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.