Etsy Custom Feature


picture of a whale eating a donkey

This project is a design proposal for Etsy. To create a custom item request section in their current phone app.

I worked in a design team to discover what problem people were having when requesting a custom good. We used user centered design techniques.

The team and I designed an extension to Etsy’s current iPhone App.

It allows a user to request a good and set restraints. The extension also allows artisans to find and bid on the custom item.

Finally it allows the requesting user to view, accept, and/or decline the bids from the artisans.

Design Process


I worked on a team of designers where we assigned a situation and two weeks to execute.

The situation: Etsy wants to design a custom feature.

The feature should:

  • Allow customers to post an item
  • Creators/Artisans should be able to bid on the item

Those were the two basic requirements. It was time for us to jump into research, using a user centered design process.


Before doing user interviews we needed to know the field. To understand how a request feature works. The problem we then saw that this feature doesn’t exist on a large scale.

After trying to find a bunch of sites or services that fill the need I realized something. This problem is currently solved with a bandage. Currently the best way to order a custom good is to contact an artisan. Then describe your problem (if you want something outside of an “online builder”).

That’s when I had an idea.

What if instead we looked at freelance sites?

Most freelancing sites are digital products (posters, websites, logos). Or nearby services (babysitter, plumber, repairman). But, the idea is there.

Freelancing sites have this feature built into them. I realized that we are taking this idea and translating it to fit into Etsy’s current app.

We didn’t want to act on what we had found right away. Instead we kept our users in mind and went to go talk to them.

Further Research & Analysis

It was time to get more user centered and go about discovering the problems that our users had.

First we created a simple survey and sent it out across various websites, and subreddits.

We then all conducting user interviews asking the following questions:

For Buyers:

  1. Tell me about the last time you purchased a handmade or custom item online.
  2. How would you describe the experience?
  3. Have you ever used Etsy before?
  4. Have you ever had custom item made?

For Sellers:

  1. Have you ever sold your work on Etsy?
  2. Have you worked with a client for a custom design?
  3. Tell me about the last custom order/design you did?
  4. Why do you make custom designs?
  5. Have you sold a custom design on Etsy?

After conducting 10 user interviews and receiving 49 survey responses we put our research together.

We created an affinity map using all the data that we gathered.

picture of a whale eating a donkey

The affinity map gave us important insights to our users.

There were five groups that stood out the most:


With this information we felt that we had a good sense of our users needs, wants, and priorities.


In order to help with the design process and make sure that the design group and I kept on track, I helped create two primary user personas.

First there is the primary buyer persona, Emily.

picture of a whale eating a donkey

We also have our primary seller persona, Sara.

picture of a whale eating a donkey

Creating these two personas was about keeping the users in mind. This app extension was designed entirely centered around the users problems needs.

Ideation & Creation

We then sketched and discussed features that the users want.

Working with a limited timeline our next step was to prioritize the features. We worked together to figure out what we wanted to put in. But, more importantly what the users wanted and needed.

picture of a whale eating a donkey

We came out of it with a list of features we planned to implement.

Keeping in mind we only had two weeks to design this, we focused on a Minimum Viable Product.

We then went into a design studio and kept iterating and discussing.

After more sketching I put together the final paper prototype for us to test.

Testing & Iterating

With only 2 weeks for the entire project, once a paper prototype was complete it was time to test it. The goal was to make sure that any design decisions that needed to change could be changed as soon as possible.

Testing the paper prototype brought up useful insights and realizations about the app and our process so far.

Prominent user concerns:

  • Unclear if button or data entry
  • Inconsistencies between screens was jarring
  • Hidden actions needed to be not hidden
  • Unsure where the feature would be in the app

After figuring out what needed to be changed, and why, it was time to create a digital prototype.

At this point the design team moved over to sketch, I initially worked on the following screens;

Shipping & Budget / Timeline

Before placing all of the screens into the prototyping tool, invision, it was important to make sure that the screens all looked as if they came from the same place.

After a few more edits it was time to move into more testing. All of the screens were put into invision and then the usability tests began.

This is where our process became crazy efficient. We were a group of four. Two members performed usability tests with a total of 11 usability tests. One member began gathering our information and creating our presentation. And, I made any adjustments or changes to the prototype throughout testing.

Lots of interesting points came up during our tests.

Here’s some of the standouts:

  • Everyone has a different opinion on specific wording
  • Users became lost at times during navigation, especially backwards
  • Anything that seemed “off-brand” of Etsy stood out
  • Sizing and placement issues caused confusion
In our current version of the prototype we addressed the most common and troublesome issues.

Here are some changes between iterations 1, 2, and 3. The changes address the above issues, and others.

Current Prototype

Below are two videos demonstrating the two main flows of the feature. They are captured from the inVision prototype.
First Video:Maker Flow

Second Video: Wanter FLow


The most important thing that has yet to be designed is the chat feature. It is linked to on a few screens but, currently that’s the extent of it.

With every user test we gathered more and more data that pointed us to one pain thing:

Everyone has a different opinion on the language.

It was the most consistent feedback we received.

But, it may not be the most relevant piece of feedback considering one major fact:

The users understood how to finish the tasks.

The language should be reevaluated, yes. But, moving forward it is important to keep in mind that the users were successful. The language changes would be using language that fits into the Etsy brand better.