Etsy Design
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Etsy Design

Designed for Growth

Illustration by Naomi Wilkinson

Dealing with Debt

As tech companies grow and age you begin to feel the debt you’re acquiring, not financial debt, but technical and design debt. Debt is acquired by building for the short-term. The interest accrued is the amount of time to manage, repair, rewrite, and build upon the poorly written and designed code.

Design Systems

All Design is Systems Design

Convention over configuration is an engineering term that is also applicable to design. By yielding to the conventions of the system, decision-making is focused on things like information architecture and user flows. We don’t want our design team re-solving the same design problems over and over again. This is wasted time. We want them to focus on the unique challenges of their projects. The system should provide the necessary conventions to solve the recurring design problems.

Instead of creating more custom solutions, which adds to our debt, create solutions to be fed back into the system. If everything we create uses the system or feeds back into it then all design becomes systems design.

The Design Systems team is the caretaker of our toolkits but it is not a walled garden. All our designers are expected and empowered to contribute to our toolkits, making them more adequate and robust. The best work of our Design Systems team is advocating for the use of our toolkits, educating teams on its benefits, and ultimately cultivating a design systems mental model throughout our entire company.

The benefits of being debt free

Though we are very far from being free from design debt, we’ve already felt the benefits from the work that’s been done. Over the summer we redesigned our convos tool that allows buyers and sellers to communicate with each other. It was an ancient tool that had multiple desktop and mobile web templates that used different code with different design treatments. The redesign was entirely built using our web toolkit. It’s responsive, accessible, and consistent–all benefits inherited for free from our toolkit. It was also incredibly fast to build. From kick-off to launch, it took 8 weeks to redesign and rebuild the product.



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Design Systems consultant. Previously InVisionApp, Etsy, Mailchimp. Owner of Methodical Coffee.