Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Search Improvements and Feedback Wanted

As Maria mentioned in her second talking shop article, Etsy was going to make only slight tweeks to search. There are now two Dorque articles of interest on the changes made yesterday - why they always spread this information out we still don't know, but at least this time it's more for redundancy than confusion.

Engineer Sean who appears to be the one attempting to integrate new ranking and search term weighting criteria wrote an article on the dropdown menu, price filter changes, and where they plan on going from here. Meanwhile, Chad wrote a general tech update, his first since September when he joined Etsy and introduced us to his plans (Has it really been that long?!)

Chad's narrative points out just how poorly Etsy's infrastructure was initially developed:

After a lot of hard work and planning, we rolled out a sophisticated monitoring system in November that today enables us to keep an eye on 700 services running on over 170 pieces of hardware, including servers, network gear and storage systems.
This is a system that wasn't in place until November though Etsy had been attempting to be an ecommerce site for more than 3 years. And it is likely the reason it took users screaming about issues for someone to look at it, and then why they couldn't find the problems to fix them.

He also elaborated on one of the priorities Maria mentioned - site performance. By using a network distribution system the following was achieved:
Our home page now loads 2-3 times faster in most locations around the world compared to October and as much as nine times faster in some places. Our average home page load time over a 24-hour period as measured by Gomez in the US in October was 4.6 seconds and today it is 1.5 seconds. Singapore? From 18.6 seconds in October to 2.2 seconds today.

As a whole, Chad's article is pretty optimistic and encouraging. It's unfortunate that Revolving Dick screwed it up so badly and that we had to wait this long for improvements!

With all of these acknowledgements of problems and explanations of what they're attempting, I think they're trying to give us Bitches a stroke. We, we...might actually smile a little. It's yet to be seen what effect on tagging the new weighted search will have, which then would affect current shop listings and the listing process, but the engineers want feedback as they move forward (See, I told you they're trying to give us a stroke!)

We’ve been busy testing search adjustments with users here in Brooklyn at the Etsy Usability Lab as well as remotely, and we’re about to begin a series of Virtual Labs where we’ll give anyone interested access to a test area to try out different searches and discuss the future of Etsy search with us. The first of these sessions will take place this Friday, March 13 at 1:00 pm EDT (check when this is in your time zone).
Make sure you stop by on Friday and let them know your thoughts - then let us know if they listened!

There's also this forum discussion thread that was still open at the time of this entry.

17 Comments:

Megan McGory said...

So...is this why I've actually had 2 sales in the past two weeks compared to that many in the past couple of months? I would be shocked as shit if my shop can come back from the dead at this point.

buddy said...

I've never envied the job Chad was hired to do. It's been obvious for a long time that the site was hacked together by amateur programmers using primitive infrastructure and Flash solutions.

To repair that massive tangle while trying to keep it running as seemlessly as possible must be a real nightmare. I'm not at all inclined to complain about Chad and his new team's efforts.

While Chad knows what to do to fix the technology, I think one of his biggest problems going forward is the fact that the Marketing and Customer Service Admins are too clueless about the needs of the customer base to adequately communicate to Chad's team what features and operational structures they need to build to serve the seller and buyer communities.

Chad can create the perfect infrastructure, but if the marketing group can't identify and communicate user priorities, it will be garbage-in, garbage-out.

Brass Monkey Designs said...

Okay now...they ARE trying, you have to admit it. I still think they need to cut the worthless gristle from the admins, however. Starting with Daniellexoxo, who is about as productive as tits on a chicken and Rob White, who fancy himself some sort of censorial peace-keeper. Every time he locks a thread necessarily, I flash on Sarah Palin wanting to ban "Are you there God, it's me, Margaret."

Howard T. Snidbiscuits said...

Of course Etsy had network monitoring prior to then. They even have mentioned desiring expertise in some monitoring software (nagios, etc.) for new employees as far back as two years ago.

And yes, any competent engineer would be horrified by how a lot of Etsy is set up, theres no doubt.

Considering they had nimrods like RD working for them - he couldn't program or reason his way out of a handmade paper bag - and hired engineers, like other staff, based on how 'cool' they seemed, it's a surprise that it's not MORE fucked up.

I still think they're angling to flip it, so who knows what the long term goals are, if any.

What that? Progress? said...

I've always figured that the reason things were relatively quiet from the tech group is because they've been sitting there staring at the mess initially created, screaming WTF??? and possibly kicking things.

I'm optimistic that they'll get it figured out eventually, but for them trying to work through the mess they were left with is probably a square peg, round hole issue.

Gracie said...

It's just "lip service"

eclipse said...

I'm really pretty satisfied overall with the engineering team and the progress they are making. I just wish Maria would make the same overhaul of the customer service and community teams. (i.e. overhaul these departments from the TOP down)
These are the staff that most users interact with daily and that is where a lot of the customer frustration lies. I know there are job listings up for a new head of CS but I find it hard to believe they can't find anyone qualified, in the current job market where there are 500 applicants for every position?

TooOld forEtsy? said...

I am actually hoping for the best-- and choosing to feel positive. Better late than never-- they have to shit or get off the pot, business-wise.

The Funny One said...

Flip it or not, at this point, Etsy is so far away from caring about whether the majority of sellers are selling, that Etsy can send me 20 "tech updates" a day----and not one of them address slumping sales, no views, and nothing new FOR SELLERS. No customer service, NO PROMOTIONS, no nothing.

Scale, speed, tech tweaks, mumbo crappo means nothing if you are so completely left out of who and what Etsy wants to promote-----no sales? They're too busy picking "styles" and regurgitating their favorite "Etsy Branded Products."

It's a complete sham and most seller have been sold the Bklyn Bridge, with the Etsy Playground suspended from the wires.

Sales???? on Etsy?????????? Are you kidding???????????????

Yeah, what is Esty anyway? The Gap for Maybe Handmade?

Bookman said...

The number of items sold per day is now about 24,400, compared to 22,000 in January. If that rate of increase holds, March will be a bigger sales month than December.

Maybe one shop's sales are slumping, but since the overall sales are going up, that means they're losing sales to other Etsy sellers, not to Etsy.

After three years of sub-standard search functionality Etsy is finally headed in the right direction on this.

Brass Monkey Designs said...

I just wish Maria would make the same overhaul of the customer service and community teams. (i.e. overhaul these departments from the TOP down)
================

I heard THAT. Customer service at Etsy (or Customer NON-service as Clark Howard would call it) is appalling.

Call in the wolves, it's time to cull the sick caribou out of the herd. LOL

That said, I really am pleased to see that Chad's team is making some headway. I never kidded myself that it would be either quick or easy to fix all those programming issues.

life-during-wartime said...

For a growing number of Etsy shops, the only kind of search improvement that could boost their sales would be AI software to perform specific tasks before returning search results. Like looking at the whole uncropped main photo, comparing it to the tags and meager description, and guessing what the item for sale is. I dunno, maybe I am the only Etsy shopper who has noticed the 'guessing game chic' style of listing which seems to be more and more visible on Etsy.

Admins seem to be actively promoting a kind of seller who is both verbally limited (has no idea of the name which describes her item) and innumerate (what kind of clothing designer has no idea what size her creation was meant to fit, and is unable apparently to give any measurements). I see this type of listing many times a day on the FP, enough to blog about daily.

Yes, for intelligent sellers better search will be valuable. But that is not the group that Etsy is boosting. I think they are looking for a better search to suit the buyer who wants to type in 'mary had a little lamb' and sqee on the forums over what the seach function returns.

Unemployed But Smarter Than the Etsy Staff said...

I just wish Maria would make the same overhaul of the customer service and community teams. (i.e. overhaul these departments from the TOP down)
These are the staff that most users interact with daily and that is where a lot of the customer frustration lies. I know there are job listings up for a new head of CS but I find it hard to believe they can't find anyone qualified, in the current job market where there are 500 applicants for every position?
____________
Why why why are some of these employed when I am not? It is a travesty of justice that the HeyMichelles of the world can find people to employ them.

vabserg said...

here's my feedback Chad:

In the past month, my shop has been featured several times, appeared on the front page a few times and a gift guide or two. my pictures are great, products great, etc. etc. but google analytics reveals a disturbing and large downturn in views and I cant tell you how bad sales have been. yet just visit a few of the larger sellers and they are still churning out sale after sale. whats the deal yo?
i cant find my own items in search after using several different terms to try and find them.my items dont appear in search, and they dont get a minute on the front page or newly listed page. how am i supposed to sell??????

WindysDesigns said...

Bookman said...

The number of items sold per day is now about 24,400, compared to 22,000 in January. If that rate of increase holds, March will be a bigger sales month than December.
______________________________

I think there are several factors at play here. One of which is that the number of sellers has increased over the last two months as well. More items listed, more to sell.

But I have to wonder, with some former regular sellers finding lower views and sales, if the market isn't shifting. Things that were once a 'craze', while still popular among certain people are just not as popular anymore generally. The market may support a few sellers of these items enough for them to continue to see a steady flow of sales, but others kind of drop off.

Certain sellers that I've seen complain about a lack of views and sales carry items that were once popular, now I just think that so many people have jumped on the bandwagon, the market can't support them all. And I mean the built in market on Etsy.

For every person that complains their views and sales have gone down, and they truly market off Etsy, I see ten more that just expect the built in traffic to be their only source of sales and views.

At the rate Etsy is growing, it's ludicrous to expect that you don't have to bring in your own customers. the built in traffic is a bonus, a bonus that has gotten smaller as Etsy has grown. I don't understand how some people are in such denial that they can't understand that what worked before just won't work now and you have to evolve and adapt.

Considering what I imagine Chad has had to work with, I think things are definitely improving. Far from perfect, and there are areas of the site that he doesn't touch that need to be addressed, but overall, I get the impression that Etsy is trying.

forum rubbernecker said...

But I have to wonder, with some former regular sellers finding lower views and sales, if the market isn't shifting. Things that were once a 'craze', while still popular among certain people are just not as popular anymore generally. The market may support a few sellers of these items enough for them to continue to see a steady flow of sales, but others kind of drop off.

Certain sellers that I've seen complain about a lack of views and sales carry items that were once popular, now I just think that so many people have jumped on the bandwagon, the market can't support them all. And I mean the built in market on Etsy.

For every person that complains their views and sales have gone down, and they truly market off Etsy, I see ten more that just expect the built in traffic to be their only source of sales and views.

At the rate Etsy is growing, it's ludicrous to expect that you don't have to bring in your own customers. the built in traffic is a bonus, a bonus that has gotten smaller as Etsy has grown. I don't understand how some people are in such denial that they can't understand that what worked before just won't work now and you have to evolve and adapt.
___________
I agree. My star is on the rise, but I amazed at how people are in denial about the ebb and flow of the market and that sometimes, you will be on the down swing. I have already adapted, and when things change, I will adapt again.

The Funny One said...

I really appreciated your comments about the ebb and flow of the market, WindysDesigns, but you left out one important element. Seller #1,000 may sell stuff, seller #195,000 may sell stuff, seller #274,999 may sell stuff. But Etsy promotes (constantly) only a few sellers. If that seller sells more, it's because Etsy advertises and promotes them FOR FREE while they do not promote others. So, if seller #195,000 is an Etsy fave, then they sell more and they sell more ALL THE TIME because they get FREE advertising all the time.

The demand may ebb and flow, and the total number of sellers may change, but only the sellers that are promoted ALL THE TIME sell well consistently.

We all pay the same fees, but very few of us benefit from FREE marketing and promotions.

The fact that Etsy consistently picks only certain kinds of products means that a lot of stuff listed on Etsy IS the same product.

Which deflates prices and devalues the whole notion of handmade.

Adapting may be ok for some sellers, but if you make Etsy products because Etsy has convinced you that they will only promote what they have for the last 2 years, then go ahead. But while you're doing that, Etsy can change it's "all things handmade" trademark to "all things that Etsy wants you to make and sell in a certain price range for a certain age group."

Etsy does not resemble it's original mission. It resembles a trend making machine that promote, for free, only those products it likes.

You have to wonder how Etsy manages to add new sellers by the tens of thousands each month, but NOT ONCE IN THE LAST 2 YEARS HAVE THEY ADDED ANY PROMOTIONS FOR THEIR SELLERS. (Not only that, but Etsy now controls 100% of all promotions.)

There's something seriously wrong with this picture.