The Programmer's Guide to Pinterest

Brandon LyonFrontend Engineer and UX
Brandon has over 12 years of professional experience developing software. He's also a designer & photographer with a degree in architecture.

What Is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a "recommendation engine." It's a service that is all about finding new content you might be interested in, no matter what the category. You can find almost anything. I've found some PHP tips and tricks, great examples of man-caves, some fantastic user interfaces, BBQ recipes, mobile app onboarding ideas, computer related craft ideas, HTML and CSS, typography, sql, and plenty of alcohol related fun.

The best part of Pinterest is that is requires very little work to set up. Technically Pinterest is a "social network", but it is the least social network I've ever been a part of and also the most valuable other than Experts Exchange. The only social part you're doing on Pinterest is finding people with similar interests. Pinterest could also be called a visual bookmarking service but thinking of it like that is doing it a disservice. For now just think about Pinterest as a way to find things of interest, organize them, save them for later, and most importantly use them to find similar content.

Why Would A Programmer Be Interested In Pinterest?

I've already shown a few examples of what can be found on Pinterest. You'll notice some of those are directly related to programming. Some of them are indirectly related to programming. Maybe you're a back-end kind of person, but you want to learn how to make a good user interface. The easiest way you could do that is to look for examples of what a good user interface is.

If you searched on Pinterest for phrases like "UI", "UX", "user interface", and looked around you would find some really good ideas. Maybe you're a front-end person who wants to learn more about databases like Postgres. Just search and you'll find some great tutorial videos, books, and cheat-sheets. Maybe you lack a dedicated IA person but you need to spec out a really complicated application flow and would like to find a good wireframing tool. Just search for wireframes. Pinterest has something for everyone. If they don't then you can start contributing and become an authority with many followers.

How is Pineterest different from a Search Engine?


  1. Content Comes To You
  2. Search Engines Are Not Social
  3. You Don't Always Know What You're Looking For
  4. Topic Boards are Curated By Humans
  5. Just Because You Weren't Searching For It Doesn't Mean You Aren't Interested In It
  6. If You Pin Something Then People With Similar Interests Can Help You

1) Content Comes To You:

Pinterest is very good at making the content come to you. You essentially bookmark a topic or two and it finds you recommendations. You browse around a bit and add things to your library. After a week or so it will start sending you emails as often as you like with recommendations. These may be multiple single items or multiple groups of items. Below you can see an example screenshot of one of their emails. Note that it is entirely optional to receive these but I highly encourage doing so. I was skeptical at first but the emails a special part of Pinterest's magic.


2) Search Engines Are Not Social:

If this were Google you would search for an answer, find it, and click back. Pinterest is more like user groups. Sure, you COULD search the same way you would on Google. But you could also look for someone with similar interests and start following their posts. Let's say you search for articles about programming in Objective C. You've found someone with great posts on the subject. Not only that but it turns out he also has a great collection of resources about similar languages like Swift, and more importantly he has examples of great beers. What luck!

After a while you've decided that you don't agree with this person's taste in beer. Not to worry though! Pinterest has sent you a recommendation email with popular people to follow with regards to beer. Yay! Now you can stop following his beer board and follow these new ones. Not only that, but you have been sent an email of 10 other examples of topics related to programming. You're learning more every day and you don't have to do much of anything.

3) You Don't Always Know What You're Looking For:

Let's face it. Searching is inherently different from browsing. You might want to find a way to spice up an app you're programming but you are unsure how to do it. Pinterest excels at finding related content and displaying it in a quick digestible fashion. If you searched for "app" you might get results like better icons, using animations, typography, color, etc. Entering a vague search on Google won't find you what you're looking for. Entering a vague search on Pinterest will find exactly what you're looking for with a minimal amount of browsing.

4) Topic Boards are Curated By Humans

Using my example above, let's say you searched for "app". You'll find all kinds of colorful examples of app-related things. These results are generated by computer algorithm. You'll also find related boards. Those boards are app-related groups of things put together by humans. Things organized by humans are often more relevant than those organized by computers. On Experts Exchange a similar example of this is the new groups feature which I suggest you try out. You can form groups around topics of interest.


5) Just Because You Weren't Searching For It Doesn't Mean You Aren't Interested In It:

Earlier in example 2 we were discussing the fact that you found someone with resources on Objective C who also had resources for beer. Did you know that people often have similar interests? Heck they probably like computers too! Maybe they have some articles they've shared about building a really cool water-cooled computer. Now not only did you find the Objective C article you were looking for at work but you've also found a fun new weekend project to make at home. You probably even did both as quickly as you could have with a search engine (if not quicker).

6) If You Pin Something Then People With Similar Interests Can Help You:

Now we can start to look at this from the other side of things. When you pin something or create a board topic of your own then someone else can find you. If someone else likes your pin then by definition it means they share at least one interest with you. Without having to do anything you've found people with a similar interest. If you like their boards you can follow them and find more programming resources (or resources about beer or whatever). Not only that but you can click through the people they know and find someone else who has similar interests. It's a deep rabbit hole you can keep digging into. Eventually you won't need to look for information and it will start coming to you.

Have you Signed Up Yet?

I hope this article persuaded you to give Pinterest a try. It's a very diverse community full of techies, food lovers, travelers, and many more. Pinterest is full of resources for programmers to learn from in a way that's different from but complimentary to Experts Exchange. Even if you aren't looking for programming resources there is surely some hobby you enjoy learning more about. Feel free to follow me on Pinterest. Many of the things I've learned there have helped me to contribute to Experts Exchange.
Brandon LyonFrontend Engineer and UX
Brandon has over 12 years of professional experience developing software. He's also a designer & photographer with a degree in architecture.

Comments (4)

Jaime LewisMarketing Account Manager

Great article, Brandon! I am an avid Pinterest user, but never thought to explore in on a professional level.
Brandon LyonFrontend Engineer and UX


Designers tend to use it more than other professionals. Pinterest has many examples of UI, UX, graphics, and other designs.
Jaime LewisMarketing Account Manager

I can see that, I'm a big typography nerd and have a board or two dedicated to it.
Cassie HetrickOnboarding Specialist

What a wonderful new perspective :) Thank you Brandon!

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