Forgive my tampering with a traditional idiom, but images really do make the world go round. Well, the online world at least. In this age of multimedia, a website without a photo or two somewhere within its contents sticks out like a sore thumb. Equally, a quick browse through your social timelines should reveal that photos are constantly being shared at an astounding rate, and it is these visual status updates which tend to be the most popular.
It was this trend which Pinterest latched onto just over three years ago now, and after an extraordinary early surge in the size of its user-base, it has gone on to become one of the web’s hottest social properties. The simplicity of a network which allows users to “pin” virtually any image, from any website, is both the main driving force behind Pinterest’s popularity, and the reason why the service is particularly popular with creative folks. As a method of digital scrapbooking, however, Pinterest disappointed many with its original near-requirement of its users to be social. Pinterest now allows the creation of secret boards, but as a network, it still isn’t terribly suited to private collation.
A new invite beta product named Board – the first from developer Creonomy – is based on a system of image collection which is similar to that of Pinterest, but it has been deliberately set up to be a private space for creatives to store their visual inspirations. Is there really a need for yet another web-clipping service, though?
There’s only one way to find out…and it involves a lot of image browsing…
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the design of Board closely resembles the market leader in all but its background. As with Pinterest’s profiles, your home page is filled with folders, known as boards, which contain your clippings.
Open up the boards, and the Pinterest mimicry continues, as the images you have collected fan out across the entire width of your browser window in that now famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) Masonry grid. It all feels very familiar, and that’s no bad thing.
Board’s Pinterest likenesses start to dry up once you begin browsing and clipping. There are, essentially, two ways of getting images into your Board account.
The first option provided is the humble direct import. Once you’ve selected the files you want to add – either by browsing, or by dragging and dropping them into your browser window – your files are uploaded and put on display. A click on each image provides access to editing its title, tags and description. This single-image view is, in equal measure, minimal and classy, with the flavour of a high quality Tumblr theme.
The other option for gathering images is Board’s Chrome extension. Clicking the extension icon produces a drop-down menu containing the four different methods of image capture, along with a keyboard shortcut for each.
Trigger the simple image grabber, and the entire content of the web page you are browsing, bar the images, is blacked out, allowing you to click on the photos you want to save.
Second down is the crop tool, which captures, as a screenshot, the area of a web page you specify. I can imagine this will be particularly popular with web designers and UX/UI architects who want to capture great individual elements of page design.
The final two methods on show are one-click affairs; you can either capture all that is visible in your browser window, or the entire page you are viewing.
The quality of Board doesn’t diminish once you’ve gathered your inspirations of choice, though.
Along with a global search function, Board provides a Gmail-like favouriting system. Content which has been marked in this way (indicated with a star) is then made accessible via the in-built sorting preset. There’s nothing particularly fancy here, but it all works well, which is impressive enough on its own for a beta.
Perhaps more impressive still, is Board’s provision for collaborative curation. Once you add a new board to your account, you can invite friends, or co-workers, to add to the board. I would imagine this would be a significant boon for designers who need to work in remote teams. Sure, this whole function is something that Pinterest can do; if you are using Board, though, you are not in the image-clipping business for the social interaction it can provide.
It would be very easy for me to get hopelessly carried away with the effortless simplicity of Board, especially given my general liking for services which promote privacy. As a way for creatives to gather ideas, it works perfectly, if not spectacularly, and though the design is not likely to set pulses racing, it provides a pleasant enough backdrop to the content.
Board, it must be said, is very similar to Pinterest in many respects, and it is not, in any way, a revolution, either in terms of functionality or technology. Additionally, many will miss the option to be selectively social with their collections.
In summary, if you want a way of capturing visual interest in private, Board will provide you with everything you need, in spite of its early stage of development. Furthermore, any future refinement or feature additions, as the service leaves beta, will push Board into the web-clipping top league.