Etsy’s rich user interface helps sellers and buyers connect

There was a time when the Saturday markets were the perfect place to browse and pick up handmade items. Buyers were able to find something unique, and sellers were able to sell their crafts direct to the consumer with very little capital investment. Now we’re in a web 2.0 world, your crafty vendor at the Saturday markets has moved into the more comfortable surrounds of their home office as they set up shop online at Etsy.

Etsy has a simple user interface that enables buyers to search for and purchase handmade items from over 800,000 shops. The site exemplifies the web 2.0 pattern of rich user interface through the simplicity of it’s site navigation, the search facility and the personalisation based on purchase and browsing history. Potential buyers can search based on keywords and within that search can sort by the usual factors such as relevance, price, etc … or they can narrow their search based on location, a useful search given an average price of around $20 which means postage can often cost more than the item itself. Users who are browing and/or buying get presented with a personalised home screen based on their history with the site. For the casual buyer this is perhaps not the deep personalisation of sites such as ebay, and yet within the specialised product selection, handmade and vintage objects, it is effective in delivering a rich user experience. 

As you’d imagine for a purchasing site, the pattern of content addressability, that is, being able to send (or save) a link of the photo you’re thinking of buying, is addressed with a unique human readable url.

Etsy knows it’s market is not just buyers but also the large number of sellers. The user interface for sellers provides a simple and short process to setup a shop and list their first items. The community of sellers is built by strengthening relationships between sellers through a facebook connect feature. This community is supported through blogs, discussion forums and even online labs. These online labs, in particular, are demonstrating the rich user functionality available on an internet applications such as this; this is functionality that would have once only been available on a high-end desktop device.

There have been performance issues as has seen by other web 2.0 applications that are particularly strong in this pattern (rich user interface) which Etsy is addressing through publishing performance statistics.

I must confess the appeal of quitting my day job and spending days making pretty  things is hard to resist, but I suspect the reality for sellers is that it’s a chance to make money from a hobby and not quite the money maker that will allow me to retire to Italy in the manner to which I’ll quickly become accustomed.

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9 thoughts on “Etsy’s rich user interface helps sellers and buyers connect

  1. I’ve seen Etsy before and really like how the developers have focused on this ‘community market’ type feel. Also, giving crafty people the chance to sell their goods in a clean and ez.pz to use site is always refreshing. This fits the “rich ux” pattern nicely, and the shopper’s experience looks very personalized and fun. I’ll have to stop by there more often and support the artistry of these clever folks. Maybe I’ll even clip some of what I like into my clipboard. 😀

  2. Hi Amanda,

    First of all great post! I had never heard of Etsy before however I believe it is extremely good example of a Web 2.0 website proving a ‘Rich User Experience’. I love the fact that it gives the ability to sellers of being able to actively post their products to Facebook and other blogs/discussion forums.

    Thanks,
    Josh Flinn
    http://www.joshuaflinn.com

  3. thanks Amanda, especially for the links you’ve provided. I’m an Etsy fan and have a friend who sells on it. I’d love to make pretty things for a living too.

    I was interested in your comment about RUI’s being associated with performance issues. I haven’t heard this before except maybe in terms of cross-browser support. Can you expand on this? Do you mean RUIs are associated with slow downloads?

    • Hmmm, I’m generalising a bit here and hopefully I can explain my thinking clearly and with some degree of technical accuracy. If we rule out the performance problems that web 2.0 applications experience due to large user takeup which exceeding the provisioned capacity I still believe there are performance challenges inherent in rich user interface. Etsy’s tech update helps explain this – each page is dynamically generated for each request and includes rich information and personalisation. The more information displayed and the deeper the personalisation, the longer it takes to assemble the page. Since these are key characteristics of this web 2.0 pattern it does tend to become a common challenge although now that the technologies are at their current state of maturity there seems to be much wider recognition on how to construct the technologies involved, and make the best use of the frameworks to mitigate the potential for performance issues. To me the standout feature of etsy is it’s simple and yet very rich user interface, it’s amazing that it performs as well as it does!

      • OK, so this is what I’m taking away: RUI perfromance issues arise from the on-the-fly assembly of the page. This achieves the relevance and simplicity of the page but also makes it slower to render than plain HTML. Makes sense. Thanks v much.

  4. What a great example! You got the obvious important services for the buyers, but what impressed my the most is the network aspect they included for the sellers. What would you say a network like that is worth?

    • I’m not sure. Certainly GreenCrest Capital, a research and advisory firm, predicts revenue at will grow from $72 million in 2011 to $201 million in 2016. Given that a significant portion of their revenue is from listing fees (that is, not only from commission on sales) it seems like it’s worth a bit.

  5. Cool site. Few criticims though – the page reloads each time you change a category or a subcategory, (performance-wise this drops it to an 83/100 compared with 93 from ebay @ pingdom) Also, I wanted to search by more categories (price ranges, colour type, etc.)

    Will keep it in mind though.

  6. Etsy is a cool remake of the saturday flea market, however nothing still replaces the visual appeal of going to a market, browsing around and getting bargains. There still needs to be a richer experience to develop to replace this. Very good explanation of the current Rich experience of the site. But I still prefer my Saturday early walks

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