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Answering your questions, #4

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Original Post

Rokali says

In this edition of Q&A, we shall focus on the site itself.

I understand that answering these questions will raise many more: How exactly will the changes and new features work? When will they launch?

One step at a time. We all know that talk is thin when it comes to change. We want to see the change, to be the change we want to see.

I'll work on a timeline and more details for what I mention here, and share it when ready. Our goal is to get everything discussed below launched by the middle of the year.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

(What follows is the transcription of a recorded interview I conducted with an international expert named Q.)

Q: For the past two years, the site has looked pretty much the same. Is the website going to change in 2010?

R: Yes. A lot. More than it has changed in any other year since Etsy launched in 2005.

Q: What's going to change?

R: Pretty much everything.

Q: Could you please be more specific, sir?

R: The design, the features, and the categories, to name three things.

Q: That's all well and good, but will I be able to change my username?

R: Yes. And more. We're going to separate shop names from usernames, and you'll be able to change both. A single Etsy member will be able to manage multiple shops, with a single account. We'll also find a way to merge existing shops into a single account, for those of you out there who already run more than one shop.

Q: Finally! You guys sure took your sweet time on this one.

R: That's not a question.

Q: Beg pardon. Back to the topic of changing the design: can you be more specific?

R: We're going to make the site wider, which is a good opportunity for refreshing the page layouts. Things are rather unruly right now, like Odysseus' hair when he emerged from the salt brine sea in front of Nausicaa.

Q: Huh?

R: We're going to make the site prettier and more useful. The general look & feel will stay the same. You know how your teeth feel after you go to the dentist? Or how your bicycle rides right after a tune-up? Or how a super nice and sharp pair of scissors cuts through linen?

Q: I'm Q, you're R. Reply, my good lad, reply.

R: What I mean is that the current site is a dull pair of scissors, a rusty bicycle. It works, but it doesn't do anything amazingly well. There's one big exception: We had nary a second of downtime the entire holidays, and the site's quite zippy. This is a great feat. And our blog team is creating some amazing things, especially with video.

We have this beautiful community, an eager company, and 2010 is the year we're putting it all together. Or it's the year we'll crash and burn in a glorious fireball. One of those two things will happen.

Q: Oh the drama. What are your plans for changing the categories?

R: Our categories as they stand today are silly. If I knit a Santa sweater for a kid, it could logically fit in four different categories: Children, Clothing, Knitting, and Holidays. This will be remedied. A full-time taxonomist named Amy has been crafting the right solution for over six months now.

We have two other categories, Vintage and Supplies, which are left in the cold by our tagline. (We're going to jettison the tagline.) We have categories like Art where the ways to shop are just lame, especially compared to what it's possible to buy.

This will all be much improved, and we'll share more details at least a month or two in advance of any changes to the site. We understand such changes can be a bit daunting, so we're going to give everyone a heads up. We'll ask for feedback, too, before we even launch many of the features. No alarms, no surprises.

Q: Please.

R: Can I talk about features now?

Q: Can you talk about features now?

R: Ah, features. So much to do. To help us on our way, I'm going to sort the site features into five buckets, and will talk about each bucket.

1. Buying

Checkout will be overhauled. When paying via PayPal, we're going to require payment before marking an item as sold.

Search is going to get a lot more functional: more faceting, more filtering, more fun.

We'll be able to hide our purchases, so our gifts don't get scooped before they're given.

Feedback is a crude system right now. We're aware of the issues around both retaliatory and preemptive negative feedback, and will address these.

Everyone will get as many Treasury lists as they like. Everyone will be able to organize and search their favorites.

3. Selling

Woe are the tools we provide higher volume sellers with. This is one of our biggest challenges, and there will be a team devoted to things like batch editing, searching & sorting inventory (including sold items), deleting expired listings, adding private notes to transactions, and creating customer profiles to help you keep track of repeat buyers.

We'll be changing the listing process so that sellers can be more specific about their items. A little more structured data about items will go a long way

4. Messaging

Groups for teams! Finally. Each team will have its own set of forums, a marketplace, possibly more. We'll be sharing our ideas with this soon. For those who'd like an idea of how we're thinking about groups on Etsy, check out the groups on Flickr. We think they work quite well.

We plan on making each one of our current forums (Ideas, CPSIA, Business Advice, Etc., etc.) its own group. We'll keep one central set of forums for Help & Bugs.

Any Etsy member who is currently forum muted will have this restriction removed. It will be the responsibility of group admins to moderate their own groups, and we'll build the tools to support this.

We'll be here to help, but the way things are working now can't scale. We don't enjoy closing threads. (We will of course keep a close eye out for personal attacks and sharing private info in the forums.)

Convos will be rebuilt from the ground up, both for performance and usability improvements.

The Virtual Labs will be renamed and relaunched, with a lot more room capacity.

5. Showcase

A great group of people is already deep into remaking the Showcase. We'll be presenting some ideas soon. We're replacing the rudimentary system we have now, of rushing to buy 24 hour slots, with a Showcase that is much more flexible. You'll also get detailed stats --

Q:-- Sorry to interrupt, but how will you be supporting all these changes, from a community perspective?

R: Good question. We want to get as much feedback as people want to give. We already have a lot to go on: it's what many of the changes here are based on. We're hiring five new people to work in support, and we'll be offering phone support before mid-year. First on a limited basis, just a couple hours a day, as we get up to speed with this challenge.

Q: I have to run, my kettle is wobbling off the hob. It's tea time! Thanks for sharing everything, and good luck!

Posted at 12:33 pm Jan 11, 2010 EST

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