to make me a better contributor now that I’m a registered user.  I’m a big proponent of bringing as much content in front of the sign-up wall as possible, and I don’t understand why Twitter, for example, hasn’t done a better job of this yet. 
For me, Pinterest is kind of like the Guggenheim: the impressiveness of the architecture almost upstages the beauty of the objects on display.