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How 10,000 Sellers Helped Etsy Develop New Tools

Feb 4, 2015

by Nickey Skarstad handmade and vintage goods

One of the most time-consuming parts of running an Etsy business is managing listings — sellers report spending 50% of their time on business-related tasks. When we talk to our community, they tell us they want to spend fewer hours on shop management, and more hours making and curating. We’re here to help!

Today Etsy is releasing a new suite of listing management tools to sellers, improving the way they add and edit details about products for sale in their shops. These tools are core to sellers’ workflows, so we are giving our community the opportunity to turn on the new version, try it out, and leave feedback before it’s rolled out to everyone in March. Incorporating direct feedback has already been at the heart of these tools’ development, with more than 10,000 sellers participating in a prototype process, and this introductory period will give every seller a chance to get ready for the changes.

So how does Etsy build tools for sellers and how are sellers a part of the process?

It’s a Partnership

Etsy is only successful when our sellers are successful. When building tools just for sellers, it’s paramount that we deeply understand seller needs in order to get it done right. We often do this by involving sellers in the process of building the product. Sellers understand their business needs better than anyone else ever could. As a fellow seller myself, I can tell you there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. By partnering with our community in the development process, we can check and balance our progress against their needs and constantly make sure we’re on the right track. We do this today in a number of ways.

Having a Conversation

Once we know what we’re working on, we turn to sellers to help figure out how it should be built. We conduct studio visits where we spend time with sellers working in their own environments. From workflow insights (like how editing a lot of listings at one time is particularly cumbersome because of a mandatory preview step in the Listing Process) or process insights (like needing to search sold-out listings to find and copy older information), witnessing the day-to-day operations of Etsy business owners illuminates what’s working well and where there are opportunities for improvement.

In addition to studio visits, we also conduct usability testing. Usability testing is a technique that allows us to put real designs in front of sellers for feedback. We do this in a number of ways: we put simple paper designs in front of a seller to start a conversation; we create clickable designs that mimic an experience and we observe while a seller accomplishes specific tasks; and finally we build out clickable prototypes that create a more realistic experience that mimics how the real thing will actually work. But we don’t stop there.

Etsy Prototypes

In 2011, Etsy launched a feature called Prototypes. We saw the value in working closely with the community to build products, and we needed a way to channel all the awesome feedback we were getting. Etsy Teams, a community platform where members can come together around a common interest, was just the place to capture the feedback. When an Etsy seller joins a prototype team, they get instant access to a new feature.

Prototype teams are now a backbone of seller-side development at Etsy. Since the launch of Prototypes in 2011, we’ve conducted more than 100. Today, we have more than 50,000 sellers in active prototypes. In those prototypes, we’ve vetted concepts, ideas and new features. Not all of them made the cut. Through the years, prototype teams have helped define some of Etsy’s most popular seller features like shop stats, listing variations, digital items, custom orders, shipping labels and more.

The Listing Management prototype was launched in May of 2014 and has since drawn more than 10,000 sellers to try the new features (the second most popular prototype to date). Through regular conversation, feedback and iteration, the product in prototype has evolved as more sellers have used it. It may seem like a long time to work on one suite of products, but we deliberately took the opportunity to listen over an extended period of time in order to make sure the new tools would significantly improve a critical part of a seller’s workflow, while greatly reducing time spent. These tools, now launching broadly, include better bulk editing, in-line stats, quick edit mode, a faster listing process and photo editing, all based on feedback from sellers. In prototype, seller CalleModista reported, “I am really loving the listings page, just added something to all of my listings and it took half the time.” What we heard and learned in this process can also be applied to other work going forward.

TheWoolFish's new Listings Manager.

TheWoolFish‘s new Listings Manager.

Building Better Tools

So, why do we partner with sellers in prototype? We’ve found that regular feedback on what we’re building, helps us build better. 74% of our sellers report that they consider their Etsy shops businesses, and we are focused on giving them the tools they need to fulfill their entrepreneurial aspirations. By working together to develop features, Etsy gets quality feedback and Etsy sellers get to weigh in on the tools being developed to support their businesses. We believe that this collaborative process can be the future of tech operations, and we are proud to see our community at the forefront of our product development.

Today, we couldn’t be more excited to share these new tools with our entire community. If you’re a seller, you can opt-in to the new Listings Manager and Listing Process here, and participate in Etsy’s development process by joining some of our current prototypes.