Adding another dimension to Etsy: Custom-Product Requests

For our second project for UXDI at General Assembly, Max Fortis, Melissa Murphy and I were asked to implement a new feature for Etsy, an online global marketplace that specializes in handmade items, that allowed customers to post product requests and receive quotes from interested artisans.

  1. Analysing Etsy and its Competition
Screengrab from CustomMade’s Homepage giving an overview of their process.

As a first step, we set about understanding Etsy and how online marketplaces in the handmade category generally work. Handmade at Amazon and DaWanda were the subject of our scrutiny initially but neither had a custom-product request feature. However, CustomMade, an online marketplace founded in 1996, featured exactly this. We went over their workflow multiple times for a thorough understanding of their process and this gave us valuable insight to fall back on during the later stages of our design process. At this point, we also came to the conclusion that we’d have to empathise with both the customer and the artisan to be successful with our design.


2. Putting Ourselves in the Shoes of the Users
We empathised with both the buyer and the artisan, and with the help of an empathy map came to make key assumptions that we’d take forward into our user interviews. Some of these assumptions included:

“Buyers have an idea of something in their mind that they’re unable to find.”
“Buyers see really cool work on social media all the time and wish they could have something made by the poster.”
“Buyers are very open and receptive to peer feedback.”

“Artisans want a way to ensure that their client is serious and that they don’t waste their time.”
“That there is a huge market for custom-made goods that they haven’t tapped into.”
“They are familiar with the layout of online marketplaces and how they work.”


3. Screening for User Interviews and Synthesising Interview Results
It was important to us that the people we would interview for our user research would be the right candidates to give us the best insight. Our screeners — 1 for the buyer and 1 for the artisan — were designed to ensure that:

  1. The ‘buyers’ we were looking for had used online marketplaces in the past and were interested in bespoke items.
  2. The ‘artisans’ had either past experience or interest in creating bespoke products for individuals and had sold their goods online in the past.
Gauging Buyer Interest in Bespoke/Handmade goods

Our screeners helped us narrow down our recruits for the user interviews — 5 from the buyer and 4 from the artisan categories.

“I have good ideas but don’t know how to articulate what I want to bring to life.”
“It would be nice to get updates through the process — not because of lack of trust but just because it’s a nice touch to see how it’s created throughout the different steps.”
“Client got an idea of my work through my website and then emailed me-nobody orders a commission in the dark.”

We were able to get a distinct feel for both categories, helping us find common ground between them and what would ultimately be our solution.

Establishing the common ground between buyers and artisans.

4. Problem Statement Identified and Possible Solution gets Clearer
Melissa, Max and I now knew that “Etsy users need an easy and secure way to collaborate on one of a kind objects because a bespoke experience should be accessible to all.”

The common ground we identified between the two categories helped us enormously moving forward as our design solution would now be crafted to address this directly.


5. Outlining our Primary Buyer and Artisan Personas
Our primary personas were Sally from the buyer side and Mike from the artisan side.

Sally’s needs were that she wanted a way to express her creativity with the help of a designer, finding someone who would be a good fit to collaborate with and to stay involved and get regular updates throughout the process. Her concerns included that her custom-order would be done as expected, that there wouldn’t be proper communication and wanted an artisan who she could trust.

Mike’s wanted a hassle-free way to connect and collaborate with new clients, an easy way to get his work in front of more people and being able to keep his client in the loop throughout the process. His concerns, however, were that he would get involved with the wrong client so wanted to get a sense of who his client was at a glance and see if they did indeed have similar tastes and ideas.


6. Initial Sketching using Existing Framework

Max Fortis tracing out the Etsy layout to get our first round of sketching underway.
Creating a custom-order on the Etsy Homepage.
Viewing and placing a bid on the Etsy Seller’s app
Accepting a bid through the Etsy buyer’s app.

It was important to us that our solution fit in seamlessly with the current Etsy layout and structure and that it did not stick out like a sore thumb. For this, we first traced out the UI from the Etsy website and the Etsy buyer and seller’s app and used this as our framework for the initial round of sketches.


7. Usability Tests and Changes Made

For our first round of usability tests, we used Marvel to prototype the two iOS applications and InVision for the web browser.

Screens used for the first usability test for placing a custom order request. Workflow starts from top left and goes clockwise.

7.1 “Imagine you are redecorating your house and have an idea for a dining table in mind that you would like to get made by an artisan on Etsy. Place a custom order request for a dining table.”

6 usability tests were administered for the first round for the product request flow and 100% of the users were able to navigate through the process but hiccups were encountered on the way. Some of these were:

  1. Screen 1: Illustration mentioning the new feature was what 6/6 users had a tendency to go for instead of the ‘Create Now’ button we had placed on the top navigation bar next to ‘Sell on Etsy’

2. Screen 2, 3, 4, 5: ‘Save and Continue’ used to confirm each decision that the user made on the page was not only deemed unnecessary but also failed to grab the attention of the user in 3/6 cases.

3. Screen 5: From having to click on just one option per page until now, albeit with a click on ‘Save and continue’ after, 2/6 users did not like the fact that the penultimate screen had two options to choose from.

Third and final iteration for the product request flow.

The product request flow was now a single click process till the last screen where the user would fill in details and upload photos regarding the request. We added in a location proximity criteria here to address the concern users expressed during our user interviews that too much of a distance between the buyer and artisan may bring about hesitation for the transaction. We also took off what was previously Stage 2/4 in the process (This would be used in the….) and also part of Stage 3/4 (Pick a style), as this information could be entered in the last stage.

We were able to cut down on screens and also the time it took to get to the most important part of the process — The ‘Tell us more’ Page.

Other changes included having uniform dimensions for the boxes across all screens — we were able to narrow down to the preferred size by having various options spread across the first round of usability tests and having our recruits preferences noted.

7.2 Imagine you have always had a passion for building furniture but you haven’t been able to commit to it as a full time job. You use Etsy to sell some items you’ve made but always had the most fun making something specifically for someone. You find out Etsy has a new feature that posts requests for Etsy artisans to bid for all sorts of different projects. Use your Etsy app to log on and search for a dining room table to bid on.

Third and final iteration of the Placing a bid flow.

7.3 Imagine that you have new bids coming in for your table, it’s time to check them out. Log onto your Etsy app and look up the new bids. Select the one with the highest rating and accept to get started on your new project.

Third and final iteration of the placing a bid flow.

8. Refined Task Flows for Sally, placing a request for a custom-order and Mike, placing a bid on Sally’s table


9. MVP Prototypes

Mike views bids that match his preference and goes on to place a bid on Sally’s Request
Sally views the multiple bids for her request and accepts Mike’s bid after sending him a message.

9. Next Steps

Further refine the review and connectivity feature
Going forward, we would want buyers and artisans to be able to review each other and for the buyer to be able to send requests directly to a maker if their last transaction went well or even be able to send these requests to artisans they ‘follow’.

Develop a more open-ended bespoke form
While we went for a process that would help someone who would want some hand-holding during the product request, we would like to develop a more open-ended bespoke form that would not restrict what an Etsy user would like to have custom-made. This would also address the understanding that we had during the design process that it would be very difficult to have a personalized custom order form for every possible object.