As a product design intern, I worked closely with our team on designing and coding a delightful experience for sellers and buyers. I would like to share with you what I've learned! BTW, the project that I was part of was launched on Feb 14, 2017. Etsy Studio is Etsy's new marketplace for DIY dreamers and craft supply sellers: www.etsystudio.com.
This June, I flew from San Francisco, California to Brooklyn, New York — far from my family, friends, and everything I’m familiar with. I felt curious and nervous, wondering what my Etsy internship would bring. “Will I feel comfortable working there? What if I mess things up?” I kept thinking to myself.
As it turned out, my 11 weeks spent at Etsy as a Product Design intern was one of the best experiences of my life.
Before the opportunity to contribute at Etsy, I interned at a 10-person startup. Although I learned to test and validate frequently and iterate designs quickly, I found myself in need of deeper user research and guidance from other designers. I felt limited sometimes. That’s why I decided to intern at Etsy this summer: a company with an established and world-class design team, large user-base, and resources to help me grow as a designer. I want to share a couple of things I learned.
What surprised me during my first few weeks was how deeply Etsy’s employees understand the audience they’re building for. My one and only task when I first arrived was to read emails embedded with user research reports specific to my project. I was told to “soak it all in.”
Understanding your audience and their needs first sounds easy to do, but often, designers (including me) just want to jump right into design because we find it fun or love the feeling of producing work. And so the cycle of a bad design process begins: We don’t know much about the users, yet we still want to solve a “problem,” so we look at other designs and see how other people have solved similar issues instead of identifying the unique problem we’re facing from the very beginning. We might design something similar to an existing solution, but then realize it doesn’t feel quite right. So, we look at more designs and try to plug them in s. Maybe we make something cool along the way, but it’s not useful. This process can happen over and over again, but it will often result in a mediocre experience that doesn’t solve the core problem.
Before diving straight into a solution, we need to first ask ourselves questions such as:
The answers to these questions can only get more interesting or clear as we run user research, brainstorm ideas with our partners across product, marketing, and customer support, and come up with design solutions to test with users and iterate, etc.
One of the first things I had to do as part of the onboarding process was to learn how to push code to our website. To be honest, I was surprised to learn that many 0f Etsy’s product designers also bring their work to life through front-end development. Coding takes a lot of time that could otherwise be spent designing, so why is it important? Because it allows you to:
Sometimes designers struggle to come up with ideas and make things look, work, or feel right. While working on my project, this happened to me. A piece of advice I got from my manager
By working through issues together, I learned a few key ways to give and receive constructive feedback:
Before, I used to prioritize designing things that looked cool and pretty. I would look through Dribbble for beautiful UI elements for fun. However, I realized that adding flourishes to my design may reduce the quality of communication. This comes from inconsistency or decoration without purpose. When certain elements of the interface don’t fit together holistically or serve the user, it’s time to clean up the design.
As a product experience gets more complicated, keeping the interface elements consistent throughout flows can be tricky. That’s why Etsy has made huge strides in documenting and updating a detailed web toolkit for all new product development on its website, emails and apps. In addition, styleguide training sessions and workshops helped me understand our brand and reflect consistent and rhythmic styles in my designs.
Although styleguide trainings provide principles for things like typography and colors, it is by no means constraining for the many solutions you might design. It’s more like a tool to help us move faster and consistently across the team.
Confidence in yourself, your team and your work helps you better communicate and receive feedback. My internship at Etsy helped me think more positively about design and life in general. It’s hard to feel frustrated about your work when you’re surrounded by friendly, encouraging and supportive people. As a result of my time here, I’ve gained greater confidence and learned to openly share my work to critique.
Keep learning. Design is a creative career. As long as you are willing to learn and adapt, there’s always opportunity. No matter how perfect you may consider your output, you can always get feedback from user research, analysis, or your team that will help push your design thinking and output further.
It seems like only yesterday that I took a bunch of quirky selfies in the Etsy photo booth on my first day. Sadly, my internship has come to an end. Throughout those eleven weeks, I experienced what it’s like to work with kind, supportive colleagues and for a company that has a wonderful vision and strong values. I am so blessed to have this opportunity to build for creative entrepreneurs and thoughtful shoppers.
Thanks to my team for having me, and helping me in every possible way, my manager Kary for always encouraging me, and all the designers at Etsy who offered me genuine feedback and critiques. Because of you, I’m a better designer.
If you enjoyed reading this article and would love to learn more about what it’s like to design at Etsy, feel free to reach out. And of course,