Etsy.com is a marketplace for small creative businesses that make and sell handmade items. Like eBay, Etsy has an interesting merchandising challenge: how to showcase a huge variety of ever changing, single sale products. Product reviews aren’t helpful for one-of-a-kind items. And keyword searches routinely return 90,000 results.
How does Etsy approach this in their user interface? Through a variety of browsing and search methods, some traditional, others innovative and experimental.
We asked users on our panel to think of someone they needed to buy a gift for and a budget. All testers were new to Etsy.com.
We then directed them to try several approaches to finding gifts. These included browsing the home page, using search, using category filters, shop local, and shopping for Facebook friends. We asked users to find reviews and drill down to the details page and then comment on overall impressions.
All users were experienced online shoppers and computer users. The tasks didn’t have any dependencies, so there were not many obvious roadblocks.
Still, the panel and our staff found opportunities for better showcasing Etsy products, and selling more products. We also invited Etsy to respond to the feedback and recommendations.
High quality one-of-a-kind products. All the users in our panel found interesting gifts without much trouble. Products are front and center, and users were engaged by the uniqueness and the quality. Their products are the message.
“I would definitely buy from etsy.com. There is so much cool art on this site.”
Variety. Since our test users weren’t shopping for anything specific, if they didn’t find one item (for example, a bowling-ball themed gift), they quickly found something else. Most praised the variety of products offered.
Transparency. Users liked the detailed product descriptions. They appreciated that Etsy stores included shipping costs upfront in the product descriptions without requiring an additional click, and that shipping was typically reasonably priced.
Usability takeaways from a one-of-a-kind shopping site
Direct feedback from users and our analysis.
1. Users praised Etsy’s Shop Local feature, but the link was not easy to find
Test users loved Shop Local and the idea of patronizing small businesses close to home with reduced shipping costs. But the promotional link for this feature is hidden in the lower left of the navigation in small type, where users have to scroll to access it.
One user was hesitant about purchasing a vintage map after noticing the shipper was in Eastern Europe.
“I might be a little nervous about ordering something from overseas, so I’m going to choose something else.”
Recommendation: Move Shop Local higher on the home page and promote it actively.
2. Seller feedback feature was hard to locate on page
A lot of text on the page meant users sometimes had trouble spotting information and features that could assist them. One user stated:
“Only suggestion I have is to make the reviews more readily visible. That was my only frustration through the process.”
Recommendation: Higher variation in font sizes to promote features like feedback on Etsy shop owners. Users suggested a feedback format similar to eBay: big font, prominent, right up top, stars.
3. Users did not use search filters on the left side bar to their advantage
Thus, they experienced an overwhelming amount of results.
Default search did not meet users’ needs. Users bypassed the search filters, and initially typed something into the search bar to find their gift. For an unfiltered search, Etsy states that it sorts by “Relevancy” in standard text size on the top right corner. Users felt overwhelmed by the amount of results and uncertainty as to whether they were seeing the best items or just “random things.”
“Just a bunch of random pictures of items here.”
“So many [results]…I need to narrow it down a little bit.”
Users never went beyond the first page in any of the tests that we ran. Users sought a “see all” button, but there is none. Two users wanted a way to display more thumbnails per page.
Users did not discover sub-category filters or use filters in combination with one another. Etsy offers detailed hierarchical filters, as in this screenshot. But only one user navigated more than a layer deep in the categories.
On a regular catalog site with 25 results, this wouldn’t matter, but Etsy searches routinely returns 10,000+ results for a query. We observed there is no down arrow next to main categories to inform users there are sub-category filters.
Users did not filter by price. (We sked them to shop on a budget.) This feature is somewhat buried at the bottom. We note that users are required to type in a minimum and maximum price range rather than select from a drop down menu.
Recommendations: More clearly state how items are automatically filtered in search (i.e., “Handmade items by closest keyword match”) in larger font. If there are thousands of results fitting the keyword, display grouped results by Local, Price, or Seller Rating.
Consider adding the ability to randomize results (which could be fun!). Enable users to view more results per page. And consider putting some key filters in the top navigation bar, as users missed them on the left side column.
4. Unclear whether users fully understood the Etsy brand and the unique nature of products sold on the site
Users in our panel had heard of Etsy, but this was their first time shopping on the site. The top of the home page does have a filter that says Handmade and the word “unique” appears in a banner, but otherwise the site could be selling anything (like factory made items).
Did users realize items were one of a kind? No. Users were surprised they could not find product reviews. One user suggested they should put next to items:
“Only one available. Better get it now!”
Update 12/19: Etsy’s home page now displays a clearer message about their one-of-a-kind value.
5. Users would prefer Etsy’s clean site design to be more visually inspired
While Etsy’s simple layout and white background lets the products shine, shoppers felt the design was too bland. One user described the site as “plain” while another felt it was professional but generic.
“The site is very functional and user-friendly, but the overall look and feel of the site is somewhat boring. It isn’t distasteful, but it isn’t striking or aesthetically pleasing either.”
For this user, the site only filled half of her 17″ LCD.
Recommendation: Consider bringing more of Etsy’s essense to the site theme and optimize layout for different screen sizes.
6. Home page could display more selection
Etsy didn’t refresh thumbnails on the home page even when users left and returned multiple times. The home page was the same for all of our users on Black Friday.
This is a missed opportunity, considering the hundreds of thousands of items that don’t end up among the 20 or so promoted or handpicked. Users also looked for a show all option within categories; they don’t really want to see 90,000 items, but they did want to see more of what Etsy has to offer than those that made it on the first page.
Recommendation: Mix it up. Auto-refresh thumbnails periodically and have an obvious way for users to do so. Detect more information about first-time shoppers to show them personalized products.
Sean Flannagan, Etsy Product Manager: Great feedback — we agree. A new set of handpicked items is featured on the homepage every 30 minutes, but we know there’s a lot more we can do to surface interesting items for new visitors. Working on it!
7. Site performance issues caused impatient users to press the back button
Shoppers on our panel clicked around rapidly and were generally not very patient. When a specialized page like Shop by Colors or Facebook friend recommendations loaded slowly, users quickly clicked the Back button.
An animated multicolor-dot progress indicator, as pictured below, was too subtle for these shoppers; one thought the page had crashed after less than 5 seconds because she didn’t see any text on screen.
Recommendation: Display text that says “loading.”
Sean Flannagan, Etsy: Improving site performance and speed is one of our Engineering Team’s top priorities and the focus of a special initiative. Substantial progress has been made in the last few months — you can read more about it in our November Site Performance Report.
8. Facebook-powered Gift Finder is a work in progress
Few users in the test expressed privacy concerns about the Facebook feature, which lets shoppers authorize a connection between the apps. Etsy then makes recommendations based on the friend’s Facebook likes and interests.
Gift Finder feature could be more explicit. The link is somewhat buried underneath the categories. Moreover, there is no indication that the feature leverages your social network. One user weighed in:
“I’d consider renaming it [from Gift Finder to] something like, ‘Facebook Gift Finder.’”
Recommendation: Use a Facebook logo to indicate this feature and promote it actively with a clearer name.
Results not always perfect. One user thought the functionality of the Facebook gift finder was interesting and potentially helpful, but needed to be “used with caution because it frequently won’t be accurate.” One was amused at the literal matches between Facebook likes and Etsy gifts:
“Of course it found the Black Keys, which is a band, but it matched it to black keys.”
Privacy concerns? Overall, users from our small testing panel were fine about giving Etsy access to their Facebook data.
“First reaction: Creepy, like I feel whenever I learn how our data is used. On trying, I really liked it. Tested it on several friends … they wish. A very useful way to find unusual gifts for someone. Various assurances help dial down the creepy factor.”
But our past tests have shown that users aren’t always clear and are sometimes insecure about what information Facebook shares and to whom. I personally wondered what specific information of mine on Facebook could be unlocked and shared by my friends who used this feature on Etsy. Any privacy concerns could be assuaged by being able to see how I appear in this tool to my Facebook friends.
Recommendation: Etsy should add the ability to see what’s recommended for you so that users understand what information their friends can see. This could potentially lead to purchases for oneself and provide Etsy additional customer insight.
Etsy product manager weighed in: UserTesting.com invited Etsy Product Manager Jay Bergesen to clarify how this integration works. Etsy is a UserTesting.com customer but was not involved in the design or administration of this test. Jay pointed us toward this help page. He also showed us the types of gift ideas Etsy presents for Facebook users who haven’t indicated likes and interests:
If you’re a Facebook user, try this feature out, and let us know what you think. You don’t need to create an Etsy account and you can de-authorize the Etsy app in your Facebook Settings after you’re finished.
Finally: The testers on our panel who responded were female except one man. One user wanted more ideas suggested for men so she could shop for her husband.
When it comes to shopping: men are hunters, women are explorers. Our male tester spent considerably less time exploring the site and shopping for gifts for his parents. He seemed just as satisfied with the site and his experience. He appeared to be shopping to fulfill a goal (as directed) rather than exploring for the fun of it.
A trusted place to discover unique local crafts. Etsy provides an innovative way to shop from small businesses and individual crafts makers, providing many interesting approaches to browsing and finding unique gifts. The testers in our study, all first-time users, were animated and engaged throughout.
“I love supporting local business owners. I think this site is a great idea to help those people get their names out and a place for them to sell their goods.”
All users in this test said they would return to Etsy and consider buying a gift, using words like “reputable” and “awesome.”
Sean and Jay at Etsy: Thanks for the great feedback and ideas!