Launching the Etsy Brand into the World of Custom Art


For Project 3 of UXDI, our group was tasked with creating a feature within Etsy that would add to it’s already strong brand. This feature would take Etsy’s traditional framework (of buyers shopping for handmade products based on search or specified categories) and put a twist on it. Buyers would be able to submit custom product requests and artists could bid to produce these items.


Our group’s research began with two surveys: the first to identify current Etsy users (both buyers and sellers) and the second to dive deeper into their experiences and attitudes toward Etsy.

Secondly, we conducted several user interviews, with current buyers and sellers, as well as a user who was familiar with Etsy but not specifically loyal to the brand.

We rounded out our research with a thorough competitive analysis. After identifying Etsy’s strongest competitors though user interviews and our own secondary research, we dug deeper into what each had to offer compared to Etsy’s current business.

At the start of our secondary research, we came across a significant discovery. Etsy had launched a custom-made feature before: Alchemy.

Alchemy was launched in 2006 and again in 2008 before being removed for the final time in 2011. The feature had a variety of issues, from overall layout to lacking simple payment functionality. But at the root of Alchemy’s failures was a pricing and perception issue; buyers didn’t know how to price custom requests and artists grew frustrated by this, feeling like their work and talent wasn’t being respected. Despite Etsy’s numerous attempts to remedy the situation, these issues spelled the downfall for Alchemy.


Given the vast amount of research we had gathered, we spent a lot of time pouring over data and user quotes to arrive at concise findings. Although there were a variety of ways to synthesize all we had learned, we decided to group our findings through the eyes of the buyers vs. sellers.

Since Alchemy’s failings caused a breakdown between buyers and sellers, we viewed this as an essential component of our solution. These findings led us to our two major insights for the project.


  1. The “spirit of Etsy” is essential to it’s function: community, originality, quality, integrity and making art accessible and meaningful are central to this spirit.
  2. There has been an ongoing communication and perception challenge between buyers and sellers on Etsy.

Design Direction

From these insights, it was clear we needed to design a solution that would not only expand Etsy’s offerings but would foster communication between buyers and artists while allowing for creation and exchange of custom, quality products. If these pieces were executed effectively, this new feature would strengthen the overall perception of the Etsy brand and experience.

Our solution:

EtsyAlloy would offer buyers the opportunity to be connected with artists who would make the custom pieces they can’t find elsewhere. Unlike Alchemy, Alloy would include an “Etsy Envoy” who would walk buyers through this process by providing them with bids from artists and foster the communication between both parties. This Envoy addresses each of the pain points caused by Alchemy and outside Etsy competitors.

Wireframes & Prototyping

Once we reached our design direction, it was time to bring these features to life. Wireframes were created for the most essential user processes; after these features were pulled together and cleaned up, we put them into a prototype in InVision to get a feel for how Alloy would really function.

Testing & Iterations

We then tested our prototype with a variety of users to gauge their overall user experience, as well as their understanding of the service itself. Our most consistent feedback was that Alloy gave users a “premium feeling” and they felt like it was “something I’ve used before but I can’t quite put my finger on it”. This familiar yet “premium” feeling was exactly what we were shooting for. We wanted Etsy customers to be comfortable using Alloy, yet feel as if they were getting 5-star treatment.

Though user feedback was overwhelmingly positive, we did make small tweaks to improve parts of the user process. For example, visual design edits were made to the bid information, including more detailed artist info and more defined call out buttons.

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