Design Patterns and User Flow — Etsy

What is Etsy?

If you are a craft enthusiast or a vintage items collector, you probably know what Etsy is. Etsy is a vintage/craft focused e-commerce platform that connects individual sellers and buyers all around the world. Etsy covers wide range of categories including fashion accessories, home decor goods, toys, art, and any kinds of craft supplies/tools. Basically Etsy is a real-life flea market gone online. If you have more than 20-year-old vintage goods stocked up at your home, a skill to make handmade jewelries from scratch, or a connection to the wholesale suppliers to source the knitting yarn, you can immediately start your own storefront using Etsy today.

My Experience with Etsy

One of my hobby is knitting. I have used many other online stores to get supplies, and come to a conclusion that Etsy has the most reliable quality of supplies that I can get — Good quality yarns/needles, and unique knitting patterns. Sometimes I find beautiful end products crafted by pro knitters. Because Etsy covers a wide range of item categories other than knitting supplies, sometimes I find myself browsing other vintage/handmade goods that Etsy suggests as “Our picks for you”. It is as if I am at a local flea market wandering around, trying to find a unique gem that I might be interested to buy.

A sample Etsy user flow map

When choosing what to gift to my close friends/family, the first thing comes into my mind is a handmade good crafted by me. My sister’s birthday is coming up, so let’s say I am thinking of making a knitted good for her. Below is a sample user flow map that I would go through to purchase knitting supplies to make her birthday gift.

A hypothetical user flow for myself to purchase knitting supplies from Etsy

Design Patterns for Etsy — why they work?

1. Categorization

Let’s say that I have no specific idea about what I am going to make for my sister. Only thing that I know is I am going to get some kind of knitting supplies. Etsy uses the categorization design pattern for users to find the right product categories even though they don’t have a specific product in their mind. Etsy has very wide range of items, so the clear categorization pattern works well.

I know I am going to knit something for my sister, but I don’t know what. No worries, because Etsy categorizes its product using the categorization.
Categories are easy to consume — in a simple language, and just right number of categories

2. Tagging & Cards

Upon entering the page and signed in, on the very top of the visual hierarchy, there are “Suggested searches” and “Our picks for you” sections (Etsy definitely knows that the most of the users entering the homepage don’t have a specific idea about what they are looking for). Suggested searches section uses the tagging patterns to search keywords that the user might be interested; Our picks for you section uses cards to display items that I might be interested.

Etsy know me so well!

3. Autocomplete

Let’s say I wanted to knit a hat for my sister’s birthday gift, so I decide to search for items related to the “knitting hat” keyword. Etsy has the autocomplete pattern for its search bar — suggesting keywords that I might have meant, as well as other keywords related to the original keyword that I might be interested.

Etsy already knows what I am looking for. Thanks!

4. Search Filters

Okay, I searched for the “knitting hat” to browse what I might be interested to buy. But Etsy is where sellers from all around the world comes together. When I search for the keyword “knitting hat”, there are about 62K items that I can choose from. Etsy uses the search filters patterns for users to easily filter/sort items that matches my criteria.

Thanks to the search filters pattern, I don’t have to browse through all 62,304 items to find the one that I like

5. Favorites

I narrow down the search criteria to only items that have free shipping, that are on sale, and are in my budget range. Still there are about 300+ items that I have to browse through to land on one product. There is nothing really catches my eyes. After browsing through couple pages, let’s say I am tired of looking at all these items- I want an easier way to find the item that I want. Perhaps I want to look at the store that I visited last time to purchase an item that I really liked.

In a different scenario, let’s say I do want to browse through 300+ items, because I see couple items that I want. I have list of candidates that I want to choose from later. But how do I keep track of all these items to make the final decision at the end?

To offer solution to above scenarios, Etsy allows users to mark products and stores as my “favorite”. When I see a store that I see bunch of items that are my style, I can simply click on the heart icon to add the store as one of my favorite; When I spot an item that I might consider later, I can add it in my favorite item list to compare to other favorite items later when I make my final decision.

Added a store to my favorite shop list
Added an item to my favorite items list
I can easily access to the both favorite shop & items under the “Favorites” menu on the nav bar

6. Notifications

Unlike other e-commerce platforms, Etsy has a notifications pattern. The notifications pattern is commonly found in many social platforms to notify users of important updates or news. Etsy cleverly connects the “favorite” and “notifications” to show any new items, or new deals on products/stores that I favorited in the past. The fact that user added items or stores to their favorite list indicates that there is high potential that the user would purchase the specific item, or an item from the store in the favorite list. This notifications pattern gives the extra push to this potential purchase. Who doesn’t like to see new products from their favorite store, or find out that the item that I liked is now on sale?

Notifications regarding my favorite shops/items


Etsy is a useful, fun, easy-to-use platform for both vintage/craft goods buyers and sellers. As a seller, Etsy allows the user to access to potential buyers all around the world: with various design patterns — such as filter, favorites and notifications- Etsy helps sellers to be exposed to the right target market, and create loyal customer base. As a buyer, Etsy helps the user to find the right product for their criteria, or to browse through endless amount of items to find his/her unique gem. Searching for an item becomes a fun and easy experience through easy categorization, filter and favorites. With right design patterns, Etsy is both a e-commerce and social platform between buyers and sellers — just like the local craft/vintage goods fair right around the corner, but without all the hassles to walk around, and with endless items range from all around the world.



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