Customizing Individuality

Evie Donnelly
8 min readNov 13, 2017


As a conceptual work, I worked in a team to build on Etsy’s Buyer and Seller Apps. We took this on as a two-week project, as UX designers in a team of 3. Specifically we focused on customization within the Etsy experience.

Etsy is an e-commerce site, where one can buy or sell handmade & vintage items and supplies: ranging from art to jewelry and more!

One MAJOR pain-point we focused on within both the Buyer and Seller app experience was:

The ability to make it easy for Etsy users to easily identify shops that take request for customizations and the follow-up communication with custom requests.

How might we offer a more varied and easy process for customizing products to both the seller and buyer?


Research Methodology

In order to understand the assumptions and and really tackle the specific issue of Customization we set out with a plan to Research users of Etsy, and Design amendments to Etsy buyer and Seller apps based on our findings. Here is an overview of our process.

  1. Screener Survey
  2. User Interviews
  3. Usability mid-fi prototype
  4. Usability hi-fi prototype

Screener Survey

Initially we set out to interview people that would speak to the problem of customization directly. We established criteria we were looking for and created a Screener Survey to Allowed us to target specific Etsy users.

Target Users:

+Must buy / sell on Etsy

+87% of sellers are female (median age 37)

+Most buyers female (median age 37)

+Reached out to: social media, slack, Etsy chat boards, Facebook

Screener Survey Script

Frequency of customized purchases on Etsy

21 Respondents => 9 interviews

User Interviews

9 interviews, 3 sellers, 6 buyers


  • Discover who target user is
  • What their experience is and their communications
  • Discover what the love/pain points are with the
  • Separate the Seller Experience from the Buyer experience ( which app they use)
  • Seller Mission statement, specific goals
  • Understand how the Infrastructure of Browsing can provide access to customization (Information Architecture)

Discussion Script

Customer & Seller

Types of use and Frequency

How many items did you buy from Etsy in the last month?

How many items were customized?

How often did you check your messages sent to your shop per week?

How many items have you sold in the last month?

How many of these items were customized?

Do you more frequently buy or sell items on Etsy?


How do you find items that meet your needs?

How do you discover what can be customized?

Can you explain to us your navigational process?

How do you currently identify products in your store that are customizable / alterable?

Pain/Love Points

Tell us about a good experience with buying from a shop

Tell us about your worst Etsy buying experience.

How do you feel about your business presence?

What do you like or dislike about your Etsy experience?


What ways do you currently communicate?

How do you engage with the Etsy community?

Exterior Platforms

In what way do you use other platforms to discover / advertise unique items?


Tell me about the last time you ordered a customizable product. How did you communicate with the maker? Were you able to receive the product by the time you expected? How was the overall experience?

How do you feel about the way you communicate with your clients regarding customization?

To Etsy

How do you feel about your ability to express your needs?

What are your expectations when you go to

Delivery / Shipping

How do you set delivery expectations?

Shop / small Business

What are your business objectives?

What does a thriving Etsy business look like to you?


How do you gauge whether you are going to get what you are paying for with a customization?

How do you determine the pricing of your customization?



“I think Etsy should work on item categorization and specification” (customer and seller)

“I like the variety of customizable things on Etsy” (customer and seller)

Pain Points

“I want an easy listing feature” (seller)

“I don’t receive customization information in time” (seller)

“I want a seamless interaction when communicating (about customization) with shop owners” (customer)

Revised Problem Statement

Both customers and sellers are frustrated with the limited means to express customization.

How might we provide buyers and sellers a more streamlined and nuanced communication regarding customized items, so that Etsy feels personal and efficient?

Persona : Buyer Elizabeth King

Persona: Seller Bri Johns

Research Insights informing design

Bri and Elizabeth would like to easily specify their product needs

— > Encourage modifications and nuanced relationship between customer and seller

Seller Bri needs an efficient way to list a product in her shop

— > Reduce existing 15 screen sequence and streamline it

Buyer Elizabeth and Seller Bri want to communicate easily

— > Make messaging intuitive and accessible


Seller Relationship with Etsy: “I cannot get in touch with Etsy when I need to” (seller)

Customization Communication: “I don’t receive customization information in time” (seller)

“I want a seamless interaction when communicating (about customization) with shop owners (customer)

Communication:I like to communicate with clients.” (seller)

“I am hesitant to begin a conversation.owners” (customer)

Search: “Searching for items is easy” (customer)

Listing Items: “I want an easy listing feature” (seller)

Competitor Sites: “I enjoy Etsy for its unique items” (customer)

Types of Use: “I like Etsy for its variety of items” (customer)

Customization: “I like the variety of customizable things Etsy has.”

Love Point: I am happy with the overall Etsy buying and selling experience.

Navigation: I find it hard to navigate through Etsy.

Returns: I think returning items is easy.

Pricing: I think pricing is fair.

Timeline: I’m thrilled with Etsy’s Speedy delivery!

Pain Points: “I think Etsy should work on item categorization and specification” (customer and seller)

Discovery/Visibility: “I can advertise my shop through many avenues” (seller)

Design Studio

Mid-Fidelity Wireframes

Usability test Script

GOAL: communicate between the seller and buyer with ease and confidence.

Scenario: Let’s imagine your are in need of a unicorn costume for Halloween. You see the perfect one online. You can’t tell if it is for an adult, but otherwise it is perfect.

Task: Your task is to discover if this suit meets your needs.

Scenario: It’s the final day at the pop-up shop you’ve been working at to sell your vintage wares. While packing up, you notice an amazing denim jacket that you didn’t realize you had. You need to capture this and put it on your online store, but don’t have much time.

Task: Your task is to put the denim jacket online efficiently.

GOAL: For the user to navigate to the listings page in order to use the quick list function

Scenario: You’re a busy artist who sells his/her wares on Etsy. You’ve been busy making new things that could be sold in the shop but haven’t had the time to sit down and list all of them.

Task: Use the Etsy seller app to list one of your items speedily.

GOAL: Search customized items.

Scenario: Your best friend’s 30th birthday is around the corner and you have decided to get her something special.

Task: Buy a customized necklace that will arrive in time for the big celebration.

Usability on Mid-Fi Wireframes

Participants found the prototype too

confusing + not intuitive enough. They asked for more simplicity and clarity.

“This is really confusing. This is not the way I would do it. Where’s the magic?”


Iterations based on Usability feedback

  • Scissors Customize sticker incorporated into Etsy as button
  • made listing process more streamlined
  • eliminated “quick list” language was too confusing
  • incorporated personalized seller homepage
  • messaging into a modal on item screen

Usability Testing on High-Fidelity Prototype

Participants had a little difficulty completing tasks because of the state of the prototype, but had a more enjoyable experience overall.

“the scroll-down clickable panel made it super easy for me to make an order.”

“Creating a listing is very daunting, this is good and easy.”

Simplifying Etsy

Easier and More Streamlined Listing

More streamlined and clickable process of customizing an item

More intuitive and easy to use messaging system

Spreadsheet of All Usability Tests

Final Prototype

Next Steps

  • Make more mobile friendly by simplifying overall home screens on both buyer and seller, removing extraneous text associated with icons.
  • Further facilitate the listing and buying of customized products, by enabling a less chronological process on screens.


To conclude, we are on a path to enable Etsy to move back to its origins, as place to discover unique items and shops that meet specific desires; to encourage easy collaboration between the buyer and seller.