Glitz vs. Plumbing: why I also quit Delicious and switched to Pinboard

Sometimes, you don’t need glitz; you need plumbing.

That’s Charles Arthur in Goodbye Delicious, hello Pinboard, explaining why The Guardian is dumping Delicious as their social bookmarking service. Let me ask you a question. Which of the following two screen shots is prettier?







Delicious, right? Now let me ask you another question. Which site is more useful as a social bookmarking site? It’s ok, I’ll answer for you: it’s Pinboard.

Pinboard’s aesthetic[1] is fairly bland, but the  sparse, table-like layout is the best way to organize the vast amount of information you collect on the Internet. The aesthetic fits the purpose of the app. But wait, there’s more. It lets you import from Twitter, Instapaper, and Google Reader (well, back in the day when Google Reader still supported public sharing). It has browser bookmarklets that work effortlessly. It integrates smoothly with a variety of RSS Readers. Sorry for the cliché, but it just works.

Meanwhile, Delicious has become slow, it has constant availability issues, and the aesthetic keeps getting more extravagant. This actually reduces its utility by obscuring the app’s core features. Social bookmarking is about two things – tagging the things you’re saving, and searching for those thing later on. That’s it. The new Delicious owners are apparently trying to turn it into something more, but whatever that something more is, I’m not buying.

Anyway, back to glitz and plumbing. As I’ve mentioned before, great aesthetic design builds trust, increases engagement, and elicits the appropriate emotional responses to a brand. But glitz is something else. Glitz is about making things shiny without asking what the thing should look like to fulfill its primary purpose.

Social bookmarking is Internet plumbing, not glitz. I now use Pinboard, and highly recommend it.


  1. Time for the obligatory disclaimer. Yes, Design is about problem solving, and it includes elements such as User Research, Interaction Design, Content Strategy, Visual Design, etc. Here I am referring only to the aesthetic layer of the Visual Design component. ↩